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On the Hill: Drug Shortages and Pricing, Health Committee Departure

Julia Grady
February 12, 2024

Prescription drugs received attention in early February from key health committees on both sides of Capitol Hill, with a House panel examining potential responses to chronic drug shortages and a Senate committee hearing drug industry testimony on drivers of high prices.

At a Feb. 6 House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on drug shortages, committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) called for bipartisan action on Medicare reimbursement policies and long-term manufacturer contracts, among other proposals. Committee members also stressed the need to bolster domestic drug production to reduce reliance on Chinese manufacturing. At a Feb. 8 hearing on drug pricing, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions heard testimony by three drug company CEOs. They blamed pharmacy benefit managers for high prices and argued their companies’ prices reflect the costs of innovation.

Also Last Week: AI, Preventive Health

A Feb. 8 Senate Committee on Finance hearing on artificial intelligence (AI) in health care focused on possible uses of AI in Medicare and Medicaid and its potential to improve clinical outcomes. Committee members raised concerns about the potential for AI to influence claims denials and perpetuate biases.

At a Feb. 6 markup, the House Committee on the Budget considered and unanimously passed in a 30-0 vote the Preventive Health Savings Act (H.R. 766). The bill would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), upon a request from Congress, to determine if proposed legislation would reduce spending outside of the 10-year budget window through the use of preventive health services. If the CBO determines legislation would result in substantial spending reductions from the use of preventive measures, it must include in its projections a description and estimate of the reductions.

Another Congressional Departure

House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) announced last week that she will not seek reelection this year. She leaves after a nearly 20-year House tenure marked by a focus on rural health, hospital price transparency, site-neutral payment policies, graduate medical education, and 340B Drug Pricing Program reforms.

Committee Activity This Week   

The House is in session Tuesday through Friday this week. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 10 am ET, titled, “Legislative Proposals to Support Patients and Caregivers.” It will consider more than 15 pieces of legislation.

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