This week in Washington: House and Senate return from congressional work period.


House Energy and Commerce Hearing on Substance Use to Consider 11 Bills

On April 14 at 10:30 a.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “An Epidemic within a Pandemic: Understanding Substance Use and Misuse in America.” The subcommittee will discuss the 11 bills listed below.

  • H.R. 654, the “Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act”
  • H.R. 955, the “Medicaid Reentry Act of 2021”
  • H.R. 1384, the “Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2021”
  • H.R. 1910, the “Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting Fentanyl Act”
  • H.R. 2051, the “Methamphetamine Response Act”
  • H.R. 2067, the “Medication Access and Training Expansion Act”
  • H.R. 2355, the “Opioid Prescription Verification Act”
  • H.R. 2364, the “Synthetic Opioid Danger Awareness Act”
  • H.R. 2366, the “Support, Treatment, and Overdose Prevention of Fentanyl Act of 2021”
  • H.R. 2379, the “State Opioid Response Grant Reauthorization Act”
  • H.R. 2405, the “Streamlining Research on Controlled Substances Act”

Appointments to State All Payer Claims Databases Advisory Committee Announced

On March 29, Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), announced the appointment of six members to the newly created State All Payer Claims Databases Advisory Committee (SAPCDAC). SAPCDAC was created in December 2020 to make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor on the standardized format and associated guidance for the voluntary reporting by group health plans to State All Payer Claims Databases. The newly appointed members are Niall Brennan, Cheryl Damberg, Emma Hoo, Frederick Isasi, Mike Kapsa and Josephine Porter.


CHOICE Act Reintroduced

On March 26, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Consumer Health Options and Insurance Competition Enhancement (CHOICE) Act. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a public option to compete on the individual market and allow HHS to negotiate drug prices and provider reimbursement rates.

The CHOICE Act is one of several public option plans being developed in Congress. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently reintroduced their version, called the Medicare-X Choice Act. The Democratic senators stated they planned to use these proposals to reach a consensus legislation. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) also introduced companion legislation in the House.

Senate Parliamentarian Rules Democrats Have More Chances at Budget Reconciliation

On April 5, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the reconciliation process can be used multiple times on the same underlying budget resolution, meaning that Democrats have at least one more chance to pass legislation via a simple majority this year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had asked the parliamentarian to confirm that the process could be used again if the 2021 budget resolution was revised. Democrats already used the budget fast-track process to enact the American Rescue Plan and the COVID-19 relief package, and will likely try to use it for President Biden’s infrastructure bill. The parliamentarian’s answer means that Democrats could potentially split the infrastructure bill into two, with the second section likely to include health care coverage expansions and drug pricing measures.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.