POLICY BRIEFINGS


Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


THIS WEEK'S BRIEFING - APRIL 25, 2022


Seven-Term Senator Hatch Dies at 88


Former GOP Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) died in Salt Lake City on Saturday at the age of 88. Hatch was the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. He served in the chamber for 42 years, from 1977 to 2019, and as the president pro tempore (2015-2019). During his career, he served as chairman of three major Senate committees: Finance, Judiciary, and Labor and Human Resources (aka, HELP Committee). His legacy legislation includes the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act (aka, Hatch-Waxman), the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Hatch’s seat was filled by Sen. Mitt Romney (R) after his retirement in 2019. His death was announced in a statement from his foundation, which focuses on civic engagement and political discourse, and did not specify a cause. Hatch is survived by his wife Elaine and their six children.


HHS Makes ARPA-H Placement at NIH Official


The Biden administration has made official the decision to house the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A notice published in the Federal Register last week from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra details the transfer of fiscal year (FY) 2022 money to NIH for the establishment of ARPA-H, but notes that ARPA-H’s director will report directly to the HHS secretary. While the FY 2022 omnibus provided $1 billion to fund ARPA-H, lawmakers were divided on where ARPA-H should reside, with Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) arguing that tethering ARPA-H to the NIH bureaucracy will not allow the new agency to nimbly achieve the breakthrough research and development it was established to accomplish.


Lawmakers Spotlight Need for Long COVID Research, Treatment


Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asking the agency about research being conducted into long-COVID. The lawmakers expressed concern that the NIH has been slow to launch long-COVID research efforts and that observational research is being prioritized over investigations into potential treatments and therapeutics. They asked how much of the $1.15 billion provided to NIH for long-COVID research remains unspent, and what additional funding or authorities are needed. The Government Accountability Office estimates that between 7.7 and 23 million Americans have long-COVID. “Should this projection prove accurate,” the letter states, “our health care system will face increased strain in the years to come. In addition to these effects on health care, long COVID threatens our economic recovery, potentially exacerbating workforce shortages and straining social safety net programs.” In related news, the House Progressive Caucus sent a letter to Democratic leadership last week calling for the passage of legislation to increase benefits for long-COVID patients who receive Social Security Disability and to eliminate the five-month waiting period for individuals to qualify for the program. The approximately 100 members of the caucus argue that such a bill would “demonstrate Democrats’ commitment to furthering the legacy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and strengthening the most important anti-poverty program in America’s history.”


HHS Announces $90 Million to Support HRSA Health Center Data Modernization


The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will provide nearly $90 million to allow health centers to collect better data to identify and reduce health disparities. The funding was made available through the American Rescue Plan. The data modernization initiative aims to support health centers in collecting more and improved information about social determinants of health to further meet the needs of the community and reduce gaps in care. More than 90% of HRSA-funded health center patients live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and approximately 63% of patients are racial or ethnic minorities.


DOJ Tallies COVID-19 Patient Fraud


The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates that COVID-19-related patient scams have amounted to a total of $292 million in fraud since the start of the pandemic. The DOJ has charged 21 people with scams totaling $149 million during the last year, on top of the charges raised against 14 individuals totaling $143 million announced last May. These scams aimed at patients are separate from the fraud related to the federal government’s COVID-19 relief programs.


OMB Clears Ban on Menthol Flavoring in Cigarettes/Cigars


The Office of Management and Budget has cleared two proposed rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that would ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all characterizing flavors in cigars. The regulations can now be published by the agency at any time. The FDA had announced plans last year to pursue these policies as a part of its efforts to address health disparities and reduce the death and disease caused by combusted tobacco product use. Smoking products with menthol flavoring are disproportionately used by Black Americans.


DOJ Tallies COVID-19 Patient Fraud


The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates that COVID-19-related patient scams have amounted to a total of $292 million in fraud since the start of the pandemic. The DOJ has charged 21 people with scams totaling $149 million during the last year, on top of the charges raised against 14 individuals totaling $143 million announced last May. These scams aimed at patients are separate from the fraud related to the federal government’s COVID-19 relief programs.



April 25, 2022: | Page 1 Page 2

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