THIS WEEK’S DOSE
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee met to consider five health-related bills, and the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on supporting communities of care. President Biden released a plan to extend Medicare’s solvency as part of the release of his FY 2024 budget request.
House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Advances Five Bills. On March 8, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee met to consider five health-related bills:
- The Block, Report, And Suspend Suspicious Shipments Act (H.R. 501), to require drug manufacturers, distributors and other US Drug Enforcement Administration registrants to practice due diligence when discovering suspicious orders of controlled substances
- Advanced by unanimous vote
- The 9-8-8 Lifeline Cybersecurity Responsibility Act (H.R. 498), to require internal coordination within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect the 9-8-8 lifeline from cybersecurity incidents, and to require the 9-8-8 network administrator to immediately report potential cybersecurity threats
- Advanced by unanimous vote
- The Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act (H.R. 485), to prohibit all federal healthcare programs, including the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and federally funded state healthcare programs such as Medicaid from using prices that are based on quality-adjusted life years to determine relevant thresholds for coverage, reimbursements or incentive programs
- Advanced by voice vote, with comment from the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) noting that there is still work to do to finalize the language before the full committee considers it
- The HALT Fentanyl Act (H.R. 467), to place fentanyl-related substances permanently into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act
- Advanced by largely party-line vote
- The Securing the Border for Public Health Act (H.R. 801), to allow the HHS secretary, after consultation with the attorney general, to suspend persons and imports related to certain controlled substances from certain designated foreign countries into the United States
- Advanced by party line vote.
The bills now move to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
President Biden Outlines Plan to Extend Medicare Solvency. On March 7, ahead of the release of his FY 2024 budget resolution, President Biden released a fact sheet highlighting a key proposal within his budget to extend Medicare solvency.
The plan includes increasing the Medicare tax rate for those with incomes above $400,000 annually from 3.8% to 5%, closing loopholes in existing Medicare taxes and expanding Medicare price negotiation for additional prescription drugs. The document also includes policies to reduce costs for beneficiaries, including lowering out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs subject to price negotiation, limiting monthly cost-sharing to $2 for certain generic drugs for chronic conditions, and lowering behavioral health costs in Medicare.
This proposal, like the overall budget, presents the Biden Administration’s policy priorities and highlights ongoing political sensitivities related to Medicare. With a divided Congress, consensus on such a proposal should not be expected. See the next story for more details.
Biden Administration Releases FY 2024 Budget Request. On March 9, the Biden Administration released its FY 2024 budget request, along with an overall fact sheet. The 169-page HHS budget in brief was also released, which proposes $144.3 billion in discretionary and $1.7 trillion in mandatory proposed budget authority for FY 2024.
The budget in brief contains details for each of HHS’s various subagencies and divisions, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, among many others. Some highlights include the following:
- Providing $150 billion over 10 years to improve and expand Medicaid home and community-based services, such as personal care services
- Limiting Medicare Part D cost-sharing for high-value generic drugs to no more than $2 and broadening Medicare’s ability to negotiate for prescription drugs
- Authorizing HHS to negotiate supplemental drug rebates on behalf of state Medicaid programs
- Curbing inflation in prescription drug prices and capping the prices of insulin products at $35 for a monthly prescription for private insurance
- Continued investments in the behavioral health workforce, youth mental health treatment, certified community behavioral health clinics, community mental health centers and mental health research
- Requiring states to provide 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage
- Providing $30 million for rural hospitals at risk of closure and to support expansion of hospital service lines to meet rural communities’ needs
- Making permanent the enhanced premium tax credits that were extended through 2025 in the Inflation Reduction Act
- Doubling funding for community health centers
- Expanding the National Health Service Corps and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program
- Providing Medicaid-like coverage to individuals in states that have not adopted Medicaid expansion
- Providing a $1 billion increase for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, for a total of $2.5 billion, to find cures for cancer and other diseases
- Providing $1 billion for cancer moonshot activities.
Our team will provide a more detailed analysis of the health-related portions of the FY 2024 budget request in the near future.
While the president’s budget request is a non-binding document, it sets forth the Administration’s spending and policy priorities for the upcoming year. These priorities, including the Medicare solvency proposal discussed above, also heighten pressure in Democrats’ standoff with Republican lawmakers, who are seeking significant spending cuts as a condition for voting to lift the debt ceiling later this year.
Both parties appear to be in agreement on protecting Medicare and Social Security from cuts during this process. That puts a spotlight on Medicaid, which is likely to be a point of contention between the two parties, with Republicans reportedly considering cuts to the program and Democrats drawing a line in the sand against such efforts. Our team continues to monitor and analyze the FY 2024 budget and the related debt ceiling impasse and will provide further analysis as additional developments occur.
- Health Cybersecurity: The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, part of HHS, released a Cybersecurity Framework Implementation Guide to help healthcare stakeholders prevent cybersecurity incidents. The guide provides specific steps that organizations can immediately take to manage cyber risks to their information technology systems.
- FTC Noncompete Proposed Rule: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) extended the public comment period on its proposed rule to ban noncompete clauses until April 19. The proposed rule was released in January and is based on a preliminary finding that noncompetes constitute an unfair method of competition and therefore violate Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
- The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing focused on investigating the origins of COVID-19.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the right of workers to organize.
- The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing focused on efforts to support communities of care for older adults.
- The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee announced that it will hold a hearing to examine ideas to drive down the cost of healthcare through transparency and competition. The hearing is scheduled to take place March 28.
NEXT WEEK’S DIAGNOSIS
The House is scheduled to be in recess next week. In the Senate, FY 2024 budget hearings will get underway.
For more information, contact Debra Curtis, Kristen O’Brien or Erica Stocker.
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