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On the Hill: House Votes on Rx Bills, ACA Measures

This week, the House will take up legislation to protect people with pre-existing conditions and help generic drug and biosimilar manufacturers bring their products to market.

The House will consider the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019 (H.R. 986), which seeks to bolster the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by reversing policy changes made by the Trump administration that expanded the availability of insurance plans not subject to the law’s coverage protections. The vote is expected to be along party lines.

The House also will vote on two bills that aim to make it easier for companies to access patent and drug exclusivity information for brand-name drugs (H.R. 1503) and biosimilars (H.R. 1520). Both bills have bipartisan support.

Also this week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a May 9 hearing on lowering prescription drug pricing and deconstructing the drug supply chain. In the Senate, the Committee on the Judiciary will hold a May 7 hearing on intellectual property and the price of prescription drugs and balancing innovation and competition.

Bipartisan Medicaid DSH Letter Gains 286 Signatures

Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Pete Olson (R-TX) have collected 286 bipartisan signatures on a letter to House leadership calling for a two-year delay of the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts scheduled for fiscal years (FYs) 2020 and 2021. Unless Congress acts, a $4 billion cut to Medicaid DSH funding will take effect Oct. 1, 2019, and an $8 billion cut will occur Oct. 1, 2020.

America’s Essential Hospitals strongly supports the letter and continues to call on member hospitals to urge their House members to sign. Reps. Engel and Olson are collecting signatures through May 8.

Committee Evaluates Medicare for All Proposal

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Rules last week held the first congressional hearing on the Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384).

The bill, introduced in February by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), proposes to transition the United States to a single-payer health care system by expanding Medicare to insure all Americans. The legislation is supported by 108 cosponsors, all Democrats.

While the Committee on Rules does not oversee health care policy, the hearing provided a forum for lawmakers, patient advocates, and economists to share their respective views on universal health coverage and a single-payer health care system. After the hearing, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) — chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which holds authority over Medicare policy — announced his panel will hold a separate hearing on the Medicare for All legislation.

Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the primary features of single-payer systems that discusses considerations policymakers will face as they develop proposals for establishing such a system in the United States. The report does not analyze the budgetary effects of any specific legislative proposal.

House Panel Advances Labor-HHS-Education Spending Bill

The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education approved a spending bill last week that would provide $189.8 billion in discretionary funds in FY 2020 — an $11.7 billion increase from FY 2019. Notably, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would receive $99 billion for FY 2020, an $8.5 billion increase.

The bill heads to the full committee for a markup this week.

Senate Implementation Hearings

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a May 7 hearing on implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act and improving electronic health record access for patients and providers. This will be the second hearing in the committee on creating secure access to data for clinicians, patients, and health care consumers; it will feature testimony from two government officials.

Also, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a May 8 hearing to examine the implementation of the Medicare Physician Payment Reform. Witnesses include representatives from four provider groups and a fellow from the Brookings Institution.

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About the Author

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

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