POLICY BRIEFINGS


Lawmakers Attempt to Exempt User Fees from Sequestration


A bill introduced by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) last week would ensure that user fees paid by drug and medical device manufacturers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) be exempt from possible sequestration. While industry continued paying user fees following the 2013 sequester, these funds were not distributed to the agency until Rep. Eshoo and Rep. Lance formally requested that money be restored to the FDA.


New CBO Director Appointed


Keith Hall will replace Douglas W. Elmendorf as Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on April 1. Hall has previously worked as chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush administration, and was confirmed as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most recently, Hall worked as chief economist for the U.S. International Trade Commission. Hall was favored by House and Senate Budget chairmen Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) for his conservatism as well as his familiarity with Congress and the federal government. While Hall is a Republican, his work has focused mainly on technical analysis.


CDC Reports 500,000 Annual C. Difficile Infections


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assessment of Clostridium difficile reveals that nearly a half-million infections were caused by the dangerous bacteria in 2011. CDC’s data, which represents the largest longitudinal U.S. population-based surveillance to date, also found that approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of initial diagnosis. Hospital or nursing home stays accounted for around two-thirds of infections, with senior patients age 65 and older affected in one third of the cases. According to the study, the rate of hospitalizations for C. difficile doubled between 2000 and 2010. Authors of the study argue that this data stresses the need for responsible prescribing of antibiotics. The Agency plans to prioritize the prevention of health care associated infections in the coming year through supporting State Antibiotic Resistance Prevention Programs. The CDC’s fiscal year 2016 budget would also accelerate work to improve antibiotic stewardship to better detect and prevent infections through a $1.2 billion investment, which is more than twice the funding used to combat antibiotic resistance in 2015. The Agency states that these efforts could potentially cut the incidence of C. difficile infections in half. Beginning in 2017, C. difficile infections will be tied to Medicare pay-forperformance measurements.


GOP Experiences Setback in ACA Repeal Efforts


According to sources in the Republican Party, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has expressed concerns about the possibility of using a special budgetary procedure to repeal the ACA. Some Senate Republicans have expressed support for using the budgetary reconciliation process to repeal the health care law. Reconciliation is a process that imposes rules of debate and germaneness on the Senate, as well as only requirespassage by a simple majority vote rather than the typical 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Senators are split on whether it is procedurally possible that the ACA could be repealed cleanly under budget reconciliation. Though President Obama would veto the bill, many Republicans support the symbolic gesture of sending repeal of the measure to his desk. House and Senate Republicans are expected to unveil budget blueprints in the coming weeks, in the hopes of passing a unified resolution in the spring; therefore, final decisions on what measures could be passed under reconciliation rules must be made quickly.



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