Weekly Policy Update – May 17, 2024

Appropriations and Budget Updates

  • HAC Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) released interim 302(b) allocations for all subcommittees. These allocations, which adhere to the budget caps from last year’s debt limit deal, notably disregard bipartisan side agreements that allowed higher non-defense discretionary spending levels than those written into the law.
  • Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has criticized the Republican-chosen totals, urging an increase of at least 1 percent in defense and non-defense funding to avoid leaving unused additional, mutually supported spending. She warns that not honoring the debt limit agreement could lead to a repeat of the previous year’s disordered budget conflict, especially given the Republicans’ reduced majority. In a bid to maintain a brisk pace, Chair Cole has scheduled a series of subcommittee and full committee markups, aiming to complete all 24 markups within a tight timeframe of less than five legislative workweeks, factoring in the planned recesses, with the goal of concluding by July 10. You can see the tentative markup schedule here, and the interim 302(b) House allocations here.
  • SAC Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is also calling for parity should Congress decide to increase defense spending beyond the FRA cap of $895 billion, which would add further funding to NDD programs (The New York Times). While Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others argue that the current geopolitical environment requires more defense funding, Democrats hope the argument that domestic priorities need equal increases will carry the day.

Hill Updates

  • Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) released a Request for Information (RFI) alongside their bipartisan Pay PCPs Act, aiming to improve pay for high-quality primary care providers and address primary care challenges. The legislation aims to tackle the shortage of primary care doctors, improve Medicare beneficiaries’ health outcomes, and lower health costs. The RFI allows stakeholders to provide feedback on the bill.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra faced criticism (BGov subscription required) from the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) over the Biden administration’s handling of a surprise billing dispute process, which she argues favors healthcare providers over insurers. Foxx highlighted concerns about delays, faulty implementation, and rising costs associated with the negotiation process under the No Surprises Act.
  • In the Senate, the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Working Group released a roadmap for artificial intelligence policy. The primary objective of the AI Working Group is to complement the traditional policy process. This involves engaging leading experts in dialogue to explore policy questions surrounding AI and to facilitate a deeper understanding of the implications and choices related to AI policy.
  • On May 15, the House Energy & Commerce Committee made changes (subscription required) to several health bills that were set for review by a health subcommittee on May 16. One of these changes reduces the extension of Medicare telehealth flexibilities from permanent to two years. They also reviewed pharmacy benefit manager reforms and Medicare clinical laboratory payment cuts.
  • House Republicans rolled out a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn HHS’ minimum nursing home staffing mandate.
  • Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced legislation to extend the Acute Hospital Care at Home (ACAH) waiver program past its 2024 expiration date.

Administration Updates 

  • The NIH released its NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for Research on the Health of Women 2024-2028. The plan sets out important goals to direct and shape NIH’s research on women’s health.
  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) published an announcement emphasizing funding opportunities for projects that evaluate and improve the quality of data used by artificial intelligence tools in health care, or that accelerate adoption of health IT in behavioral health.
  • HHS suspended federal grants to the EcoHealth Alliance, which worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology on experiments involving coronaviruses.
  • The CDC, FDA, and USDA plan to spend billions to contain the avian flu outbreak among cattle, hoping to keep the virus from mutating and jumping to humans.  Among these efforts is $3 million for a wastewater surveillance pilot at locations near livestock populations.  CDC is expected to publicly post wastewater surveillance data.
  • The Biden administration announced that it is raising taxes on a range of imported products from China, including syringes, needles, and surgical gloves.
  • The Biden Administration announced the release of a national strategy, with recommendations developed by the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health, to address the urgent public health crisis of maternal mental health and substance use issues.

Health Policy Updates 

  • A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that President Joe Biden’s messaging promoting his drug pricing provisions under the Inflation Reduction Act is reaching a growing segment of older Americans, but most still don’t know about his accomplishments.
  • A study published in Health Affairs showed that West Virginia’s policy offering a $100 incentive to young adults for getting the COVID-19 vaccine was associated with a robust rise in people who got the shot.
  • The number of U.S. fatal overdoses fell last year, according to CDC data posted on Wednesday.

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