Sanders to Introduce Drug Negotiation Legislation

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that he will be introducing legislation to allow the Medicare program to negotiate drug prices. Donald Trump has expressed support for such a policy, and Sanders called on the President to support his legislation. Sen. Sander’s bill is also expected to include provisions to allow for the importation of drugs from Canada and other countries. He said that he will be working with both his Republican and Democratic colleagues to address concerns members have about the safety of imported medication in order to begin making prescription medications more affordable.

New CBO Report with ACA Repeal Estimates Released

Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement would leave as many as 32 million people without health insurance by 2026, according to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The non-partisan budget agency also estimates that repeal of the law could result in an increase in premiums for policies purchased through the marketplace or directly from insurers of 20 to 25 percent in the plan year following enactment of repeal. The latest CBO report was requested by congressional Democrats, and is based on the 2015 repeal bill passed by Congress but vetoed by President Obama.

Collins to Continue as Head of NIH

Current Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins has been asked by President Trump to continue leading the agency, according to an NIH spokesman. Collins has been at the head of NIH since 2009. Congressional leadership, including Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), urged President Trump to keep Collins in the position. Collins has previously said that he would remain in the role if asked to do so by the new administration.

Trump Signs Executive Order on ACA

Donald Trump signed an executive order to ease the burden of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as one of his first official acts as president on Friday. The executive order did not direct any specific actions, but rather gives broad authority to regulatory agencies to ease requirements of the 2010 health care law, particularly those that impose a fiscal burden on states or a regulatory burden on individuals or business. The extent of the effects that could result from the order are unclear. Congressional action will still be required to make most major changes to the law. The new administration also ordered a regulatory freeze until new cabinet secretaries and agency leadership have assumed their positions. A memo issued by the President’s chief of staff Reince Priebus tells federal agencies not to send any regulations to the Federal Register until the rule is reviewed and approved by their new appointed agency head. Rules that have already been sent to the Federal Register but have not yet been published will be withdrawn, and rules that were published in the last 60 days will be delayed for at least another 60 days. Excluded from the memo are any rules in response to an emergency situation or urgent circumstance.

Trump Administration Staff Announcements

The Trump administration announced that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Assistant Secretary Norris Cochran, a financial expert on budgetary matters, will begin overseeing the department as acting secretary. Colleen Barrows will assume the position of Acting Deputy Secretary. Patrick Conway will become Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Conway was previously the Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality, as well as CMS’ Chief Medical Officer.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Meetings

Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the anticipated nomination of the Honorable Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services; 10:00 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.; January 24

House Budget Committee hearing on “The Failures of Obamacare: Harmful Effects and Broken Promises;” 10:15 a.m., 1334 Longworth Bldg.; January 24

Oversight Subcommittee of House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “Examining the Effectiveness of the Individual Mandate under the Affordable Care Act;” 2:00 p.m., 1100 Longworth Bldg.; January 24

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