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On the Hill: Bipartisan Bill Aims to Extend Mental Health Demonstration Program

Before Congress headed into a break this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation to extend funding for the certified community behavioral health clinic demonstration program under Medicaid. The bill is part of an effort to provide additional support for states combating the opioid crisis.

The demonstration program expands access to community-based addiction and behavioral health services.

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would provide two years of additional funding for current participating states and expand the demonstration program by 11 states.

HHS Secretary Discusses Trump’s Budget Proposal

Congress last week also held multiple hearings on the president’s budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2020.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appeared before three congressional committees to discuss the administration’s recommended policies on prescription drug pricing and opioid addiction and to restructure Medicare and Medicaid, among other proposals. The administration’s budget does not receive a vote in Congress, but offers funding and policy suggestions for House and Senate lawmakers to consider as they develop the federal budget.

Committees Focus on Rx Drug Pricing

Last week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held its first legislative hearing of the year on prescription drug pricing. The subcommittee examined seven bills related to prescription drug costs, including measures to reduce barriers to generic drugs and lower costs by promoting greater competition among manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House members, led by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Tom Rice (R-SC), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), introduced the Payment Commission Data Act, which would give the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission access to pricing data to advise Congress on proposals to lower prescription drug prices.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) have announced an April 3 hearing on drug pricing, and they invited five pharmacy benefit managers to testify: Cigna Corp.; CVS Caremark and CVS Health, Humana; OptumRX; and Prime Therapeutics.

This will be the third in a series of Senate Finance hearings on lowering prescription drug prices; it follows testimony from seven pharmaceutical executives in a hearing last month.

Hearing on EHR Transparency, Interoperability

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a March 26 hearing on the interoperability and transparency of electronic health records.


About the Author

Erin Delaney is a former legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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