POLICY BRIEFINGS


Ways and Means Issues RFI on Health Disparities


The House Ways and Means Committee has issued a request for information (RFI) soliciting input on ‘priority’ topics that affect health status and outcomes in underserved communities. The information will be used to inform the bipartisan Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force as it works to draft legislation to identify the causes of health care disparities, develop strategies to close gaps in care, and ultimately improve health care outcomes in both urban and rural underserved areas. The deadline for response is close of business Friday, November 29, 2019. The RFI includes guidelines for submissions.


Path Forward for Surprise Billing Legislation Remains Uncertain


Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) indicated last week that he and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), along with bipartisan House committee leadership, are nearing a deal on a surprise insurance gap bill that could be attached to year-end spending legislation. While it is ultimately the decision of congressional leadership to determine what is included in the government funding package, Chairman Alexander stated his wish to have reconciled HELP’s legislation to address surprise medical bills (S. 1895) and the bill advanced by House Energy and Commerce (H.R. 3630) when the time comes. Two other House committees – Ways and Means and Education and Labor – may also want to weigh in but have not yet scheduled a mark-up on the legislation. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has said that significant progress has been made toward an agreement on how to settle payment disputes between providers and payers. But lawmakers must also still determine how to handle the other health measures attached to the bills, which include drug pricing policies and a provision to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products.


Pallone Requests Investigation into Contaminated Vaping Pods


House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) wrote to Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Brett Giroir requesting an investigation into assertions that Juul Labs knowingly distributed approximately one million contaminated mint-flavored e-cigarette pods for consumer use. He requests a briefing from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the agency’s actions related to the allegations and their implications.


Democratic Candidates Introduce Bill to Create Prescription Drug Bureau


Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation that would create a new federal agency responsible for controlling the costs of prescription drugs. The Prescription Drug Affordability and Access Act would form the Bureau of Prescription Drug Affordability and Access. When looking to bring a new drug to market, pharmaceutical manufacturers would submit to the Bureau its research and development costs, the cost of the product, the cost of comparable treatments in other countries, and federal investments that contributed to the product’s development. The Bureau would use this information to determine an appropriate list price for the drug. The proposal is modeled on Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which compares the price of drugs to similar medicines in other countries to determine if they are overpriced.



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