News on the Part B Drug Demo

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has responded to the 242 House members that sent a letter to the agency requesting that they withdraw the proposed Part B payment demonstration. Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt wrote that CMS “appreciates you bringing these views to our attention,” and that the comments will be included as a part of the public record. He provided no indication that CMS plans to withdraw the proposal. In response to CMS’ letter, Congressmen John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.), and Charles Boustany, Jr., M.D. (R-La.) released statements expressing disappointment about the agency’s brief and uninformative response, which they classified as “disrespectful” and “dismissive.” During the American Medical Association’s (AMA) annual delegates meeting currently taking place in Chicago, the organization will consider a resolution for the AMA to press Congress to block implementation of the Part B drug payment model if the proposal is not scaled back or withdrawn entirely. Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee plans to hold a hearing on June 28 regarding the Part B demo. CMS Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway is expected to testify.

Lawmakers Ask HELP Leadership to Examine OOP Costs

Sens. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) have spearheaded a letter to Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urging them to examine patient perspectives on access to care, particularly on high out-of-pocket costs for treatment. The lawmakers outline the use of specialty tiers and skyrocketing co-insurance as health care trends that are causing a significant financial burden for patients. These trends have led to poor adherence and non-adherence to treatment plans. The letter was co-signed by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Energy and Commerce to Consider Re-Drafted Mental Health Bill This Week

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a full committee markup on Wednesday to consider an updated version of H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a psychologist, has been revised in recent months to address various concerns held by members on both sides of the aisle. The new version of the bill removes changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as a result of Democratic concerns about the loosening of privacy protections for patients. The revised legislation would keep the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in place, and eliminates incentives for state laws allowing judges to order mentally ill people to follow a treatment plan. Democrats may also push for additional changes to be made in advance of the markup. In response to Republican concerns about cost, the version of the bill to be marked up on Wednesday includes a less expansive provision allowing Medicaid to pay for more care at mental health facilities.

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