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On the Hill: Drug Pricing Bill, Government Funding Talks

Congress returns to Washington this week with a full legislative agenda as negotiations continue on funding the federal government, including key health care programs, through the 2020 fiscal year (FY).

Lawmakers have until Nov. 21 to reach a deal on spending bills to fund government operations and legislation to avert a $4 billion cut to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funding, among other priorities. Last month, Congress passed and the president signed into law a seven-week continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government, including Medicaid DSH, at 2019 levels .

Drug Pricing

Meanwhile, congressional leaders remain focused on advancing legislation to address out-of-pocket health care costs.

This week, the House will resume its work on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act  (H.R. 3), comprehensive legislation that aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs, with a series of markups and hearings across multiple committees. On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Committee and the House Committee on Education and Labor will vote on the legislation. The House Committee on Ways and Means also will meet Thursday to discuss the bill and other health care proposals.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week released a partial estimate of the budgetary impact of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The CBO examined the effects of the provision that would direct the Medicare program to negotiate the price it pays for a minimum of 25 and up to 250 of the highest-cost drugs without a generic or biosimilar equivalent. The CBO estimates this section of the bill would produce $345 billion in savings to the federal budget over seven years.

The committee action will move H.R. 3 closer to a vote by the full House of Representatives..

Impeachment Inquiry

Before leaving Washington for two weeks, Speaker Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry into the president’s conduct with leaders of foreign nations. America’s Essential Hospitals is monitoring the investigation to assess the potential impact, if any, on the association’s advocacy priorities, including stopping the impending Medicaid DSH cuts.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Liberties will hold an Oct. 17 hearing on the administration’s new immigration policies affecting ill children and their families.

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About the Author

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

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