POLICY BRIEFINGS


E&C Makes Inquiries Into HHS Financial Audit


The Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee has written to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar regarding the Department’s non-compliance with the requirements outlined in the agency’s financial audit for fiscal year (FY) 2017. Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Mo.) request information about the remediation of federal statute violations identified in the audit. The violations outlined in the letter include deficiencies in financial reporting systems, a lack of compliance with improper payment error rates, and a failure to meet the 90-day timeframe for Medicare appeal adjudication required by the Social Security Act. The lawmakers request HHS to respond within 30 days with a timeline for completion of each remedial action the Department plans to take.


Bipartisan Lawmakers Request Help in Limiting Online Drug Trade


Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have written to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Pinterest regarding the role internet search engines and online marketplaces can play in combating the epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse. The lawmakers ask the companies to consider removing from their platforms content that advertises the use of or enables the sale of illicit narcotics, including prescription drugs without a valid prescription.


CDC Requests Funds for New High-Threat Lab


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking Congress for more than $400 million in discretionary funds to build a new high-containment lab to work with the highest-threat germs like Ebola, smallpox, and new forms of flu. While the current lab building opened only 13 years ago, the agency believes a new building is necessary to update the complex systems and infrastructure used to secure and contain the dangerous infectious agents.


Governors Release Bipartisan Health Reform Blueprint


A bipartisan group of governors have released a blueprint for creating a lower cost, higher quality health care system that stabilizes the individual health insurance market and prioritizes value-based care. The plan was released last week by Govs. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), John Kasich (R-Ohio), Bill Walker (I-Alaska), Tom Wolf (D-Pa.), and Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.). The group recommends restoration of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, consideration of the social determinants of health in the Medicaid program, incentives for healthier lifestyles, a shift toward value-driven care in Medicaid and state employee benefits, and an elimination of the health insurance tax for underserved areas. They urge the federal government to cut excessive red tape and encourage increased competition in the private sector to address provider system consolidation. The governors also call for passage of the Alexander-Murray stabilization package. The blueprint notes the importance of a more streamlined, faster Medicaid waiver request process for states to have more flexibility and control over certain innovations, like in the areas of mental health care, prescription drug benefits, and essential health benefits (EHBs). Gov. Kasich has estimated that the blueprint could save the federal government $1 trillion in safety-net program spending alone.


Azar Stresses the Importance of MAT


In his remarks delivered to the National Governors Association last weekend, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar touted medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as an essential component of addressing the nation’s epidemic of opioid abuse. The Secretary spoke about the substantial evidence supporting the efficacy of MAT in treating opioid addiction, and about the difficultly many patients face in obtaining this form of treatment. Azar stated that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to release two new draft guidances to clarify the evidence necessary for approval of new forms of MAT, such as injectable forms of buprenorphine, and to encourage new ways to evaluate the effects of MAT formulations.



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