HealthCare Roundtable e-News – May 28, 2020

Grassley Says White House Still Committed to Bipartisan Senate Drug Pricing Bill

Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) revealed that President Trump is on board with the Senator’s drug pricing plan, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, during a radio interview last week. The President expressed his support during a Republican senator luncheon when Grassley asked Trump if he wants Congress to take up drug pricing reform in light of the pandemic. (InsideHealthPolicy)

Grassley had attempted to attach the drug pricing plan to previous coronavirus stimulus bills that have been passed in recent months but has struggled to amass support from fellow Republicans on drug pricing, despite pushes from Trump to unite the party’s efforts. Members have suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been reluctant to express his support over fears of splitting his party.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated prior to the pandemic that the Senate drug pricing package would reduce deficits by more than $100 billion over ten years, beneficiary cost-sharing in Part D by $25 billion, and Part D premiums by $6 billion. (InsideHealthPolicy)

CMS Issues Final Rule Including Telehealth Changes for Medicare Advantage

Last Friday, the Trump administration released a final rule that includes telehealth changes mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act and the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act. The rule offers greater flexibility for Medicare Advantage plans to offer and discount telehealth for specialty care. These changes will also enable plans to grow their benefits while meeting network adequacy standards.

“CMS’s rapid changes to telehealth are a godsend to patients and providers and allows people to be treated in the safety of their home,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a statement. “The changes we are making will help make telehealth more widely available in Medicare Advantage and are part of larger efforts to advance telehealth.”

CMS said it hopes the changes will enable patients to have access to both telehealth services specialists in-person. The rule will also ease network standards for plans in rural areas by requiring only 85% of members to live within a certain time and distance of a provider, down from 90%. The agency estimates the changes will save the government $3.65 billion.

E&C Subcommittee Plans Investigation into Trump Administration’s Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

The House Energy & Commerce oversight subcommittee announced that it will investigate the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to evaluate where the administration fell short and outline ways to improve the response moving forward. Sources say the subcommittee will focus their investigation primarily on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, the supply chain for personal protective gear, and vaccine development.

“As we move forward with these investigations-and hold hearings as necessary-we expect the Administration to cooperate with our oversight requests, something that, to date, they have largely been unwilling to do,” House Energy & Commerce oversight subcommittee Chair Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.) said. (InsideHealthPolicy)

The subcommittee plans to encourage the administration to release a detailed plan for meeting COVID-19 testing capacity goals, as well as a plan for contact tracing. The pandemic’s impact on food safety and supply will also be analyzed as part of the investigation, including the administration’s commitment to science and protecting public health. (InsideHealthPolicy)

Trump Pushes for Hospital Price Transparency in Next COVID-19 Stimulus Package

The Trump administration is looking into increasing hospital price transparency as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unravel across the country. According to sources, provisions on transparency are expected in the next COVID-19 package as stakeholders look to Trump and members of the GOP to counter House Democrats’ HEROES Act, which passed this past Friday.

While the President has stated that he would veto the bill if it came to his desk, White House spokesman Judd Deere added in a statement Friday: “President Trump has taken the most aggressive action on health care price transparency in history and would welcome any efforts by Congress to complement and reinforce our actions to put real prices in the hands of consumers.”

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the Trump administration’s push for transparency comes after HHS published two regulations last year requiring hospitals and insurers to make their prices public. The regulations led to a lawsuit from the industry, with the groups arguing it’s a violation of the First Amendment. According to Bloomberg, the White House believes writing the requirement into law would end the court battle.