THIS WEEK’S DOSE
Congress was in session this week, with additional announcements released related to committee assignments. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a record number of enrollments during the most recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace open enrollment period and released a report on insulin costs.
Republicans and Democrats Continue to Announce Committee Assignments. As the House returned to session this week, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee met to assign Democratic members to committees based on the new committee ratios reflecting the current composition of the House.
Taking into account the new ratios and existing committee vacancies due to non-returning members from the 117th Congress, the only committee from which Democrats have been forced to remove members is the Ways and Means Committee. Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) will no longer serve on that committee in the 118th Congress. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) also will take a leave of absence, as he will serve as the ranking member of the Budget Committee.
House Republicans have already made most full committee assignments and are now filling out subcommittee rosters and announcing subcommittee leadership. Updates from Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) can be found here. Updates from Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO), naming Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) as vice chair, can be found here. Rep. Buchanan will also serve as chair of the Health Subcommittee. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also announced his appointments to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, an investigative panel that is part of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability.
Across the Capitol, advancement of the organizing resolution necessary to formally populate Senate committees was slowed this week as new Republican Senators continued to negotiate for preferred committee assignments. The organizing resolution is expected to advance next week, after which we will begin to hear official committee announcements in the upper chamber.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Announces First Hearings. On January 25, Energy and Commerce Chair Rodgers announced the first two health-related hearings her committee will hold.
She and Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) announced that on February 1 the Health Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing focused on the illicit fentanyl poisoning crisis, a cybersecurity breach of suicide lifelines, and Quality Adjusted Life Year measures. This hearing follows a more informal roundtable convened by Chair Rogers on January 25 to discuss the role of tech companies in fentanyl trafficking and the opioid crisis.
Chair Rogers and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) announced that on February 1 the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing focused on a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the challenges of investigating the origins of infectious disease pandemics and biological outbreaks, as well as recommendations for future improvements.
HHS Announces Record Number of ACA Marketplace Enrollments. On January 25, HHS announced that more than 16.3 million people nationwide selected an ACA Marketplace health plan during the 2023 open enrollment period that ran from November 1, 2022, until January 15, 2023, for most marketplaces.
According to HHS, total plan selections include 3.6 million people who are new to the marketplaces for 2023 (22% of the total). The 3.6 million figure is a 21% increase in new-to-marketplace plan selections over last year.
The data included in HHS’s January 25 announcement represents activity through January 15 for the 33 marketplaces using HealthCare.gov, and through January 14 or 15 for the 18 state-based marketplaces in 17 states and the District of Columbia that use their own eligibility and enrollment platforms. Some state-based marketplaces are still in open enrollment and will report updated enrollment data after that period closes. A fact sheet on state-based marketplace open enrollment deadlines can be found here.
HHS Releases Report on Insulin Cost Savings. On January 24, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released a report on insulin cost savings for Medicare beneficiaries as a result of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which included provisions to cap insulin costs at $35 per month.
While the IRA’s insulin provisions did not take effect until January 2023 for Medicare Part D and will take effect in July 2023 for insulin covered by Medicare Part B, the report demonstrated that if the cap had been in place in 2020, 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries would have saved an average of $500 on insulin for the year.
The ASPE report also included findings from a recent report to Congress that examined the critical role that insulin plays in the treatment of diabetes, reviewed evidence on how insulin affordability affects adherence to insulin treatment and downstream health consequences, and described policy efforts to improve the affordability of insulin. It provided information on savings by state and by demographic characteristics, including gender, race and ethnicity, and age.
The full ASPE report can be found here.
- HHS, through the Indian Health Service, announced $139 million in funding for the FY 2023 Special Diabetes Program for Indians, to provide diabetes prevention and treatment services for American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
- GAO released a report on HHS pandemic relief funds allocated to support disproportionately affected communities. GAO found that of the $75 billion in pandemic relief funding disbursed from agencies within HHS, $29 billion (more than 35%) was directed to programs specifically supporting communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The report also found that the agencies allocated $33 billion to programs with a recommendation that awardees, often state health departments, support such communities with the funds. These findings could be the subject of a future hearing in the House as the new Republican majority investigates various aspects of the federal government’s pandemic response.
- Consumers First, an alliance of healthcare stakeholders, sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for Congress to meaningfully address key drivers of increased healthcare costs, including efforts related to price transparency, anticompetitive practices and site-neutral payments across delivery systems.
NEXT WEEK’S DIAGNOSIS
Hearings of interest to healthcare stakeholders get underway in the House, and committee announcements are expected in the Senate.
For more information, contact Debra Curtis, Kristen O’Brien or Erica Stocker.
To subscribe to the McDermottPlus Check-Up, please CLICK HERE.