Health Care Checkup
May 28, 2021
THE BIG PICTURE
On Friday, President Joe Biden released a full budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The proposal builds on the “skinny” budget released by the White House in April. Friday’s proposal would increase federal spending to roughly $6 trillion in FY 2022. Biden’s budget proposal includes trillions of dollars for his two infrastructure plans, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. Under the proposal, $133.7 billion would be allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be a 23% increase from FY 2021. The budget also proposes investing $400 billion to improve home and community-based services for the elderly and for people with disabilities. While the outline does express the Administration’s general commitment to various health reform proposals, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs and creating a public option health coverage plan, it does not say how much such changes would cost. The budget is Biden's first full spending outline since he took office in January. The full budget proposal can be found here and a summary of the budget proposed for HHS can be found here.
 
On Thursday, Republicans unveiled a $928 billion infrastructure counteroffer to President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion proposal. The Republican plan includes $506 billion for roads and bridges, $98 billion for public transit systems, $46 billion for passenger and freight trail, $21 billion for safety, $22 billion for ports and waterways, $56 billion for airports, $72 billion for water infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, $22 billion for water storage, and $20 billion for infrastructure financing.
 
After weeks of negotiation, the Senate has agreed to resume consideration of S.1260, the Endless Frontier Act, on Tuesday, June 8 when it returns from recess. The bill establishes supply chain resiliency and a crisis response program to tackle U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities.
 
On Wednesday, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced their plans to develop legislation that would establish a public option for health coverage. The Chairs issued a Request for Information (RFI) to the public, requesting public input as the Committee begins to draft the legislation. 

In a vote of 55-44, the Senate voted to confirm Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Brooks-LaSure has spent her career in health policy and served as a senior official at CMS under former President Barack Obama.

President Biden released a statement on the investigation into how COVID-19 originated. Biden has tasked with Intelligence Community with reaching a conclusion on the origins of the virus within 90 days.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that $4.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will go toward reimbursing health care providers for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19. The agency created the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) COVID-19 Uninsured Program at the beginning of the pandemic to help reimburse providers that test uninsured patients. The funding boost from the ARP will help this program continue.

Also on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the National Institutes of Health budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2022. In April, President Joe Biden requested $51 billion for the NIH in FY 2022, which is a $9 billion increase over FY 2021. $6.5 billion from the budget request would go toward the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the agency that Biden discussed creating during his address to Congress last month.
What to Expect Next Week: Next week, both the Senate and the House will be in recess. While it will be quieter on the Hill, it is expected that negotiations will continue on the infrastructure proposals. 
DEEP DIVE
Biden Unveils Full Budget Proposal for FY 2022
 
On Friday, President Joe Biden released a full budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The proposal builds on the “skinny” budget released by the White House in April. Friday’s proposal would increase federal spending to roughly $6 trillion in FY 2022. Biden’s budget proposal includes trillions of dollars for his two infrastructure plans, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. Under the proposal, $133.7 billion would be allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be a 23% increase from FY 2021. The budget also proposes investing $400 billion to improve home and community-based services for the elderly and for people with disabilities. While the outline does express the Administration’s general commitment to various health reform proposals, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs and creating a public option health coverage plan, it does not say how much such changes would cost. The budget is Biden's first full spending outline since he took office in January. The full budget proposal can be found here and a summary of the budget proposed for HHS can be found here.
 
GOP Releases Counteroffer to Biden Infrastructure Plans
 
On Thursday, Republicans unveiled a $928 billion infrastructure counteroffer to President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion proposal. The Republican plan includes $506 billion for roads and bridges, $98 billion for public transit systems, $46 billion for passenger and freight trail, $21 billion for safety, $22 billion for ports and waterways, $56 billion for airports, $72 billion for water infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, $22 billion for water storage, and $20 billion for infrastructure financing. Republicans and Democrats have disagreed on what qualifies as “infrastructure.” Republicans’ more traditional view of “infrastructure” includes the physical built environment, such as roads, bridges, and railways. Democrats on the other hand, have taken a broader view of infrastructure to include investments in human and social capital. Another key difference between each party’s infrastructure plan involves how the infrastructure investments would be funded. Democrats want to increase the corporate tax rate, while Republicans want to cover the costs with transportation user fees. President Biden has expressed that he would like for Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement on the infrastructure package and is scheduled to discuss the counteroffer with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) next week. Capito is leading the Senate GOP's negotiating team.
 
Key Democrats Announce Plans to Craft Legislation to Establish Public Option for Health Coverage
 
On Wednesday, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced their plans to develop legislation that would establish a public option for health coverage. The Chairs issued a Request for Information (RFI) to the public, requesting public input as the Committee begins to draft the legislation. In a statement, the Chairs said, “We believe we must take bold steps to lower health care costs and move toward universal coverage by creating a federal public option available to everyone—and a clear majority of Americans agree.” Responses to the RFI are due by July 31, 2021.
 
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Confirmed by Senate as CMS Administrator
 
In a vote of 55-44, the Senate voted to confirm Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Five Republicans voted in favor her confirmation: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Brooks-LaSure is the first Black Administrator confirmed to lead the agency. Brooks-LaSure has spent her career in health policy and served as a senior official at CMS under former President Barack Obama. During her Senate Confirmation hearing last month, Brooks-LaSure was questioned on topics including telehealth flexibilities, dual-eligible care coordination, and Medicaid waiver flexibilities. In her new role, Brooks-LaSure will manage approximately $1 trillion of the federal budget and will lead the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
 
HHS Announces $4.8 Million from ARP will go Toward Reimbursing Providers for Testing Uninsured Individuals for COVID-19
 
On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that $4.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will go toward reimbursing health care providers for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19. The agency created the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) COVID-19 Uninsured Program at the beginning of the pandemic to help reimburse providers that test uninsured patients. The funding boost from the ARP will help this program continue. HHS reports that there are currently 29 million uninsured individuals living in the United States. More information can be found here.
 
House Appropriations Committee Holds Hearing on FY 2022 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health
 
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the National Institutes of Health budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2022. In April, President Joe Biden requested $51 billion for the NIH in FY 2022, which is a $9 billion increase over FY 2021. $6.5 billion from the budget request would go toward the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the agency that Biden discussed creating during his address to Congress last month. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) asked the NIH Director, Francis Collins, how ARPA-H would differ from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Collins said that ARPA-H “takes the NCATS model and puts it on steroids.” Further, Collins said that ARPA-H would pay for innovations such as “simple blood tests to detect free floating DNA or protein markers that signal a cancer is growing somewhere.” He said that the new agency would be able to develop innovations in half the time of more traditional approaches. While DeLauro expressed enthusiasm for ARPA-H, she cautioned that she does not want it to divert funding from the rest of the NIH. It is expected that details of the full NIH budget will be released on Friday.
 
Biden Releases Statement on the Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19
 
On Thursday, President Biden released a statement on the investigation into how COVID-19 originated. Biden said that shortly after he became President, he tasked his National Security Advisor with asking the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their “most up-to-date” analysis of the origins of COVID-19. The report attempted to answer whether the deadly virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory in China. The President reported that the Intelligence Community “coalesced around two likely scenarios but has not reached a definitive conclusion.” Biden has now directed the Intelligence Community to “redouble their efforts” to produce a more definitive conclusion within 90 days. The President said that “this effort [will] include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts.” Biden also asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress “fully apprised of its work.”
 
Senate HELP Committee Marks Up Health Bills
 
This week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions marked up several bills aimed at addressing the country’s maternal health crisis and the mental health status of health care professionals. The results from these markup efforts are as follows:
 
o  This bill was “Ordered to be Reported Favorably” by voice vote.
o  The Manager’s Amendment was adopted by unanimous consent.
 
o  This bill was “Ordered to be Reported Favorably” by voice vote.
o  The Manager’s Amendment was adopted by unanimous consent.
 
o  This bill was “Ordered to be Reported Favorably” by voice vote.
o  The Manager’s Amendment was adopted by unanimous consent.
 
o  This bill was “Ordered to be Reported Favorably” by voice vote.
o  The Manager’s Amendment was adopted by unanimous consent. 
SENATE HEARINGS AND EXECUTIVE SESSIONS
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HOUSE HEARINGS AND EXECUTIVE SESSIONS
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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
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