Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, President Joe Biden’s nominee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), last week received the green light to move forward in the confirmation process.
The Senate voted 51–48 to move her nomination out of the Committee on Finance, setting up a floor vote. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), voted with all Democrats present to advance Brooks-LaSure’s nomination. The full Senate could vote to confirm Brooks-LaSure as early as this week.
Association Leaders Brief Hill Staff on State of Essential Hospitals
America’s Essential Hospitals yesterday hosted a virtual briefing for congressional staff and the media in recognition of the association’s 40th anniversary.
The briefing highlighted the key roles essential hospitals play in their communities and ways Congress can further support their mission-driven work, including by bolstering Medicaid payments and investing in essential hospital infrastructure.
America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, moderated the briefing, which featured a panel of representatives from the association board and two founding member hospitals: Florence Spyrow, MSN, MPA, MHA, JD, president and CEO of Northern Arizona Healthcare; Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center; and Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA, president and CEO of University Hospital, in Newark, N.J.
House Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect 340B Status
A group of bipartisan House lawmakers last week reintroduced legislation that would accomplish an association advocacy priority: to protect 340B Drug Pricing Program eligibility for hospitals that see significant shifts in their payer mixes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Cindy Axne (D-IA), David McKinley (R-WV), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Dusty Johnson (R-SD). It was first introduced during the last session. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.
FY2022 HHS Budget
On May 12, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the fiscal year 2022 health and human services (HHS) budget. Lawmakers discussed various health equity initiatives, including funds to combat domestic violence, human trafficking, gun violence, and maternal mortality, especially for women of color. The discretionary HHS budget also would allot funding for revamping and enhancing the nation’s public health infrastructure.
Notably, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra discussed the importance of accountability and transparency in the allocation of remaining unspent Provider Relief Fund dollars. Becerra also reiterated his support for the 340B program, noting his department is tracking issues related to pharmaceutical manufacturers withholding 340B-priced drugs from contract pharmacies and that all 340B stakeholders must follow the law.
After the hearing, the Health Resources and Services Administration directed six drug manufacturers to immediately begin offering 340B pricing to covered entities on covered outpatient drugs dispensed through contract pharmacies and said failure to comply could result in civil monetary penalties. America’s Essential Hospitals praised the action in a media statement.
Congressional Hearings of Note
The Senate Committee on Finance scheduled a May 18 hearing on funding and financing for upcoming infrastructure legislation.
The same day, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on unsustainable prescription drug prices. This hearing will be the third in a series related to drug prices in the United States.
On May 19:
- the Senate Committee on Finance will examine health care flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing on the medical supply chain. Essential hospital leader Shereef Elnahal, MD, president and CEO of University Hospital, in New Jersey, will testify; and
- the Senate Committee on Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights will explore hospital consolidation and antitrust concerns during a hearing.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will meet May 20 to discuss mitigating health care workforce shortages.