Health Care Checkup
June 25, 2021
THE BIG PICTURE
On Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced his support for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal on traditional “hard infrastructure” elements. The package would invest in the nation’s transportation, water, and power infrastructure. There are several proposals laid out for how the package would be financed, including reducing the IRS tax gap, redirecting unused unemployment insurance relief funds, and public-private partnerships.

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden released a document that outlines his vision for legislation aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Wyden wants to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and permit commercial insurers to pay the prices negotiated by the government. The document also expresses Wyden’s desire to block the Trump Administration’s “rebate rule”, which is currently delayed. 

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act. The Act would invest in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS), as part of President Biden’s vision in the American Jobs Plan. Specifically, the bill would enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS, expand access to HCBS, and strengthen the HCBS workforce. A breakdown of the legislation can be found here

Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ranking Member Richard Burr announced new oversight initiatives as part of their effort to develop policy proposals aimed at improving America’s public health and medical preparedness and response programs. These measures include identifying the greatest barriers to vaccination among underserved communities; analyzing the causes of supply shortages within the Strategic National Stockpile during H1N1, Ebola, and COVID-19; and evaluating information from experts regarding the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new Enrollment Trends Snapshot report, which found that a record 9.9 million individuals gained health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) between February 2020 and January 2021. The agency attributes the increase in enrollment to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly the “enactment of section 6008 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA provides states with a temporary 6.2% payment increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding.”
 
On Tuesday, House Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) released draft legislation – known as Cures 2.0 – to build upon the 21st Century Cures Act which became law in 2016. The draft bill would make President Biden’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) a reality. ARPA-H, which Biden originally introduced in April during his address to Congress, would be a federal research agency aimed at curing diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. A summary of the bill can be found here
What to Expect Next Week: Next week, the Senate will not be in session. However, the House will be in session, and on Thursday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold a hearing on "Building Trust and Battling Barriers: The Urgent Need to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy." Both chambers will be in recess the week of July 5. 
DEEP DIVE
Biden Announces Support for Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework
 
On Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced his support for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal on traditional “hard infrastructure” elements. The package would invest in the nation’s transportation, water, and power infrastructure. There are several proposals laid out for how the package would be financed, including reducing the IRS tax gap, redirecting unused unemployment insurance relief funds, and public-private partnerships. A group of Republican and Democratic Senators has been working to put the package together and came to an agreement on Thursday. Biden expressed enthusiasm about reaching the bipartisan agreement, stating, “We have a deal.” He further remarked, however, that “none of us got all we wanted. I clearly didn’t get all I wanted.” The President asserts that he remains committed to the agendas laid out in the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan and will work with Congress to build upon the infrastructure framework.

New Report from CMS Finds 13.9% Increase in Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new Enrollment Trends Snapshot report, which found that a record 9.9 million individuals gained health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) between February 2020 and January 2021. The agency attributes the increase in enrollment to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly the “enactment of section 6008 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA provides states with a temporary 6.2% payment increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding.” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “This pandemic taught us that, now more than ever, we must work to strengthen Medicaid and make it available whenever and wherever it’s needed using the unprecedented investments Congress provided.”

Senate Committee Leaders Continue Push to Lower Prescription Drug Prices
 
On Tuesday, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden released a document that outlines his vision for legislation aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Wyden wants to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and permit commercial insurers to pay the prices negotiated by the government. The document also expresses Wyden’s desire to block the Trump Administration’s “rebate rule”, which is currently delayed. The document further advocates for increased scientific innovation for drug therapies. Referencing the document, Wyden said, “the affordability of medicine and the importance of encouraging scientific innovation and breakthroughs are not mutually exclusive.”
 
Also on Tuesday, Senate Finance Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) reintroduced the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which also aims to tackle high prescription drug prices. The bill includes measures to decrease beneficiary cost sharing from 25% to 15% of costs before the out-of-pocket cap is reached and establishes an annual out-of-pocket cap of $3,100 for Medicare Part D enrollees. A section-by-section breakdown of the Act can be found here.
 
Bipartisan Cures 2.0 Draft Legislation Released
 
On Tuesday, House Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) released draft legislation – known as Cures 2.0 – to build upon the 21st Century Cures Act which became law in 2016. The draft bill would make President Biden’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) a reality. ARPA-H, which Biden originally introduced in April during his address to Congress, would be a federal research agency aimed at curing diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. A summary of the bill can be found here.
 
Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation Aimed at Expanding Home and Community-Based Services
 
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act. The Act would invest in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS), as part of President Biden’s vision in the American Jobs Plan. Specifically, the bill would enhance Medicaid funding for HCBS, expand access to HCBS, and strengthen the HCBS workforce. A breakdown of the legislation can be found here.

Senate HELP Committee Leaders Announce New Oversight as Part of Bipartisan Pandemic Preparedness Effort

On Wednesday, Senate HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senate HELP Ranking Member Richard Burr announced new oversight initiatives as part of their effort to develop policy proposals aimed at improving America’s public health and medical preparedness and response programs. These measures include identifying the greatest barriers to vaccination among underserved communities; analyzing the causes of supply shortages within the Strategic National Stockpile during H1N1, Ebola, and COVID-19; and evaluating information from experts regarding the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19. The oversight effort is part of the Senators’ goal to create policies based on lessons learned during the ongoing pandemic.

White House to Miss July 4 Vaccination Goal
 
This week, the Biden Administration acknowledged that the United States will likely not meet President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults in the country with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4. The White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said that older adults have met the vaccine goal, but young adults ages 18-26 have fallen short. The Administration has launched several initiatives to help promote vaccinations among this age group, including partnering with companies to offer vaccination incentives and launching social media campaigns to combat vaccine misinformation. At a Tuesday COVID-19 press briefing, Zients told reporters, “Within a few weeks, we will be over 70% for the whole adult population, and then we're going to continue to drive across the summer and into the early fall to vaccinate more and more people.” 
SENATE HEARINGS AND EXECUTIVE SESSIONS
N/A
HOUSE HEARINGS AND EXECUTIVE SESSIONS
House Committee on Natural Resources - Hearing
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: Toxic Coal Ash: Adverse Health Effects from the Puerto Rico Plant and Options for Plant Closure.
Wednesday, June 30 at 10:00 AM ET

House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis - Hearing
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Hearing: Hybrid Hearing on "Building Trust and Battling Barriers: The Urgent Need to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy"
Thursday, July 1 at 9:30 AM ET
ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCEMENTS
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
 
Food and Drug Administration
 
Guidance Documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health
QUICK LINKS
1341 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-585-0258