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On the Hill: Policy Assembly, Funding Negotiations, Drug Pricing

Essential hospital leaders from across the country will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week at the fall Policy Assembly advocacy fly-in. Association members will urge congressional lawmakers to

Government Funding Negotiations Continue 

Congressional leaders remain focused on negotiations to reach an agreement to fund federal agencies after Nov. 21, which is the final date for the current funding authorization.

Congress must pass legislation to finance government operations for the current 2020 fiscal year (FY). The Senate has yet to pass any spending bills for FY 2020, while the House already has passed 10 of the 12 bills.

Lawmakers also must pass legislation before Nov. 21 to avert the $4 billion cut to Medicaid DSH funding and provide fresh funding for expiring health care programs. Discussions on how to pay for the health care “extenders” are ongoing; revenue sources could include legislation to reduce prescription drug prices and end surprise medical bills.

Prescription Drug Pricing 

This week, the House will continue to move the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R.3) toward a full floor vote. The comprehensive legislation seeks to lower the cost of prescription drugs, in part by authorizing the Medicare program to negotiate the price it pays for up to 250 of the costliest prescription drugs that do not have a generic or biosimilar alternative.

The House Committee on Ways and Means is scheduled to mark up the legislation, along with other health care bills, on Tuesday.

Last week, the House committees on Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor both passed amended versions of the bill along party-line votes.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a partial budgetary analysis that estimates the bill would generate $345 billion in savings to the federal budget. The CBO also estimated the legislation would result in eight to 15 fewer drugs released in the marketplace within 10 years.

The House is expected to consider H.R. 3 for a vote before the end of October.

Additional Congressional Hearings

On Wednesday, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) will hold a hearing featuring witness testimony from Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The hearing will examine the Trump administration’s health care policy changes.

The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a Thursday hearing to examine treating substance misuse in America. Witnesses will include three top-level government officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office.

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About the Author

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

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