Energy and Commerce Continues 340B Investigation

Leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have sent a series of letters to covered entities participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program as a means to broaden their understanding of how program savings are calculated and used. Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) are interested in determining whether and how entities pass program savings on to help patients.

Congress Passes Short-Term Debt Ceiling, Government Funding Agreement

Congress successfully passed legislation last week which funds the government through December 8, increases the federal borrowing limit, and provides disaster recovery aid for communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. The bill is the result of a deal reached between President Trump and Congressional Democrats. The Senate passed the agreement with 80 votes, and 17 Republicans voting in opposition. The House passed the package by a vote of 316-90, with all opposition coming from Republican members. Congress was required to pass a spending bill in order to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the fiscal year (FY), September 30, and the country was expected to hit the debt limit on September 29.

HHS Appropriations Bill Advances Out of Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced its Labor-HHS-Education spending bill by a vote of 30-1 last week. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) was the only Committee member to vote in opposition. The legislation provides $164.1 billion in discretionary funding, $3 billion above fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending levels and $8.1 billion more than the funding included in the House appropriations bill. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would receive $79.4 billion in appropriations, $1.7 billion above FY 2017 levels and $2.2 billion more than that included in the House bill. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $36.1 billion, a $2 billion increase over current spending levels and $900 million more than the House bill. The bill also includes a Democratic provision that prohibits reducing the federal cap on indirect costs in research grants. The Trump Administration had intended to cap these administrative costs tied to research grants at 10 percent. The legislation does not include any new funding to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Lawmakers Request Information on Parity Website

Massachusetts Democrats Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Joe Kennedy have written to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price to request a status update on the Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help Consumer Portal. The website was created in 2016 to improve insurance compliance with mental health parity laws. It was intended to be a resource for consumers facing mental health coverage issues to file a complaint or submit an appeal if coverage was denied.

Bipartisan Request for Social Determinants of Health Commission

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have written to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calling for an increased focus on the social determinants of health outcomes. “We struggle to address health disparities that divide us by race, socioeconomic status, and geography, and our public health outcomes are stagnant,” the write. The lawmakers warn that persistent disparities are not being addressed by the current delivery system, and ask the Department to convene a commission of diverse experts to examine the problem.

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