This Week in Washington: CBO releases analysis of health insurance rates; Senate Finance Committee Chairman releases draft legislation concerning labor and delivery unit closures; House Oversight and Accountability Committee Democrats urge HHS to declare public emergency related to STIs.

House of Representatives

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The Senate is in state work period.

House of Representatives

Members Urge HHS to Declare Public Emergency Related to STIs

On June 9, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee Democrats sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking HHS to declare a public health emergency under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, because of increasing rates in syphilis cases. HHS could use emergency use authorizations to gain access to more funds, potentially use military medical personnel and have more flexibility with business transactions if HHS declared a public health emergency. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could also expedite the availability of certain medications under an Emergency Use Authorization when no other alternative treatment exists.

HHS has already emphasized the actions it has taken in response to the increase in syphilis cases. The FDA is allowing temporary imports of Extencilline to address the Bicillin L-A shortage (the only antibiotic available to treat syphilis) and the CDC has recommended the use of doxycycline PEP to prevent bacterial sexually transmitted disease infections, including syphilis. On June 12, HHS released considerations for providers for point of care testing for syphilis, outlining the differences in testing.

For more information on the letter, click here.

For more information on the HHS considerations for providers, click here.


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Releases Draft Legislation Addressing Rural Delivery Unit Closures

On June 17, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Democrat Sens. Stabenow (MI), Cantwell (WA), Menendez (NJ), Carper (CT), Cardin (MD), Brown (OH), Bennet (CO), Casey (PA), Warner (VA), Whitehouse (RI), Hassan (NH), Cortez Masto (NV), Warren (MA), Duckworth (IL) and Booker (NJ) released draft legislation to address closures of labor and delivery units in rural and underserved community hospitals.

The Keep Obstetrics Local Act would:

  • Increase Medicaid payment rates for labor and delivery services with enhanced federal financing for eligible rural and high-need urban hospitals;
  • Provide “standby” payments to cover the costs of staffing and maintaining an obstetrics unit at low-volume hospitals;
  • Create low-volume payment adjustment for labor and delivery services at hospitals with low birth volumes; and
  • Require all states to provide postpartum coverage for women in Medicaid for 12 months.

For more information, click here.

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