Health Update (October 5)
House Passes $2.2T Relief Bill
On Thursday (Oct. 1), the House passed the revised HEROES Act. The new legislation would provide: $76 billion for testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, and $28 billion for development, manufacturing, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The legislation is unlikely to move in the Republican-led Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue working to strike a bipartisan deal. Senate Republicans have voiced skepticism over any package over $1 trillion.
To view the revised HEROES Act, click here.
For a section-by-section summary, click here.
HHS Announces $20B for PRF Phase 3
The Trump Administration announced an additional $20 billion will be made available for healthcare providers who have already received funding through the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) in Phase 3 of the program. Providers previously ineligible for funds, including those who began practicing in 2020, are now able to apply for funding. Phase 3 dollars will also be made available to a larger group of behavioral health professionals.
Applicants that have not yet received PRF dollars will be eligible to receive up to two percent of their patient care revenue. The remainder of the $20 billion will be distributed based on: a provider’s change in operating revenues from patient care; a provider’s change in operating expenses from patient care, including expenses incurred related to coronavirus; and payments already received through prior PRF distributions.
Providers may begin submitting application information on Monday, Oct. 5. The application window will remain open until Nov. 6. Providers will be required to asset to receiving Phase 3 General Distribution funds and accept the Terms and Conditions.
To view the HHS announcement, click here.
To view additional information on the PRF, click here.
House Panel Investigates Drug Pricing
On Wednesday (Sep. 30), House Oversight and Reform Committee Democrats began releasing staff reports on drug prices. The reports are the result of a committee investigation into rising drug costs launched last year by the late Chairman Elijah Cummings (R-MD).
“Last year, the Committee on Oversight and Reform launched one of the most comprehensive and in-depth investigations of drug price increases that Congress has ever conducted,” Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote in a press release.
“As a result, the Committee has now reviewed more than a million pages of documents. Many of these documents are internal corporate strategy documents and communications among top executives that provide significant new insights into how and why drug companies keep increasing their prices so dramatically,” she added.
Oversight Republicans criticized the investigation and accused Democrats of playing politics and pushing for socialized healthcare.
“The greatest healthcare innovations over the past century have happened in America, and they have happened not because of government mandates but as a result of the tireless work of individuals having the freedom to experiment and compete and improve all of our lives…President Trump has already taken a number of proactive steps to address high drug costs, speed generics to market, and reduce out-of-pocket costs, saving Americans tens of billions of dollars,” Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) said in a statement.
“Congressional Republicans have also proposed solutions to incentivize innovation and bring more products to the marketplace. We stand ready to work with Democrats on lowering prescription drug prices for Americans, but their continued attacks on scientists and push to make healthcare more bureaucratic is the wrong approach,” Comer added.
- To view the staff report on Teva, click here. For the accompanying Document Package, click here.
- To view the staff report on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb, click here. For the accompanying Document Package, click here.
- To view the staff report on Amgen, click here. For the accompanying Document Package, click here.
- To view the staff report on Mallinckrodt, click here. For the accompanying Document Package, click here.
- To view the staff report on Novartis, click here. For the accompanying Document Package, click here.
Committee Democrats released the staff reports in conjunction with back-to-back hearings with drug company executives from Celgene, Bristol Myers Squibb, Teva, Amgen, Mallinckrodt, and Novartis. Throughout the hearings, Democrats advocated for negotiated drug prices in Medicare through H.R. 3, while Republicans pushed for the pricing transparency mechanisms found in H.R. 19.
To view an executive summary of the hearings, click here.
POLITICO Hosts Drug Pricing Webinar
On Thursday (Oct. 1), POLITICO hosted a webinar examining drug prices with representatives from PhRMA, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The panel discussed the administration’s recent Executive Orders, including most favored nations and the rebate rule, senior discount cards, and presidential nominee Joe Biden’s drug pricing proposals.
To view an executive summary of the webinar, click here.
CBO Releases Report on ‘Near-Universal’ Health Coverage
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report Thursday (Oct. 1) examining policy approaches to achieving ‘near-universal’ – defined as 99 percent citizens and lawful noncitizens – healthcare coverage through an automatic or default plan.
The report identifies two components any plan achieving this level of coverage would feature: (1) premiums, which could be subsidized for low- and moderate income individuals, and (2) a mandatory component, either automatically enrolling individuals or prohibiting individuals from foregoing coverage.
CBO organizes existing proposals into four general approaches, which range from retaining many existing systems to completely overhaul existing systems. Some of the approaches involve maintaining private plans, while others are publicly managed. All approaches would provide automatic coverage.
To view the CBO report, click here.
DoD, HHS Awards $20M Contract to ODP
On Monday (Sep. 28) the DoD, in coordination with HHS, awarded On Demand Pharmaceuticals (ODP) a $20 million contract to develop domestic production capacity for critical pharmaceutical ingredients, including APIs. ODP is expected to increase the onshore production of three critical APIs that ultimately form the building blocks for final formulated medicines used to treat critically ill U.S. service members and COVID-19 patients.
The award is a part of ongoing efforts between DoD’s Defense Acquisition (DA2) Cell and ASPR and will be overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
To view the DoD announcement, click here.
Azar Appears Before House Committee
On Friday (Oct. 2), the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus heard testimony from HHS Secretary Alex Azar on the federal COVID-19 response. Throughout the hearing, Azar highlighted the administration’s efforts in three key areas: testing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed. The hearing was an opportunity for Democrats to put pressure on Secretary Azar and Republicans to defend the administration’s response.
Prior to the hearing, committee Republican’s released a report outlining the administration’s response entitled: “President Trump’s Plan: A Whole of America Response.”
To view the Republican report, click here.
To view an executive summary of the hearing, click here.