Below is this week’s “Capitol Hill Healthcare Update,” which is posted on Mondays when Congress is in session.
GRASSLEY CONFIRMS DELAY ON DRUG BILL WHILE ANOTHER COMMITTEE PLANS VOTES
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last week confirmed that his planned drug pricing legislation won’t be unveiled until after lawmakers return from a the Fourth of July recess.
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is pressing ahead with a vote this month on legislation that aims to thwart “anti-competitive use of patents” that prevent generic drug and biosimilar competition. The bill by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to step in if “patent tickets” are being used to stifle generic competition.
PhRMA opposes the bill.
Graham said he hoped the Cornyn-Blumenthal bill could be included in a package of drug pricing initiatives pushed separately by Grassley and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Grassley’s legislation is expected to tackle how Medicare and Medicaid reimburse for drugs and require pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay a greater percentage of seniors’ drug costs under Medicare Part D, lowering seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.
Meanwhile, House Democrats continue internal disagreements on how to approach drug pricing. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was forced to change a proposal that called for Medicare to negotiate prices on 25 drugs after liberals in her caucus argued the plan was too timid. Pelosi reportedly upped the negotiation requirement to 250 drugs within Medicare Part D. Still, progressive lawmakers are frustrated that six months into the Democrats’ House majority, the party doesn’t have consensus legislation to address prescription drug prices.
SENIOR HEALTH OFFICIALS ON THE HILL THIS WEEK
Senior Trump administration health officials will testify Wednesday before a Senate Aging Committee hearing on how competition can lower prescription drug costs.
Witnesses will include Demetrios Kouzoukas, the No. 2 official at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the drug center at the Food and Drug Administration; and
Vicki Robinson of the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Senate HELP Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday on legislation introduced by the panel’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to lower healthcare costs. Alexander said he wants the committee to vote on the package next week.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday about the federal approach to opioid treatment.
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee plans a hearing Thursday on strategies to boost Medicaid funding for U.S. territories.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on medical marijuana.
BIPARTISAN SENATE BILL WOULD PROTECT PRIVACY ON HEALTH APPS
Bipartisan legislation introduced last week in the Senate would call for new regulations to strengthen privacy protections for healthcare apps, wearable devices like Fitbits and direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits.
The bill also would create a national task force on health data protection to evaluate, and provide input to address, cybersecurity risks and privacy concerns associated with consumer products that collect personal health data, and to develop security standards for consumer devices, services, applications and software.
HOUSE TO VOTE ON MEDICAID, DRUG REBATE BILL
The bill, introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., would extend Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration project and spousal impoverishment protections for Home- and Community-Based Services recipients. The programs help people with chronic conditions transition from institutional settings to community-based settings while still receiving care.
The House voted earlier this year to temporarily extend the Medicaid programs. The legislation lawmakers will vote on this week would reauthorize the programs through 2024 and boost their funding.
The bill also would increase rebates pharmaceutical manufacturers must provide to federal and state governments. The bill would require rebates based only on the price of a brand-name drug and remove the requirement to include the price of generic versions in the rebate calculations.
HOUSE CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF HHS’ BUDGET
The House started debate last week but was unable to finish consideration of the bill as lawmakers plowed through scores of amendments to the funding package.
Overall, HHS would see $99.4 billion in fiscal 2020 under the plan developed by House Democrats. The administrative budget for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would increase by $399 million; the National Institutes of Health’s budget would increase by $6.9 billion to $41 billion; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget would increase by $1.7 billion to $8.2 billion.
The overall bill reflects House Democrats’ policy and budget priorities and still must be approved by the Senate, where Republicans have different policy and spending objectives. Fiscal 2020 begins Oct. 1.
HOUSE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS INVITES PHARMA CEOs TO MEETING
The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus invited six CEOs of pharmaceutical manufacturers to participate in a forum next week on “prescription drug price gouging.”
None of the CEOs is expected to participate.
Both Pocan and Jayapal are co-sponsoring legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices. Under the bill, if manufacturers refused to accept the government’s price for a drug, the manufactures’ patents would be invalidated, and generic versions would be immediately authorized.