The State of the Union
Tomorrow, February 7, 2023, President Biden will make his State of the Union address to Congress. With the economy and foreign affairs likely to be the main points of the address, it is unlikely that new healthcare initiatives will be a significant focus in the speech. However, we will be listening for references to Medicare prescription drug pricing reform; stopping cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and any pronouncements on the unwinding of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).
Also this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a joint hearing of the Health and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees entitled The Federal Response to COVID-19. House Republicans are in the majority for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have pent-up demand to ask questions about the understanding of COVID-19 information and efforts to distribute and control that information. The witness panel is all government officials: US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf; Lawrence Tabak, the senior official performing the duties of the director of the National Institutes of Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky; and Dawn O’Connell, the assistant US Department of Health and Human Services secretary for preparedness and response. It is highly likely that this hearing will quickly become partisan and criticize the current and past administrations on the handling of the pandemic. This should be seen as a preview of more hearings on this issue in the coming months.
It also important to note that this hearing follows the Biden Administration’s announcement on its intent to end the COVID-19 PHE and national emergency on May 11. This PHE end date announcement has already begun a flurry of activity from the Administration to address and clarify how to transition temporary policy changes that were put in place during the PHE and are set to expire with it.