POLICY BRIEFINGS


Nursing Home COVID-19 Response in the Spotlight


The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is launching an investigation into nursing home COVID-19 deaths. Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) sent letters to the five largest for-profit nursing home companies in the U.S. as well as to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to request information about COVID-19 case and death counts, staffing levels and pay, and actions taken to prevent further infections. The panel is also asking for details about the use of federal funds by nursing homes during the pandemic. Chairman Clyburn has expressed concerns about CMS’ oversight role and the failure of the administration to distribute adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities.

In addition, House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Alex Azar about the steps being taken to prevent and respond to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on nursing home residents and staff. The lawmakers express concern about the amount of funding being used to ensure nursing homes are adhering to standards for quality of care, infection control, and maintaining sufficient staffing to minimize the spread of the virus and protect patients and staff. They request details on the decisions CMS has made to date by July 2.


Schakowsky, Warren Seek Details on Mask Manufacturer Claims


Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are asking Vice President Mike Pence for information related to reports that the White House rejected an offer to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for N95 respirators at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prestige Ameritech, the largest domestic manufacturer of surgical masks and respirators, says that it offered to produce masks just one day after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S. If such whistleblower complaints are accurate, the lawmakers argue that the administration has “likely contributed to the chronic nationwide shortage of crucial protective equipment and the ongoing spread of the disease.” They request a response no later than July 2.


Lawmakers Continue Pressure for Special Enrollment Period


Democratic leadership of the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, Ways and Means, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and Finance committees have sent another letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma urging the officials to re-launch HealthCare.gov in response to the economic and health crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawmakers state that the Trump administration has not yet responded to oversight requests regarding the White House’s decision to not open a special enrollment period in light of the current public health emergency. According to the letter, more than 20 million people who have lost employer-sponsored health coverage may become eligible for either Medicaid or Marketplace coverage.


Republicans Encourage WHO Reforms, Not Withdrawal


House Republicans have recommended that the U.S. remain a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a report examining the origins of the coronavirus. The report from Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expresses support for reforming the agency and for the resignation of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The lawmakers assert, however, that the withdrawal of the U.S. or the establishment of a competing international organization is not the correct path forward.


Steroid Shows Promise in Reducing Risk of COVID-19 Death


The inexpensive steroid dexamethasone is the first drug shown to reduce the risk of death for COVID-19 patients according to British researchers running a trial at Oxford University. The results have not yet been peer reviewed, but the study was stopped early because of its important findings. Dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to a third in COVID-19 patients on ventilators, and reduced deaths by one-fifth in patients on oxygen. The trial randomly assigned 2,104 patients to receive the medicine to compare their outcomes to 4,321 patients who received standard care. Dexamethasone’s benefit was only observed in seriously ill COVID-19 patients. The product was first approved in 1958 and is used to treat inflammation. It is a part of the RECOVERY trial, one of the largest studies in world examining possible coronavirus treatments.


FDA Withdraws Hydroxychloroquine EUA


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has withdrawn emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, two drugs promoted by the President for the treatment of coronavirus. The EUAs were withdrawn amid concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs, which can cause serious heart problems. The FDA had allowed their use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and in clinical trials.


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.


Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups


House Education and Labor hearing “Inequities Exposed: How COVID-19 Widened Racial Inequities in Education, Health, and the Workforce;” 12:00 p.m., virtual; June 22

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on lessons learned to prepare for the next pandemic; 10:00 a.m. EDT, 430 Dirksen Bldg.; June 23

House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic;” 11:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.; June 23

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing “VA Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Expansion and Impact;” 1:00 p.m., virtual; June 23

House Budget Committee hearing “ Health and Wealth Inequality in America: How COVID-19 Makes Clear the Need for Change;” 2:30 p.m., virtual; June 23

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine the role of the strategic national stockpile in pandemic response; 10:00 a.m., virtual; June 24

House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health hearing on examining the COVID-19 nursing home crisis; 2:00 p.m., virtual; June 25

House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing “Accountability in Crisis: GAO’s Recommendations to Improve the Federal Coronavirus Response;” 9:00 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.; June 26

Senate HELP Committee hearing “COVID-19: Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School;” 10:00 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.; June 30



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