Week Ahead: Congress Comes Back to Approps Season

Unseasonably cool weather in Washington last week left us feeling less than springy. However, we did see a thawing of relations between Republicans and Democrats on a foreign aid package. Additionally, the endorsement of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) by former President Trump likely brings some feelings of rejuvenation to the embattled Speaker. The forecast this week calls for a return of Congress, a response to the Biden administration’s nursing home staffing mandate, and a possible rule on lab-developed tests (LDTs). Welcome to the Week Ahead!

The Administration

While Congress was out of session, the Administration dispatched several highly-anticipated final rules, including the nursing home staffing ratio rule, the Medicaid managed care rule, the Medicaid access rule, and an FTC ban on non-compete agreements, among others.

Banning menthol in cigarettes did not get finalized.  On April 26, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra acknowledged the need for more time, likely in part due to concerns that the rule would lead to increased law enforcement activity in minority communities.

4-1-1 on LDTs:  Despite all the regulatory activity, we are still waiting on a proposed rule granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explicit authority to regulate LDTs. We expect that rule any day now.

The Senate

UnitedHealth Group CEO Comes to Town

United Healthcare Group CEO Andrew Witty testifies before Congress about the Change Healthcare cyberattack. His first stop will be a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Some things we will be watching: 
•    Will GOP members use the hearing to criticize the Biden Administration’s response to the cyberattack, or will they focus their attention on UnitedHealth Group’s response?
•    Will any members discuss or propose legislative action to address broader concerns about cybersecurity? In particular, we will be watching to see if Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) uses the hearing to advocate for legislation he introduced earlier this year that would tie federal payments to health care providers after a cyberattack to the adoption of cybersecurity standards.
•    How will Mr. Witty respond to allegations that United Healthcare has not done enough to help providers in the wake of the attack?

Other Notable Senate Hearings

  • April 30: Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing on access to pharmaceuticals
  • May 2: Senate HELP Committee hearing on the shortage of minority health care professionals and the maternal health crisis

The House

Movement on Appropriations 

What’s happening: Last week, the House Appropriations Committee released guidance for members on FY 2025 Community Project Funding (earmarks). This comes as the House just finished FY 2024 appropriations only one month ago.

The House Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee holds its Member Day on April 30.

What it means: The pace is quick: members must submit programmatic and language requests by May 1 and Community Project Funding Requests by May 3. We know how deadlines drive activity in DC!

House Energy and Commerce GOP Looks to Strike Back on Nursing Home Staffing Rule

What’s happening: On April 30, The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will consider the Protecting America’s Seniors Access to Care Act (H.R. 7513), which would block the implementation of the recently finalized minimum staffing rule during its legislative hearing entitled “Legislative Proposals to Increase Medicaid Access and Improve Program Integrity.”

Some Democrats have crossed the aisle to support this bill. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) is one of the bill’s cosponsors, and Rep. Terry Sewell (D-AL) supported the bill’s passage out of Ways and Means. That being said, most Democratic members are supporting the administration’s action. Given the small majority Republicans hold in the House, not to mention the Democratic majority in the Senate and Democratic President, getting this bill across the finish line may be a tall order.

In Other House Committee News 

  • The House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a hearing on May 1 with the president of EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth Alliance has been accused by some House GOP members of funding risky gain-of-function research so this hearing will certainly be feisty.
  • After his appearance before the Senate Finance Committee on the morning of May 1, UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty will be crossing over to the House for an Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee hearing about the Change Healthcare cyberattack.

There You Have It

What are your favorite springtime activities? Did you get to do any spring break traveling this year? Reach out to share and compare. Here’s to a great Week!

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