As the nation mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, most attention on Capitol Hill is focused on the president’s nomination to fill her seat and how soon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will initiate the confirmation process.
President Trump has indicated he will select a woman to fill the vacancy on the high court; he is expected to announce the nominee this week. Democrats are pushing to delay the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice until after the election, or until after Inauguration Day if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is elected.
House Action Imminent on CR
Meanwhile, with the end of the fiscal year about one week away, Congress must pass a continuing resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the federal government and avert a shutdown.
On Monday, House Democrats released a CR that would fund government operations through Dec. 11. In addition, the spending bill would extend funding for several expiring health programs and make other bipartisan policy changes.
Of note for essential hospitals, the CR would:
- delay until Dec. 12 implementation of the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payment cuts, initially scheduled to take effect Dec. 1; and
- provide relief on the repayment terms for hospitals and providers who accessed the Medicare Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program after enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Bipartisan Senate Letter on 340B Threat
A bipartisan group of 28 senators on Sept. 17 sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressing concerns about recent actions by pharmaceutical manufacturers to undermine the 340B Drug Pricing Program.
The letter comes in response to actions taken by several drug manufacturers to impose 340B policy changes regarding contract pharmacies. These manufacturer have threatened to cease shipping 340B-priced drugs to contract pharmacies of covered entities that have an in-house pharmacy or impose cumbersome data reporting requirements on covered entities for contract pharmacy claims.
The letter was led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and John Thune (R-SD). The letter urges the Health Resources and Services Administration — the HHS agency that oversees 340B — to use its enforcement authority to prevent the unlawful actions taken by the manufacturers.
The Senate effort follows a similar bipartisan letter to HHS earlier this month signed by nearly 250 House members.
Hearings of Interest
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a Sept. 23 hearing at 10 am on the federal response to COVID-19. The hearing will feature federal health officials engaged in the pandemic response efforts.
At the same time, the Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on the Affordable Care Act and COVID-19.