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On the Hill: House, Senate Confront Zika Virus, Opioid Abuse

This week, both the House and Senate are expected to vote on legislation to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

In the Senate, three proposals are slated for a vote, including a compromise measure that would provide $1.1 billion top combat Zika — less than the president’s $1.9 billion request. Under the compromise, the funds would be considered emergency supplemental funding and would not require an offset.

Meanwhile, the House is considering a separate measure that includes approximately half as much funding as the Senate bill and that would be offset by cuts to other health care spending. The White House signaled that the president would consider vetoing such a bill.

In other news, the two chambers are expected to sort through measures aimed at deterring opioid abuse and reach an agreement on a blended package in conference. Last week, the House passed S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which originated in the Senate, after gutting the bill and filling it with House measures aimed at addressing opioid abuse.

In committee business, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health  had two hearings on its agenda this week. On May 17, the committee reviewed the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Part B drug payment model, intended to rein in prescriptions for higher-cost drugs when lower-cost drugs are available. Earlier this month, America’s Essential Hospitals sent a letter to CMS expressing concerns about the proposal. The second hearing, May 19, will review H.R. 3299, the Strengthening Public Health and Emergency Response Act.

The House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing May 17 allowing members to discuss various proposals for tax-related ways to improve health care.

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About the Author

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