On The Hill

Health Update (December 6)

Dec 6, 2020 | SHARE  
House Leadership Releases 2021 Calendar
This week, House leadership announced the 2021 legislative calendar. The 117th Congress is expected to convene at noon on Jan. 3, 2021.
To view the calendar, click here.
Committee Leadership Takes Shape
This week, the House approved Chairs and Ranking Members of the 117th Congress.
Notably, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was elected as Ranking Member on the Energy & Commerce Committee. She is the first woman to hold a leadership position on this committee. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will retain his chairmanship.
Additionally, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will replace Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) as Appropriations Chair. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) will retain her position as Ranking Member. House Ways and Means leadership will remain in the hands of Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX).
To view the 117th Congress House Chairs, click here.
To view the 117th Congress House Ranking Members, click here.
Pelosi Hints at Combining COVID Package with Spending Bill
At a Friday (Dec. 4) press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated she and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) intend to attach a COVID-19 relief package to the omnibus government spending bill. The COVID-19 package framework is smaller and covers a shorter time period than previous democratic proposals. However, it contains similar provisions.
Pelosi explained that the omnibus bill is taking shape and is confident a continuing resolution (CR) will not be necessary to keep the government open beyond the Dec. 11 funding expiration date.
Biden-Harris Transition Team Announces Economic Team, Additional Staff
This week, the Biden-Harris transition team named additional Nominees and Appointees:
  • Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury
  • Neera Tanden, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of Treasury
  • Brian Deese, Director of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • Jared Bernstein, Member of the Council of Economic Advisers
  • Heather Boushey, Member of the Council of Economic Advisers
On Saturday (Nov. 28), Biden announced he added Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Jane Hopkins, Executive Director at the Navajo Nation Department of Health Dr. Jill Jim, and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels to the transition team’s COVID-19 Task Force.
On Thursday (Dec. 3), Dr. Anthony Fauci met with President-elect Biden’s transition team for the first time. Fauci said the meeting was “very productive” and they discussed “a variety of COVID-19 related topics.” Fauci said he expects more meetings with the Biden-transition in the coming weeks. Additionally, President-elect Biden asked Fauci to stay on as Director of Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and serve as a Chief Medical Advisor to the incoming administration.
Nominations for HHS and CMS have yet to be announced.
To view a complete list of the transition team’s nominations and appointees, click here.
HHS Amends PREP Act
On Thursday (Dec. 3), HHS issued the fourth amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to increase access to COVID-19 countermeasures. Among other things, the amendment will expand access to telehealth services, increase the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and ease the eventual administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
To view the amendment, click here.
CMS Finalizes PFS Rule
CMS released the annual physician fee schedule (PFS) final rule Tuesday (Dec. 1). The rule highlights CMS’ priorities by: increasing payments to physicians for spending extra time with patients, allowing non-physician practitioners to provide the care they were trained and licensed to give, and further expanding telehealth services.
To view the final PFS, click here.
To view a fact sheet on the CY 2021 PFS final rule, click here.
To view the CMS announcement, click here.
CDC Makes Recommendation on Initial Vaccine Recipients
At an emergency meeting held Tuesday (Dec. 1), the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that jurisdictions prioritize COVID-19 vaccine administration to healthcare workers first, followed by residents of long-term care facilities.
The recommendations were passed by the panel 13-1. Helen Keipp Talbot, Associate Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was the only committee member to vote against the recommendations. Talbot raised concerns over the lack of sufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccine candidates in elderly populations.
The panel’s recommendations are non-binding. Ultimately, leaders of each of the 64 jurisdictions will make the decision on who is vaccinated first. However, many state and local leaders are looking at CDC recommendations as they make their vaccine plans.
The CDC Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 to make recommendations on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The FDA will take VBRPAC’s recommendations into account when issuing any emergency use authorizations (EUA).
IGA Holds COVID-19 Briefing for State, Local, and Tribal Officials
On Wednesday (Dec. 2), the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) held a briefing to provide state, local, and tribal leaders an update on the surges in COVID-19 across the country and the federal coordination of response efforts.
On the call, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx spoke about PPE supplies levels. Birx emphasized the surges we are currently seeing are equivalent to the spring and summer surges, both of which strained hospital supplies, combined. Birx noted the PPE situation is being watched carefully.
Fauci once again emphasized that the speed of the vaccine development process has not come at the cost of safety and scientific integrity, but is the result of investment in vaccine platform technology and financial risk by manufacturers. He stressed vaccine trial data is first monitored by the DSMB and the approval process is independent of political influence at all steps.
Redfield explained the CDC anticipates the first round of vaccines will be distributed to jurisdictions in mid-Dec. Jurisdictions are responsible for vaccine administration plans and deciding who gets a vaccine when, but the CDC is providing recommendations and technical assistance. CDC has also been supporting vaccine administration test runs in jurisdictions. 

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