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On the Hill: 340B, House Calls, Clinical Trials

Congressional floor action on health care is slow this week. However last week, the Senate passed the Ensuring Access to Clinical Trials Act, which allows Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries and Medicaid enrollees to remain involved in clinical trials for rare diseases. The House passed the Medicare Independence at Home Medical Practice Demonstration Improvement Act, which provides access to home care for chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries. This act was originally passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. The current bill – which now heads to the president’s desk for signature – would extend the demonstration from three to five years.

Last Friday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of five members to request a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the 340B Drug Pricing Program, submitted a request to the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing to review the program. The GAO report claims that hospitals inappropriately prescribe medications to Medicare beneficiaries for financial gain. The Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare Program, however it does not have jurisdiction over the 340B Drug Pricing Program. There have been no announcements as to whether the hearing request will be met. When the GAO report was released, America’s Essential Hospitals issued a statement raising concerns about its methodology and conclusions.

In committee business, the House Committee on Ways and Means holds a hearing today with witnesses from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to discuss hospital payment issues. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing Friday examining state health insurance marketplaces. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing Thursday on health information technology.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Wiles is the manager of legislative affairs at America's Essential Hospitals.