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On the Hill: Tax Reform Negotiations Start, 340B Bill Gains Cosponsors

With the Senate’s recent passage of tax reform legislation, a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers was scheduled to convene Dec. 13 to reconcile that bill with a House-passed measure and produce a unified bill for consideration by both chambers.

Republican congressional leaders say they hope to finalize a conference report by Friday, Dec. 15, and introduce a final bill for floor votes early next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) named to the conference committee Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Mike Enzi (R-WY); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); John Cornyn (R-TX);  John Thune (R-SD); Rob Portman (R-OH); Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC); and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) named Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR); Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Tom Carper (D-DE); and Patty Murray (D-WA).

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) named Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) to chair the House conference. Brady will be joined by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL); Devin Nunes (R-CA); Diane Black (R-TN); and Kristi Noem (R-SD). Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) named Reps. Richard Neal (D-MA); Martin Levin (D-MI); Lloyd Doggett (D-TX); Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); and Kathy Castor (D-FL).

America’s Essential Hospitals sent a Dec. 12 letter to congressional leaders and conferees detailing its concerns with various provisions in the House and Senate tax reform bills.

Congress passed a two-week continuing resolution (CR) on Dec. 7 and will continue to negotiate a final spending package by Dec. 22, alongside the tax proposal. The current CR includes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but only as a patch to enable states to receive leftover funds from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CHIP funding for fiscal year 2018 was not included.

Bill to Stop 340B Cuts Gains Cosponsors

Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) in November introduced H.R. 4392, a bipartisan bill that would place a permanent moratorium on a new Medicare policy that cuts by 27 percent Part B payments for drugs purchased through the 340B Drug Pricing Program. CMS included the policy in the 2018 Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule, The bill’s sponsors this week said the legislation has 130 cosponsors.

Last week, Sens. Thune, Portman, Stabenow, Shelley Capito (R-WV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to protect the 340B program from the cuts proposed in the OPPS rule.

The association supported the legislation with a statement and encouraged its members in an Action Alert to urge their House delegations to cosponsor the bill. America’s Essential Hospitals advocacy staff are meeting with key congressional leaders to determine if H.R. 4392 could be included in year-end legislation.

Committee Activity

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will hold a Dec. 12 hearing on the cost of prescription drugs and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report on “Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative.” The HELP Committee also will hold a Dec. 13 hearing on mental health needs in the 21st Century Cures Act.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing Dec. 13 on “Examining the Drug Supply Chain.”

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About the Author

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