Price Anticipates Confirmation Vote
On February 3, the Senate agreed to a procedural vote to move forward on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) nomination for the position of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Senate could vote on his confirmation this week. While Republicans support Rep. Price and believe he is the best person to lead the department during the repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Price’s nomination has drawn harsh opposition from the Democrats who continue to raise his discounted shares of Innate Immunotherapeutics. Last week, Senate Finance Committee Democrats boycotted the vote to send Price’s nomination to the Senate Floor, but committee Republicans were able to suspend the committee rules and forward Price’s nomination. Price is essential to the Republican repeal and replace effort and is expected to take executive action to contribute to the dismantling of President Obama’s signature law once he is confirmed.
Medicaid Legislation Moves Through Regular Order
This week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will consider two bills examined by the Subcommittee on February 1. H.R. 829, The Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), would change how Medicaid eligibility is determined for lottery winners and those who receive other lump sum income. H.R. 181, Close Annuity Loopholes in Medicaid (CALM) Act, introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would close annuity loop holes in the Medicaid program, ensuring that individuals of significant means do not take advantage of the program by hiding their true net worth. Republicans argue that these small reforms to the Medicaid program will benefit the most vulnerable Americans, while Democrats believe the legislation will have little to no impact on the Medicaid program. Although the bills are narrow in scope and are expected to pass by a party-line vote, they are the first pieces of health reform legislation to advance through the regular order process.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, February 7: The House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing titled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Businesses.”
- Tuesday, February 7: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a markup on H.R. 829, The Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017 and H.R. 181, Close Annuity Loopholes in Medicaid (CALM) Act.
340B Regulation Pulled by OMB
On Tuesday, January 31, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) withdrew a pending regulation that updated the 340B Drug Pricing Program. The 340B program mandates substantial discounts on drugs as a safety net to providers who treat a large share of low-income patients. The pending regulation would have increased restrictions on which patients, drugs, and providers qualify for significant discounts on prescription drugs. It also increased documentation for hospitals and evaluated eligibility for discounts on a prescription-by-prescription basis. Drug makers who argued that the 340B program has expanded too much in recent years are disappointed with the OMB decision to pull the update, while hospitals support the Administration’s decision to preserve the current benefits of the 340B program.