HealthCare Roundtable e-News – June 3, 2024

 

Top News

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Competition in the Prescription Drug Market

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a full committee hearing exploring competition in the prescription drug market. Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) highlighted that Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices globally, citing significant price increases by manufacturers, and the manipulation of the patent system to maintain high prices and block competition. He discussed the role of taxpayer-funded NIH research in drug development, while also noting the impact of direct-to-consumer drug advertising on costs. Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) emphasized the need to address patent abuse delaying generics and high US drug prices subsidizing other countries, while ensuring pharmaceutical companies can maintain successful business models and innovation, likening the situation to social media regulation and expressing openness to prescription drug legislation and direct-to-consumer advertising. Witnesses represented the pharmaceutical industry, patient advocates, and intellectual property lawyers. Discussion focused on balancing intellectual property rights with competition promotion. Healthsperien covered the hearing and detailed notes can be found here.

 

Bipartisan Senate Finance Members Release Policy Outline to Address Physician Workforce Shortages

Eight Senate Finance Committee Members led by Ranking Member Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cassidy (R-LA) released a policy outline to address physician workforce shortages across the country. The policy outline calls for improvements to the Medicare Graduate Medical Education (MGME) to address shortages of primary care and psychiatric care providers and ameliorate the uneven distribution of providers in rural and underserved communities. Senators Wyden and Cassidy are joined on the proposal by Senator Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Bennet (D-CO), Senator Tillis (R-NC), Senator Masto (D-NV), Senator Blackburn (R-TN), and Senator Mendez (D-NJ).

 

House Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Costs of Healthcare Monopolies

The House Budget Committee held a hearing exploring the budgetary impacts of healthcare monopolies. Chairman Arrington (R-TX) focused on addressing healthcare monopolies to reduce healthcare spending and limit the federal debt. Ranking Member Boyle (D-PA) noted the successes of the Affordable Care Act and that healthcare monopolies negatively impact physicians and patients. Witnesses generally supported legislation that removes current legislative incentives for physicians and hospitals to consolidate and ensures the long-term financial stability of independent practices. Healthsperien covered the hearing and detailed notes can be found here.

 

Senate Special Committee on Aging Holds Hearing on the Older Americans Act Reauthorization 

The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently held a hearing on the Older Americans Act’s (OAA) reauthorization and its impact on local communities. The Committee heard from four witnesses, one older American from Pennsylvania who benefits from some of the OAA programs, and three individuals in the long-term care workforce. Much of the discussion revolved around the nutrition programs that are a product of the OAA. Witnesses advocated for more flexibilities with the dollars being allocated to them in regard to the nutrition programs, and an increase in funding towards OAA programs. Republicans argued for more flexibilities within funding so that states and localities can better meet the needs of their constituents. Members of the Special Committee on Aging generally agreed on the importance of the OAA and its programs, with a consensus that there needs to be more funding allocated towards it. Healthsperien covered the hearing and detailed notes can be found here.

Administrative Action

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) Office of Health Policy released uninsured rate data from the National Health Interview Survey. The survey showed that the national uninsured rate for all ages in Q4 of 2023 was 7.7% or 25.5 million people. Overall trends demonstrate a steady decline in the uninsured rate since 2020 with no statistically significant quarter-to-quarter changes. Despite enrollment declines in Medicaid and CHIP, there is no statistically significant change in the uninsured rate since the beginning of Medicaid unwinding in April 2023. The data reported captured changes in coverage during the first nine months of states returning to regular eligibility renewals in the Medicaid program.

 

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Administration for Community Living, released “Aging in the United States: A Strategic Framework for a National Plan on Aging.” The report serves as a first step in a coordinated effort across private and public sectors to create a national set of recommendations aimed at advancing healthy aging and age-friendly communities. Leaders and experts from 16 federal agencies came together through the Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) on Healthy Aging and Age-Friendly Communities to develop the Strategic Framework, which hopes to advance best practices for service delivery, support development of partnerships within and across sectors, and identify solutions for removing barriers to health care for older adults. The ICC took into account the factors that influence the aging experience, and the things people need as they age, such as housing services, aligned health care and supportive services, accessible communities, and increased access to long-term services and supports. The framework discusses key issues within these factors, separating them into four domains within the report to address underlying causes of them and to highlight ongoing work across the federal government within these spaces. ACL will host a public webinar to provide an overview of the Strategic Framework on June 10 at 2:00PM. Advance registration is required, which can be found here.

Regulatory Action

The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) has proposed a rule to require wireless (mobile phone) carriers to implement new georouting solutions for calls to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline, to ensure that calls are routed to the nearest crisis center based on the person’s geographic location, not their area code. Currently, when individuals call 988, they are automatically connected to a crisis call center that is nearest to their phone’s area code. However, if individuals have moved out of that area, they will experience service delays as their calls are re-routed to the correct local center or the national back-up center. Under the proposed rule, wireless carriers would be required to use similar methodologies that are already deployed under 211, 311, and other N11 numbers, to identify callers’ physical locations. The FCC is broadly seeking feedback related to the potential benefits, challenges, and risks of moving forward with this approach, as well as any recommendations for ensuring callers receive timely, local services, while also protecting their privacy. Comments on the proposed rule are due on or before June 28, 2024.


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