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On the Hill: Opioid, Mental Health Bills Move Forward

This week, Congress is working to wrap up legislative business before a seven-week recess.

The Senate is expected to vote on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act as amended by House and Senate negotiators in conference. The legislation seeks to fight the opioid epidemic and is expected to pass, although Democrats say the measure lacks appropriate funding to make the necessary impact. The House passed the legislation last week in a 407-5 vote.

Also last week, the House passed a scaled-back mental health bill in a bipartisan vote. In an effort to pass a budget-neutral bill, costly provisions were removed to achieve zero net cost. While mental health advocates in the House are disappointed, Senate staff indicated a willingness, if offsets are found, to include other provisions in the bill when it moves through the Senate this fall.

In committee business, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on July 12 focused on the national trauma care system. America’s Essential Hospitals submitted a statement for the hearing record.

Today, the House Committee on Appropriations marks up the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which is its final spending bill for fiscal year 2017. Report language for the bill notes the committee’s concern with the large number of negative comments received on 340B Drug Pricing Program mega-guidance proposed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). America’s Essential Hospitals submitted comments on the mega-guidance, expressing serious concerns and calling on HRSA to go back to the drawing board to rewrite a more consensus-based proposed guidance.

Meanwhile, funding to combat the Zika virus has yet to move. The bill is beset with disagreements over its funding level less than the Obama administration’s request and numerous policy riders that have made it difficult to garner Democratic support. Congress almost certainly will not act on Zika before the upcoming recess.

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About the Author

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