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On the Hill: Preparedness Bill Cleared for Senate Vote

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) last week marked up a bill to reauthorize certain programs under the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (PAHPA), which includes $385 million annually between fiscal years 2019 and 2023 for the Hospital Preparedness Program.

The PAHPA most recently was reauthorized in 2013 and is set to expire Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

The HELP Committee held two hearings in January on reauthorizing the law, and it subsequently released a discussion draft. In response, the association sent a letter outlining the unique role essential hospitals play as first responders and facilities well-positioned for a coordinated regional response to public health threats and emergencies.

The HELP Committee passed the reauthorization bill out of committee and cleared the bill for consideration on the Senate floor.

Opioid Legislation

Also ahead of the Memorial Day recess, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce advanced 57 opioid-related bills to the House floor. The bills aim to improve prevention and public health efforts, change law enforcement response, and improve coverage and payment issues within Medicaid and Medicare. The House Committee on Ways and Means also advanced seven bills to change Medicare coverage in response to the opioid epidemic and improve how the U.S. Postal Service monitors incoming packages for opioids.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and the House Committee on the Judiciary held separate hearings on the opioid crisis but have yet to introduce legislation.

In the Senate, the HELP Committee marked up the Opioids Crisis Response Act of 2018, which would reauthorize grants to fund treatment options and recovery centers, increase flexibility for the National Institutes of Health to conduct opioid research, and increase flexibility for states to address the crisis.

The Senate Committee on Finance last week released its 22-bill package to change Medicare and Medicaid payment policies. The committee likely will hold a markup next month, when Congress returns from recess.

Following the recess this week, Congress is expected to vote on an opioid package before the July Fourth recess.

‘American Patients First’ Plan

The Senate HELP Committee will hold a June 12 hearing on the president’s American Patients First blueprint to lower drug prices.

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About the Author

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