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On the Hill: Preparedness, Workforce Shortages, 340B

Hill activity over the past week included several noteworthy developments for health care and essential hospitals, including information gathering on major preparedness legislation and workforce shortages and a hearing on community health centers that touched on the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

Requests for Information

On March 1, House Committee on Energy and Commerce members Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) released a request for information (RFI) on the upcoming reauthorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). The request, with a March 13 deadline for responses, asks public- and private-sector stakeholders how best to reauthorize and revise the programs and initiatives in past iterations of PAHPA. The legislation is meant to improve the nation’s biosecurity and preparedness infrastructure for deliberate, accidental, and natural emergencies.

On March 2, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) — Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), respectively — released an RFI on the health care workforce shortage. The RFI follows the committee’s Feb. 16 hearing, “Examining Health Care Workforces Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here?” The request, with responses due by March 20, focuses on the root causes of the current health care workforce shortage and potential ways to address it.

America’s Essential Hospitals will respond to both on behalf of its member hospitals.

HELP Hearing

The HELP Committee on March 2 held a hearing, “Community Health Centers: Saving Lives, Saving Money,” to examine the state and role of community health centers. During the hearing, members discussed the 340B program, with some calling for reforms to deter abuse and others highlighting its importance to safety net providers.

Other Hill Activity

President Joe Biden will release his 2024 fiscal budget Thursday, March 9, in an atypical campaign-style event at a Philadelphia union hall. Consistent with Biden’s State of the Union Address, the budget is expected to outline a plan to lower the federal deficit by $2 trillion over the next decade and extend Medicare Trust Fund solvency. According to reports, the budget likely will propose raising revenue through taxes on wealthy Americans.

In the States

Of particular interest for North Carolina-based members, that state’s legislators have settled on an agreement to expand Medicaid as provided under the Affordable Care Act. A vote on the deal is expected in late March or early April.

On the Schedule this Week

On Wednesday, March 8, at 1 pm ET, the Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee will mark up five pieces of legislation to address the fentanyl crisis, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and Title 42.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold the panel’s first hearing of the 118th Congress on “Investigating the Origins of COVID-19,” on Wednesday, March 8, at 9 am ET. It will feature the testimony of Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Senate Committee on Aging will hold a hearing, “Uplifting Families, Workers, and Older Adults: Supporting Communities of Care,” on Thursday, March 9, at 10:30 am ET.

The House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing, “President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request,” on Friday, March 10, at 9 am ET. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to testify.

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