House to Markup CHIP Legislation This Week

Lawmakers allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire on September 30 without passing legislation to reauthorize the program while noting that most states have carry-over funds to keep their local insurance programs open until the end of the year. CHIP programs in three states and the District of Columbia expend current funding before the end of the year.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced plans to markup legislation this week that would provide funding for both CHIP and community health centers – 70 percent of total grant dollars for these health centers also faced a September 30th funding cliff. The bill will include provisions on other health programs as well, such as the Special Diabetes Programs, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education. Details on the legislation, including the length of funding extensions and potential offsets, have yet to be released.

Bipartisan legislation to extend CHIP funding has already been introduced in the Senate, and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has made clear his wishes to pass stand-alone CHIP legislation. The Senate bill would extend CHIP funding for five-years, but it is still unknown how the Senate bill would be paid for and the Senate Finance Committee has yet to schedule a markup of the legislation.

Bipartisan Talks on ACA Fix Resume

Following the collapse of Republican’s latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee leadership resumed bipartisan negotiations focused on stabilizing the individual health insurance market and lowering health insurance premiums. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have both stated that they are close to reaching an agreement that will focus on market changes over the next two years. The deal would likely legislate funding for costsharing reduction (CSR) payments and allow for the sale of low-cost health care plans. Insurers have already made decisions about participation and rates for the 2018 plan year, but successful legislation could still have an impact in 2019.

The House Problem Solvers Caucus -- a group of 43 bipartisan lawmakers led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) -- have written to congressional leadership supporting work on a bipartisan health reform plan. They request mandatory funding for CSR payments, the creation of a stability fund for states to help reduce premiums and limit losses in providing insurance coverage, repeal of the medical device tax, and steps to reduce the impact of the employer mandate on small employers. While the talks are strongly supported by Democratic leadership, it is unclear whether a deal would have enough Republican support to pass the full Senate or the House of Representatives.

Opioid Epidemic News Roundup

Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb announced in a blog post last week that his agency will begin requiring more opioid makers to provide prescriber training as a means to stem the opioid abuse epidemic. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified 74 manufacturers of the most widely prescribed, immediate-release opioids that their products will be subject to the requirements. Prescribers will not be required to take part in the training. This requirement has already been in place since 2012 for long-acting opioids that release their doses over 12 hours or more. This action followed closely on the heels of the FDA notifying hundreds of “rogue” websites about the illegal sale of opioids and other prescription drugs.

The FDA has also established a docket to receive public comments and recommendations for the agency’s newly established Opioid Policy Steering Committee. The FDA is specifically seeking information related to ensuring opioidrelated regulatory decisions are made with the right information, promoting appropriate prescribing and distribution practices, and whether the agency should require mandatory education for health care professionals who prescribe opioids. Comments are due by December 28.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new awareness campaign last week to combat the crisis. The web portal Rx Awareness features testimonials from individuals recovering from opioid addiction or friends and family members who lost someone to opioid abuse. Rx Awareness also includes the latest data on the epidemic, treatment resources, and methods to prevent overdoses. It will include targeted ads in Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) announced the provision of new cooperative agreement awards to six organizations for the purpose of helping minority and disadvantaged communities disproportionately effected by the opioid epidemic.

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