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.


House Approves Rules for 118th Congress

The House of Representatives approved a new rules package setting the chamber’s operating procedures for the 118th Congress last week. Unlike the Senate, which operates under standing rules from session to session, the House must adopt a new package of rules at the beginning of each new Congress to set the procedures by which the chamber considers and passes legislation. The rules allow a single House member to make a motion to vote the House speaker from leadership. This ‘motion to vacate’ concession was made by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a part of his speakership election negotiations. The rules package replaces “pay as you go” (PAYGO) requirements with “cut-as-you-go” (CUTGO) which requires spending offsets for any legislation that increases the budget and requires that any tax rate increase be supported by three-fifths of the chamber. The new rules also officially end COVID-19-era remote work provisions as well as reinstate the Holman Rule, which allows members to introduce amendments to appropriations bills to make cuts to specific federal programs or fire or make pay cuts for specific government employees. The Holman Rule was last in place during the 115th Congress, but no amendments proposed were ever signed into law. The rules provided for consideration of several GOP legislative priorities – including the rescission of Internal Revenue Service funding, a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions, and an increase of oil and gas production on public land. It also set votes to establish two new congressional panels – the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government and a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and China.

House Passes Born- Alive Legislation

The House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 26) last week. The legislation passed by a vote of 220-210, with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) joining Republicans in support of the bill. H.R. 26 outlines requirements for health care providers to treat children born after an attempted abortion. The legislation establishes criminal penalties for health practitioners who fail to provide required care or fail to report such failure. The new House Republican majority have pledged to pass abortion restrictions during the 118th Congress. It is unlikely that any such bills will be considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

MO Republican Jason Smith to Chair Ways and Means

The House GOP Steering Committee selected Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) to replace retired Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) as chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means for the 118th Congress. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) were also vying for the position. Smith’s selection is still subject to approval by the full House Republican Caucus, which typically aligns with the Steering panel’s recommendation. A press release following Smith’s selection as chair outlined the focus of the Ways and Means Committee over the next two years on delivering more jobs, higher wages, and greater investment in America, including by building financial and health care security for families and re-shoring and strengthening supply chains to create medical independence. The Ways and Means Committee will also play a key role in negotiations to raise the debt ceiling later this year.

During the 117th Congress Rep. Smith was a champion of legislation to help ensure Medicare recipients who cannot access video during telehealth visits are able to access care through audio-only visits, as well as a bill that would require Medicare to permanently cover audio-only telehealth services for beneficiaries. He also helped introduce the Increasing Mental Health Options Act of 2022, which aims to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to clinical psychologists across all settings of care. Smith has opposed the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and characterized a proposal to incorporate “anti-racism plans” as a quality metric for physicians under the Merit-based Incentive Payment Systems as discriminatory.

Agreement Reached on House Committee Ratios

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) announced over the weekend that Democrats in the House of Representatives have reached an agreement with Republicans regarding ratios on so-called “A” or “exclusive” committees. Those committees are Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Ways and Means. Of those four committees, Appropriations will see one seat added to the majority and minority side, while Energy and Commerce will be reduced by three seats each for the majority and minority, and Financial Services reduced by one seat. The Ways and Means Committee ratio will stay the same. While official committee rosters will not be released by the Democrats until after the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meets, the practical effect of this announcement could mean no new Democratic appointments on Energy and Commerce and Appropriations and a potential loss of a few Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee.

The latest information on recently announced changes to congressional committee membership can be found in Hart Health Strategies Inc.’s Guide to the 118th Congress, which is updated on an ongoing basis.

Sanders Presses Moderna on Possible Vaccine Price Hike

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has sent a letter to Moderna urging the company to reconsider and refrain from any decision to raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine for non-government payers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the company is considering an increase to the price of the vaccine as it shifts from government contracts to private insurers for the distribution of the vaccine. Sanders argues that reports of Moderna considering raising the price of its COVID-19 vaccine from $26.36 to up to $130 per dose are “particularly offensive” because the federal government provided $1.7 billion to Moderna for vaccine research and development in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. This increase would “make the vaccine unaffordable for the residents of this country who made the production of the vaccine possible,” Sanders writes.

Democrats Ask HHS to Use March-In Rights for Prostate Cancer Treatment

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the Secretary to use the federal government’s march- in rights under the Bayh-Dole Act to address the price of prostate cancer treatment Xtandi. The letter asserts that despite being developed with the support of federal funding, Americans pay as much as six times the cost paid by patients in other countries for Xtandi. The lawmakers urge HHS to grant patent licenses for generic manufacturers to produce the drug.

Former NE Governor Ricketts to Replace Sasse in Senate

Former Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) has been appointed by Gov. Jim Pillen (R) to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Sen. Ben Sasse (R). Ricketts will serve through at least November 2024, when a special election will be held to fill the remaining two years of Sasse’s term. Ricketts has committed to running in 2024 and, should he win, in 2026 to serve a full six-year term in the Senate. The former two-term governor co-chaired the Republican Governors Association during the 2022 campaign cycle. During his time as Nebraska governor, Ricketts worked to improve access to mental health services for service members, veterans, and their families and acted to address both ongoing and pandemic-related health care workforce shortages.

January 16, 2023: | Page 1 Page 2 Page 3



 -  2023

 +  2022

 +  2021

 +  2020

 +  2019

 +  2018