Energy and Commerce to Hold Hearing on Opioid Epidemic, New Funding Announced

Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced plans to hold a full committee hearing on the opioid epidemic the week of October 23rd. This would be the first full committee hearing on the subject in the 115th Congress. During the hearing Committee members will receive an update on the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and will hear from agency officials on the front lines of addressing the epidemic. In related news, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $200 million in new grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address the current opioid abuse and addiction crisis as well as $144 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for opioid treatment and prevention and $8.8 million from a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) study related to chronic pain. The HRSA awards will be directed to approximately 1,200 health centers for the purpose of expanding access to mental health and substance misuse treatment services. Secretary Tom Price also indicated that he is “working with staff” related to an official declaration of a national emergency.

Finance Reaches Deal on CHIP Funding

The Senate Finance Committee has reached a deal to extend financing for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The agreement would transition CHIP back to the traditional federal-state partnership over the next five years. The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 23 percent increase in federal funding would be maintained in 2018-2019, followed by a reduction to 11.5 percent in 2020, then zero percent in 2021 and 2022. The deal also includes increased flexibility for states to implement their CHIP programs. Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has said that negotiations are still underway on how to pay for the $8 billion deal. Current authorization for CHIP expires on September 30.

Sanders Introduces Single Payer Medicare-for-All Legislation

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has formally introduced his long awaited “Medicare-for-All” legislation that would transition the nation into a single-payer health care system. The plan currently has the support of 15 Democratic senators, many of whom are expected to run in the next presidential election. The list includes Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The bill would end the private insurance industry and be implemented over a period of four-years. Children younger than age 18 would be immediately and automatically eligible for coverage. The plan would be paid for through a tax increase on both individuals and employers. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wrote the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) requesting a full cost estimate of the bill saying “it is imperative that the public understand the cost.”

CBO Releases New Analysis of ACA Exchanges

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects premiums on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges to rise by 15 percent next year. CBO blames growing uncertainty about the future of Obamacare and the continuation of costsharing reduction (CSR) payments, in addition to diminishing competition in many areas, for the spike in premiums. The new CBO analysis estimates that enrollment, however, will increase from 10 million this year to 11 million next year. This limited growth is attributed to both premium increases and the Trump Administration’s cuts to Obamacare advertising and outreach funding.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Meetings

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Field Hearing titled “An Assessment of Leadership Failures at the Manchester, NH VA Medical Center;” 10:30 a.m. local time; New Hampshire National Guard Edward Cross Training Complex, Pembroke, NH; September 18

Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing to examine disaster preparedness and response, focusing on the special needs of older Americans; 9:00 a.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.; September 20 House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Legislative Hearing on: H.R. 93; H.R. 501; H.R. 1063; H.R. 1066;

H.R. 1943; H.R. 1972; H.R. 2147; H.R. 2225; H.R. 2327; and, a draft bill to make certain improvements in VA’s Health Professionals Educational Assistance Program; 10:00 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.; September 26

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