POLICY BRIEFINGS


Prior Authorization Reform Bill Secures Majority of House Support


A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives has signed on in support of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act (H.R.3107). The legislation, which would streamline and standardize prior authorization in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program and make the use of prior authorization more transparent, now has 219 cosponsors. The bill’s sponsors – Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), and Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.) – hope to advance the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee and attach it to a legislative vehicle for passage sometime this year. Senate companion legislation is expected to be introduced in July.


Senate Finance Leaders Want Insight Into Provider Relief Fund


Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are requesting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publish the list of health care providers that have received a portion of the Provider Relief Fund. The lawmakers ask for a single, comprehensive, and publicly available data source that shows the amount of money received by each provider. They also urge the administration to release additional details on the Provider Relief Fund general distribution Terms and Conditions requirement that providers receiving more than $150,000 from HHS-administered COVID-19 funding sources submit reports on the receipt and use of these funds. They argue that the scope, timing, and availability of this information is key to a greater understanding of the impact of Congress’ pandemic response.


Senate Finance Leaders Want Insight Into Provider Relief Fund


Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are requesting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publish the list of health care providers that have received a portion of the Provider Relief Fund. The lawmakers ask for a single, comprehensive, and publicly available data source that shows the amount of money received by each provider. They also urge the administration to release additional details on the Provider Relief Fund general distribution Terms and Conditions requirement that providers receiving more than $150,000 from HHS-administered COVID-19 funding sources submit reports on the receipt and use of these funds. They argue that the scope, timing, and availability of this information is key to a greater understanding of the impact of Congress’ pandemic response.


WH Projects Adequate Supply of PPE Through Fall


The U.S. supply of N95 respirator masks will exceed demand in each month from August through October, according to projections from the White House Supply Chain Task Force released by the office of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). The estimates also indicate that the country will be able to meet the demand for surgical masks, nitrile gloves, and face shields. Hassan was given permission from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor to release the document during a hearing last week.


Dems Request Probe Into PPE Project Air Bridge


Senate Democrats are demanding a probe into Project Air Bridge, the administration’s effort to obtain and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to acting chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Michael Horowitz asking for clarity on whether Project Air Bridge has been effective or cost-efficient. They argue that the project “has been marked by delays, incompetence, confusion, and secrecy involving multiple federal agencies and actors.”


Lawmakers Urge Support for Medicaid Providers, Clinical Laboratories


A group of 16 senators has sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma urging them to prioritize Medicaid patients and the hospitals that serve low-income populations in the disbursement of coronavirus aid funding. The lawmakers assert that the allocations to date have not sufficiently targeted providers tasked with caring for vulnerable populations. They ask that the administration consider a separate, targeted distribution of funding for health care providers who make up the health care safety net. The letter was led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Soon thereafter, HHS announced additional funds from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund for these providers.

Thirty bipartisan members of the House of Representatives are asking the administration to use money from previously appropriated funding for COVID testing initiatives to support clinical laboratories in scaling up COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing. The letter to HHS Secretary Azar notes that laboratories have made significant investments to meet COVID-19 testing demands while facing revenue declines due to the public health emergency. According to the authors, no federal funding has yet been specifically designated for laboratories.


Nursing Homes Under Investigation for Possible Mishandling of Stimulus Checks


House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), are requesting an investigation into reports that nursing homes and assisted living facilities are seizing residents’ coronavirus economic stimulus payments. Their letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states that the agency should issue guidance to ensure that elderly individuals are not “coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are requesting similar assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The lawmakers ask Inspector General Christi Grimmi to issue alerts that emphasize that it is illegal for facilities to demand that residents surrender their checks.


FDA Corrects Testimony on Foreign API Data


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has corrected statements made by Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs Douglas Throckmorton during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee last week. In response to a question from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Throckmorton stated that the U.S. provides 28 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), while China and India provide 13 and 18 percent respectively. The FDA has clarified that those figures represent the number of API facilities that export ingredients to the U.S., not the volume they ship. An FDA spokesperson stated that the agency does not know the volume of API from China or India being used for U.S. marketed drugs. During the hearing, several lawmakers expressed concerns about the ability of the FDA to ensure the safety of the drug supply manufactured overseas.


Senate Panel Advances OMB Nomination


The Senate Budget Committee advanced the nomination of Russell Vought to serve as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last week by a vote of 11-10. Vought was confirmed as OMB deputy director in 2018, and has been serving as acting director since January 2019. He has previously worked as policy director for the House Republican Conference and as executive director of the Republican Study Committee.


Hart Health Strategies COVID-19 Resources


Hart Health Strategies Inc. continues to update the following resources related to the coronavirus pandemic. Please remember to clear your cache to ensure you download the most recent documents.



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