Healthcare Preview for the Week of: April 8, 2024 - McDermott+Consulting

Healthcare Preview for the Week of: April 8, 2024

Happy New Year (for Congress, Anyway)

Neil deGrasse Tyson routinely reminds us that January 1 is “a cosmically arbitrary event, carrying no Astronomical significance,” and that bodes well for Congress, whose new year is just getting started.

Sure, it’s technically April, the fourth month of the year. However, for Congress, it’s only the first two weeks of the year. Their $1.2 trillion spending package was passed and signed into law on March 23, 2024, and they immediately went into a two-week recess, making this the first real week of the second session of the 118th Congress. And they are hitting the ground running.

On the healthcare front, there are several hearings this week. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on Wednesday considering 15 proposals to support patient access to telehealth services. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) noted that in light of the many benefits of telehealth to patients who are homebound or live in rural areas, they “want to ensure patients continue to have the choice whether to go to a doctor in person or use telehealth when appropriate and more convenient for them. At the same time, we must also be vigilant that technological innovations provide value for both patients and the Medicare program as a whole.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability will hold a hearing tiled “Oversight of the Food and Drug Administration.” The hearing will be an opportunity to question US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, regarding the committee’s ongoing investigations into the FDA response to several issues, including the infant formula crisis and food safety, drug shortages, facility inspections, hemp regulation, regulation of tobacco and nicotine products, and over-the-counter decongestants.

In the Senate, the Committee on Finance will hold two healthcare-related hearings. The first will be held in the subcommittee on healthcare and is titled “Closing Gaps in the Care Continuum: Opportunities to Improve Substance Use Disorder Care in the Federal Health Programs.” Witnesses will include representatives from academia and a provider organization.

The full Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing called “Bolstering Chronic Care Through Medicare Physician Payment.” Witnesses are from academia, a provider organization and two provider associations (American College of Surgeons and American Academy of Family Physicians).

In bicameral, bipartisan action, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and House Energy & Commerce Chair Rodgers released a discussion draft of the American Privacy Rights Act, which seeks to address the fragmented state laws on consumer privacy while improving oversight of the many entities that are not regulated by current privacy and security laws but may hold sensitive or private consumer information. The act would require covered entities to be transparent about how they use consumer data and give consumers the right to access, correct, delete and export their data, and opt out of targeted advertising and data transfer. The approach taken would also set standards for data minimization and would prohibit the transfer of sensitive data to third parties without the consumer’s affirmative express consent. In their joint statement, Chairs Cantwell and Rodgers noted that the act would “establish a national data privacy and security standard that gives people the right to control their personal information.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) also released a statement noting that “this is a very strong discussion draft, built on the foundation of years of hard work by the Energy and Commerce Committee.” Representative Pallone noted that the bill could be strengthened in key areas, particularly children’s policy, but commended the success of getting bipartisan, bicameral consensus in this congressional environment and maintained optimism that the legislation will cross the finish line.

Finally, Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) will hold their April 2024 public meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week. MedPAC will cover topics such as telehealth, payments to inpatient rehabilitation facilities, generic drug pricing and 340B ceiling prices. MACPAC session subjects will include collection of demographics data, transparency in financing, access to home- and community-based services, supplemental payments to hospitals and a panel on Medicaid unwinding (from COVID-era regulations).

Today’s Podcast

Debbie Curtis joins Priya Rathakrishnan to discuss the congressional outlook on healthcare, now that congress is back from recess, having completed government funding and 2023 appropriations work.