On The Hill

Health Update (January 14)

Jan 16, 2019 | SHARE  
Government Shutdown


21 days in, it appears that the negotiations to end the partial government shutdown continue to stall. During a Wednesday meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), President Trump abruptly ended the meeting, citing the Democrats’ refusal to offer border wall funding as a “total waste of time.”[1] On Thursday, a small group of Senate Republicans led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that their efforts to work on a deal had come to an impasse.[2] Meanwhile, House Democrats released additional appropriations bills this week to open individual government agencies. The only functional difference between these bills and the ones passed last week is additional language to guarantee back pay for furloughed government employees (the Senate passed similar language for furloughed employees yesterday). A press release from the Appropriations Committee, including links to the four bills and bill summaries, can be found by clicking here.


House Committee Assignments


Assignments for “A” committees (Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce) have been made by the Steering and Policy Committee. Despite a strong push by some outspoken freshmen to get a spot on highly sought after committees, no freshmen were appointed to the “A” committees. A full list of appointments to the top three House committees can be found by clicking here. Further committee assignments are forthcoming, and will likely be announced at the beginning of next week.


House Passes Title III of Rules Package


The House passed the third and final title of the rules package that will govern the chamber during the 116th Congress. Title III includes a health provision–an Affordable Care Act (ACA) litigation authorization that allows the House speaker to go to court to defend the health law. All Democrats and only three Republicans voted in favor of the title’s passage. House Republicans overwhelmingly voted against Title III; many top health committee Republicans dismissed the provision as redundant and wasteful. For their part, House Republicans have offered a bill that would explicitly protect preexisting conditions, one of the core provisions in the ACA. Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH) introduced a bill with four Republican colleagues that would preserve preexisting condition protections in the event that the ACA repeal ruling in Texas is upheld on appeal.[3]


Health Bills in the House


This week, the House passed H.R. 259, the Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019. This bill would extend two programs for three months: the Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration project and spousal impoverishment protections for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) recipients. Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone applauded the bipartisan support for these programs, but lamented the fact that funding for these programs has been impacted by the partial government shutdown. Chairman Pallone said, “I do not want these programs to be collateral damage.”[4] H.R. 259 was passed unanimously via voice vote.


Another health bill, H.R. 269, passed the House this week. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019, sponsored by Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), would “reauthorize certain programs under the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response.”[5] The bill also includes the Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act of 2019. Provisions in this act would change the way the Food and Drug Administration can add ingredients, dosages, delivery formats, or indications to drugs marketed without approved applications.[6]


Drug Pricing Proposals


This week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a bill that would address drug pricing. These bills would combat rising drug prices by allowing Americans to personally import medications from Canada. In a tweet announcing the bill’s introduction, Senator Grassley indicated that improving access to affordable prescription medications was a “key priority” in his role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill can be found by clicking here. Senators Grassley and Klobuchar have teamed up in the past on drug pricing legislation. Last December, the pair introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, legislation that would cut down on the pay-for-delay deals that negatively impact generic drug competition.


Drug pricing will be front and center at the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s first meeting of the 116th Congress. Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) announced a hearing that will be a “broad review of the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs.” This week, Chairman Cummings teamed up with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to introduce three drug pricing bills. One would allow the importation of drugs from Canada, another would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and a third would get rid of monopolies from drug companies if American prices exceed average prices in other countries.[7] Further details for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing and a more detailed outlook of the committee’s schedule can be found by clicking here.




[1] Chris Cillizza. “Donald Trump’s temper tantrum.” CNN, 10 Jan 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/09/politics/donald-trump-democrats-meeting-government-shutdown/index.html

[2] Chris Cillizza. “I just don’t see a pathway forward.” CNN, 10 Jan 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/10/politics/lindsey-graham-government-shutdown/index.html

[3] Ariel Cohen and Amy Lotven. “House Republicans Offer Bill to Protect Preexisting Condition Coverage.” Inside Health Policy, 11 Jan 2019. https://insidehealthpolicy.com/daily-news/house-republicans-offer-bill-protect-preexisting-condition-coverage

[4] “Pallone Floor Remarks on Medicaid Extenders.” House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 8 Jan 2019. https://democrats-energycommerce.house.gov/newsroom/press-releases/pallone-floor-remarks-on-medicaid-extenders

[5] “H.R. 269 – Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019.” Congress.gov, 8 Jan 2019. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/269/text

[6] Malcolm Spicer. “House Maintains Momentum for OTC Monograph Reform, Senate Regard TBD.” HBW Insight, 9 Jan 2019. https://hbw.pharmaintelligence.informa.com/RS148424/House-Maintains-Momentum-For-OTC-Monograph-Reform-Senate-Regard-TBD

[7] Nathaniel Weixel. “Drug prices to take center stage in first House Oversight hearing.” The Hill, 10 Jan 2019. https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/424803-drug-prices-to-take-center-stage-in-first-oversight-committee-hearing


The Week Ahead

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The Week Ahead

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