The Horses Are Not the Only Ones Racing

Over the weekend, fans of horse racing enjoyed an exciting Kentucky Derby that ended with a narrow win for Mystik Dan! As Congress returns, members are already lining up for their own race to the Memorial Day recess and looking ahead to the big race of the 2024 elections. Welcome to the Week Ahead!

The Administration

Medicare Drug Negotiation: Round 2

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a notice alerting the public about an opportunity to comment on the agency’s draft guidance for the 2nd round of Medicare price negotiations as authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This round of negotiations will add another 15 drugs to the 10 drugs currently moving through the negotiation process. These 15 drugs are scheduled to be announced by February 1, 2025, and any negotiated prices will be effective by 2027.

There are some potential roadblocks in the way even as the Biden Administration is moving confidently along with implementing the IRA, including:

•    Legal challenges: Pharmaceutical companies and trade associations have brought several lawsuits to stop the negotiations, claiming that the action is unconstitutional and leaves drug manufacturers with little bargaining power because they either have to accept the government’s price or choose not to participate in the Medicare program.
•    A 2nd Trump Administration: It’s not clear that Trump’s return to the White House would spell the death of Medicare price negotiations. After all, during his first administration, Trump signed an executive order to direct Medicare to pay no more than the lowest price at which the drug is sold in any other developed nation. However, a 2nd Trump Administration would face tremendous pressure from congressional Republicans to end the program.

The Senate

Health Care Stowaway on FAA Bill

This week, the Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of H.R.3935, a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through FY2028. Obviously, this is not a health care bill, but a little bit of what might be considered health care policy managed to sneak aboard the bill before it passed the House. Specifically, the bill bans the FAA from imposing mask or COVID-19 vaccine mandates on passengers, air carrier employees, or FAA employees. Not too long ago, such a provision would have probably caused a bit more of an uproar among Democratic members of Congress. But it appears Captain Schumer is planning for clear skies ahead.

FDA Chief to Defend Budget

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) head Dr. Robert Califf, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriations Ag-FDA Subcommittee on May 8. Although the hearing is about the President’s FY25 budget request, we will also be listening to other topics related to the FDA, such as the recently finalized rule that gives the FDA the authority to regulate lab-developed tests or the delayed rule to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes

Also on Our Radar

•    The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Administrative Burdens in Health Care on May 8.
•    The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel will hold a hearing on May 8 where Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Lester Martinez-Lopez will be testifying.

The House

To Legislate or Motion to Vacate?  

The House has a full agenda on the floor but the question is, will House Republican leadership be able to keep things on track, or will they be derailed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) motion to vacate against House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA)?

The good news for the Speaker: House Democratic leadership has announced they will table Rep. Greene’s motion to vacate the Chair. So, he is probably safe. For now.

The bad news for the Speaker: If Rep. Greene or someone else brings up another motion to vacate, will House Democrats step up again, and if so, what will they ask for in return?

Ways and Means Makes a Way on Health Care

Last week, we saw a lot of health care action from the House Energy and Commerce Committee with subcommittee hearings on Medicaid and the Change Healthcare cyberattack. Not to be outdone, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to hold a full committee markup this week to consider legislation to extend telehealth flexibilities initiated during the COVID-19 public health emergency, along with some additional reforms and flexibilities.

So what? The markup on telehealth legislation will be the first time this year that a committee has marked up legislation to extend the telehealth flexibilities granted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Health Care Hearings in the House  

Just in case you thought Ways and Means was going to have all the fun this week, here are some other health care hearings we are tracking in the House this week:

•    May 8: House Small Business Committee hearing on regulatory burdens on small businesses in healthcare
•    May 8: House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence hearing on foreign anomalous health incidents
•    May 8: House Natural Resources Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee hearing on the FY25 Budget Request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and Office of Insular Affairs

There You Have It

Did you watch the big race? If so, did you get dressed up? If you didn’t watch, how did you spend your Saturday? Reach out and let us know. Here’s to a great week!

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