White House Steps Back from Drug Discount Cards Amidst Democratic Pushback

Senior Democratic lawmakers continue to demand that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release information related to the drug discount cards that President Trump proposed sending seniors ahead of the November elections. According to a recent report, HHS General Counsel Robert Charrow circulated an internal memo warning that the plan could violate election law. These reports “appear to confirm our concerns that the Trump administration is relying on dubious legal authority to justify a blatant political gambit by the President that would be paid for using taxpayer dollars,” the letter states. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) request a copy of Charrow’s memo and other related documents, including the letter the White House had planned to send to Medicare beneficiaries this month. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) also led a letter last week calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to abandon the drug discount card proposal and instead focus on more significant drug pricing reforms. “Taking $8 billion from the Medicare Trust Fund, which finances vital health care services for tens of millions of elderly and disabled Americans, to fund a political stunt is unacceptable,” the lawmakers state. The letter was signed by 21 other House Democrats.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows indicated last week that the administration is stepping back from the plan, stating that he does not anticipate anything will be done before Election Day. He said that the cards will likely be sent in November or December.

GAO to Open Investigation into Political Interference at FDA, CDC

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced plans to investigate political interference by the White House into decisions made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The decision was made in response to a request from Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). Recent reports have claimed that administration officials have tried to influence scientific decisions made by the agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Trump has stated that the White House could choose to overrule the FDA’s standards for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. The GAO will conduct an investigation to determine whether interference has violated the agencies’ scientific integrity and communication policies.

In related news, House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chair James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is threatening to subpoena U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials if the agency does not provide the requested information and witnesses related to the panel’s investigation of political meddling at the CDC during the pandemic. Clyburn stated that HHS has failed to produce a single document or witness in response to a request last month.

Democrats Outline Principles for Pandemic Preparedness

A group of 140 lawmakers led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to prioritize future pandemic prevention and to work to provide more relief for Americans in response to the coronavirus crisis. The letter outlines five steps for Congress to mitigate future pandemics:

  • Invest in domestic programs, systems, and supply chains that will help improve Americans’ health outcomes, combat the spread of new disease, and ramp up public health capacity during global health emergencies;
  • Support global public health efforts to identify and mitigate the spread of new diseases before they become global pandemics;
  • Create at least 250,000 permanent, high-paying public health jobs to rebuild our depleted public health workforce and ensure the rapid deployment of contact tracers and other support workers during future pandemics;
  • Address the systemic racism and discrimination embedded in our health care system and pass legislation ensuring that health care treatments, pandemic countermeasures, vaccines, and primary disease prevention measures are accessible for all; and
  • Halt the environmental degradation that increases the likelihood of global pandemics.

Patient Organizations Release Health Care Plan for Next Administration

A coalition of 33 patient organizations has released a 100-day plan aiming to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid and achieve patient-centered coverage expansions. The 100 Days Agenda: A Patient-First Blueprint, which has been presented to both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns, contains 29 recommendations, including a proposal for a public option that would protect enrollees of the existing marketplace. The recommendations are divided into three main categories: reversing administrative actions that have created barriers to care; standing up for patients in the courts; and advancing a patient-centered legislative agenda.

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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