What Happened, What You Missed: January 23-27

Rep. Guthrie to Chair Health Subcommittee 

Rep. Brett Guthrie will chair the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in the 118th Congress. Guthrie first became the Health Subcommittee’s top Republican at the start of the 117th Congress in January 2021, replacing Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), who sought to become the top Republican on the full Energy and Commerce Committee.  As chair of the Health Subcommittee, Guthrie’s likely priorities will be price transparency, the fentanyl epidemic, telehealth, medical product innovation, and exploring the business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).  The Health Subcommittee will hold its inaugural hearing of the new Congress on February 1 to review legislation to address the fentanyl crisis.   

Bivalent Boosters Cut Risk of Infection by Half 

The new bivalent COVID-19 booster reduces the risk of symptomatic infection of the dominant Omicron XBB/XBB.1.5 subvariants by about 48%, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Considered the most transmissible subvariant to date, XBB.1.5 is currently responsible for 49% of new COVID-19 infections nationwide.  The study found that the bivalent boosters were slightly more effective in preventing symptomatic infection in adults ages 18 to 49 than adults ages 50 and older.  However, most Americans are not benefitting from the added protection of a bivalent booster, as only about 15% of eligible Americans have received the new booster. 

HHS: Insulin Price Caps Mean Savings for Seniors 

1.5 million seniors in the US could save up to $500 per person annually thanks to new insulin price caps, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The report analyzed the impact of the $35 monthly insulin price cap in the Inflation Reduction Act, which went into effect for Medicare Part D beneficiaries on January 1, 2023.  According to the report, the average out-of-pocket cost per insulin fill for Part D beneficiaries in 2019 was $58 per insulin fill, while people with private insurance or Medicare coverage paid about $63 per fill.  The report also found that Medicare beneficiaries in Texas, California, Florida, North Dakota, Iowa, and South Dakota are likely to incur the most annual savings at $700-$800 per person.   

JAMA: Telehealth Didn’t Help with Opioid Treatment 

There was no significant difference in outcomes between people who sought treatment for opioid use disorder via telehealth or in-person via a clinician, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency waivers have allowed people struggling with opioid addition to virtually receive prescriptions for treatments like buprenorphine.  One of the reasons why telehealth may not have resulted in better outcomes for substance use disorder patients is the limited access to broadband internet, particularly in low-income or rural communities.   

ICYMI: Diversity Lags among Congressional Staff 

While the 118th Congress is the most diverse in history, diversity amongst congressional staff is still playing catch-up, according to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  The report found that only 18% of top congressional staffers are people of color, compared to 40% of Americans nationwide.  However, the report did note some recent areas of improvement, such as the fact that top staff working for returning members of Congress are more diverse than ever before.  Some of the obstacles preventing people of color from working in Congress include relatively low pay rates and the Washington, DC area’s high housing costs. 

January 3: Who Will Be Sitting When the Music Stops? 

A new era begins with a new Congress on January 3, 2023.  For the first time since 2007, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will no longer serve as the leader of House Democrats.  However, it remains unclear who will succeed Pelosi as Speaker, as several Republican House members are refusing to support Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the current top Republican in the House.  For most other leadership positions and top committee spots, selections for the 118th Congress are expected to be non-controversial and generally follow lines of seniority. This blog post takes a look at who is expected to assume top leadership and committee roles in the new Congress, and why some selections have yet to be determined. 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican leader of the 116th and 117th Congress, was highly favored to be elected speaker in the new Congress, but the results of the 2022 midterm election changed the calculus.  A person needs a simple majority of all present and voting House members to be elected speaker, which amounts to  218 votes if all 435 representatives are present.  However, House Republicans’ narrow 10-seat majority in the House leaves McCarthy with little wiggle room when it comes to earning the support of his caucus.   

To get to 218 votes, McCarthy can’t afford to lose more than four votes from House Republicans, and currently,  five GOP House members are declining to support him.  Most of these five Republicans have different reasons for why they oppose McCarthy – some are critical of his leadership, while others say he lacks a strong policy agenda – which makes the situation tricky for McCarthy to address.  Other Republicans have signaled that they will support McCarthy if he agrees to change certain conference rules, such as allowing a “motion to vacate,” which gives any member the power to bring up a vote at any time to oust a speaker. McCarthy has yet to give in to this demand, although things could change as negotiations with the few remaining GOP holdouts continue. 

The vote for the speakership is set for Tuesday, January 3.  If McCarthy fails to reach 218 votes, several scenarios could play out.  First, House Clerk Cheryl Johnson could repeat a vote for the speakership until someone receives a majority, although this hasn’t happened since 1923.  Second, Republicans could adjourn the House to provide more time to negotiate and reach agreement on a candidate for speaker.  Either way, many Republicans anticipate that it could take multiple votes before a final candidate gets to 218. 

Uncertainty about who will be elected speaker has had a domino effect throughout the House Republican Conference, resulting in unanswered questions on who will chair several key committees in the House.  While the House Republican Conference Steering Committee met and selected chairs for most committees on December 7, decisions on who will lead several key committees were tabled until January, which includes the Ways and Means Committee.   

Of the three Republicans vying for the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) is touting his business background, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) is taking a populist approach while emphasizing his ties to working class voters, and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) is presenting himself as a top policy expert.  Whoever is elected chairman will have the opportunity to shape health care policy, due to the committee’s jurisdiction on Medicare.    

Jason Smith’s bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee complicates the situation for the Budget Committee, where he currently sits as the committee’s top Republican.  If the Missouri Republican succeeds in the competition to lead Ways and Means, Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), and Buddy Carter (R-GA) are the top candidates to chair the Budget Committee in the next Congress.   

The situation is similarly complicated for the House Homeland Security Committee, where several Republicans are seeking the gavel: Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Mark Green (R-TN), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Dan Bishop (R-NC), and Scott Perry(R-PA).   The committee is expected to conduct oversight of the Biden administration’s border security policies in the next Congress.   

The House Education and Workforce Committee is also currently without a Republican leader in the new Congress.  The House Republican Conference currently bars members from leading a committee for more than three consecutive terms, regardless of which party has the majority.  GOP leadership granted Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the committee’s current ranking member, a waiver to serve as the committee’s top GOP member for a fourth term in the 118th Congress; however, an unexpected challenge for the gavel from Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) means a final decision on who will chair the committee won’t be made until January. Finally, since the speaker selects the chair of the House Administration Committee, it will remain unknow who will lead this committee until House Republicans settle on a speaker.   

Democrats in the House and Senate have already finalized most committee and leadership assignments for the 118th Congress, as have Senate Republicans.  However, House Republicans are sure to enter the new year in a state of uncertainty as disagreements over who will be second in presidential line of succession remain unresolved.  


Speaker: TBD 

Majority Leader: Steve Scalise (R-LA) 

Minority Leader: Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) 

Minority Whip: Katherine Clark (D-MA) 

Committee Chairs and Ranking Members 

Agriculture: G.T. Thompson (R-PA) 

Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) 

Appropriations: Kay Granger (R-TX) 

Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) 

Armed Services: Mike Rogers (R-AL) 

Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) 

Budget: TBD 

Ranking Member Brendan Boyle (D-PA) 

Education and Workforce: TBD 

Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) 

Energy and Commerce: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) 

Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) 

Ethics: Michael Guest (R-MS) 

Ranking Member Susan Wild (D-PA) 

Financial Services: Patrick McHenry (R-NC) 

Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) 

Foreign Affairs: Michael McCaul (R-TX) 

Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-NY) 

Homeland Security: TBD 

Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) 

House Administration: TBD 

Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) 

Judiciary: Jim Jordan (R-OH) 

Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) 

Natural Resources: Bruce Westerman (R-AR) 

Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) 

Oversight and Reform: Jim Comer (R-KY) 

Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) 

Rules: Tom Cole (R-OK) 

Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-MA) 

Science, Space, and Technology: Frank Lucas (R-OK) 

Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)  

Small Business: Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) 

Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) 

Transportation and Infrastructure: Sam Graves (R-MO) 

Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) 

Veterans’ Affairs: Mike Bost (R-IL) 

Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-CA) 

Ways and Means: TBD 

Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) 

Intelligence: Mike Turner (R-OK) 

Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) 


Top Leadership 

Majority Leader: Chuck Schumer (D-NY) 

Majority Whip: Dick Durbin (D-IL) 

Minority Leader: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 

Minority Whip: John Thune (R-SD) 

Committee Chairs and Ranking Members 

Aging: Bob Casey (D-PA)  

Ranking Member Mike Braun (R-IN) 

Agriculture: Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 

Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) 

Appropriations: Patty Murray (D-WA) 

Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) 

Armed Services: Jack Reed (D-RO) 

Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) 

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs: Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 

Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) 

Budget: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) 

Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 

Commerce: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 

Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) 

Energy and Natural Resources: Joe Manchin (D-WV) 

Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) 

Environment and Public Works:  Tom Carper (D-DE) 

Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) 

Ethics: Chris Coons (D-DE) 

Ranking Member James Lankford (R-OK) 

Finance: Ron Wyden (D-OR) 

Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) 

Foreign Relations: Bob Menendez (D-NJ) 

Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID) 

HELP: Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 

Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) 

Homeland Security: Gary Peters (D-MI) 

Ranking Member Rand Paul (R-KY)  

Indian Affairs: Brian Schatz (D-HI) 

Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 

Intelligence: Mark Warner (D-VA) 

Ranking Member Marco Rubio (R-FL) 

Judiciary: Dick Durbin (D-IL) 

Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 

Rules and Administration: Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 

Ranking Member Deb Fischer (R-NE) 

Small Business: Ben Cardin (D-MD) 

Ranking Member Joni Ernst (R-IA) 

Veterans’ Affairs: Jon Tester (D-MT) 

Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) 

What Happened, What You Missed: December 19-23 

Senate Advances $1.7 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill 

The Senate passed a massive Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending package on Thursday by a 68-29 vote.  The legislation to fund the government through September 30, 2024, includes supplemental aid for natural disaster victims and the the war in Ukraine, as well as a bevy of policies related to electoral reform and how states can spend COVID-19 relief dollars.  Key health care items included in the bill are an extension of Medicare telehealth waivers through 2024, new requirements to improve clinical trial diversity, and a reduction in Medicare payment cuts that doctors are facing over the next two years. 

New Report Criticizes FDA’s Tobacco Oversight Operations 

The Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operates in a “reactive state” and lacks clarity in its policies and processes, according to a new report from the Reagan-Udall Foundation.  While the report found that the CTP performs well when it comes to public health messaging and communication, the agency’s inconsistency of enforcing actions and lack of standard operating procedure has contributed to millions of tobacco products being sold without authorization.  Among the recommendations the report suggested are the creation of a detailed strategic agenda, the creation of an Office of Policy, and the establishment of an interagency task force to prioritize enforcement of tobacco laws. 

CDC: COVID-19 Caused US Life Expectancy to Drop 

A baby born in 2021 can expect to live two fewer years than a baby born in 2019, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on US life expectancy. The CDC attributed the drop to the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated an existing substance abuse crisis by driving more vulnerable individuals to drug and alcohol misuse.  The new life expectancy of 76.4 years represents the lowest since 1996, having undone a quarter century of progress.  The CDC also released a report this week on drug overdose deaths which found that overdose deaths for all drugs have increased, except heroin. 

KFF: Public Support for Childhood Vaccine Requirements Wanes 

Public support for childhood vaccine requirements has declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).  The survey found that 71% of adults say children should be required to get vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) to attend school, which is down from 82% of adults in an October 2019 Pew Research Center poll.   Additionally, 28% said parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children, up from 16% in 2019.  The survey also found that about one-third of adults were concerned they will get seriously sick from COVID-19, although older adults and members of racial and ethnic minority groups voiced greater concern about becoming seriously ill. 

ICYMI: Modernization Committee Releases Its Final Report 

After four years of information gathering, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress issued its final report that details what’s wrong with Congress and how to fix it.  Across 16 chapters, the report details more than 200 recommendations that aim to professionalize internships and fellowships, improve the retention of congressional staff, and modernize the legislative process.  The report also recommends that the committee continue its important work through the establishment of a new Subcommittee on Modernization within the House Administration Committee. 

Health Care Issues Loom Large in Lame Duck

The holiday rush commences today on Capitol Hill, with Congress back in session for the first time in several weeks. Following a midterm election that defied expectations, lawmakers face a lengthy to-do list to address this year’s unfinished business before a new Congress begins in January. Here are five items important to health care that lawmakers are likely to address in the coming weeks.

FY 2023 Appropriations

The current continuing resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations expires on December 16. With Republicans set to take control of the House with a narrow majority in January, Democrats will be keen to use their narrow majorities in the current Congress to complete work on a FY 2023 omnibus before the year’s end. While leading House and Senate appropriators have expressed an interest in completing an omnibus bill fully funding the government through FY 2023 by the December 16 deadline, factors such as the December 6 Senate runoff election in Georgia could delay negotiations a bit. With that in mind, Congress may need to enact a short-term CR ahead of December 16, perhaps even for a week, to ensure government funding continues while it presses on with negotiations on a final year end bill.

Although lawmakers could punt an omnibus spending bill into the next Congress, most have a preference for avoiding that outcome. Both top Senate appropriators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are retiring, which adds pressure to make a bipartisan deal on their final spending bill. Contributing to the need to finish FY 2023 appropriations work in the current Congress is the fact that the next Congress will feature a narrow GOP majority, which will make it much harder to pass spending bills.

Medicare Cuts

Health care providers are facing several difficult Medicare cuts next year, most notably being a 4.5% cut to Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) reimbursement, a 4% cut in Medicare payments under the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (PAYGO) Act of 2010-mandated sequester, and an expiration of a 5% bonus payment for participation in alternative payment models. Congress is under intense pressure by health care providers to address all three in the forthcoming year end spending bill. In addition, funding for the Low-Volume Adjustment and Medicare-Dependent Hospital program was extended under the current CR and would need to be further extended. the Medicare-Dependent Hospital program, and the Low-Volume Adjustment.

FDA Reform

Members of both parties are eager to pass riders to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) user fee reauthorization bill that were ultimately dropped from language that was included on the CR. . Some of the riders being debated are changes to the accelerated approvalof drugs, provisions to increase diversity in clinical trials, and regulation of diagnostic testing, cosmetics, and dietary supplements. These riders represent a number of bipartisan provisions that were included in either the House-passed user fee bill as well as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill passed out of committee earlier this year, however, agreement between the two chambers could not be reached. .


December 16 is another important deadline, as it marks the expiration of matching federal dollars for the US territories’ Medicaid programs. On top of this deadline, Puerto Rican government officials are calling for more federal funding to address the damage from Hurricane Fiona. Furthermore, there is significant pressure by stakeholders, including the National Association of Medicaid Directors, on Congress to address the need for certainty around the end of the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement per the public health emergency. In addition, several top Democrats are pushing to make 12 months of postpartum Medicaid coverage mandatory and permanent for states. Already over half of states have opted for the temporary extension of Medicaid postpartum benefits from 60 day to 12 months as made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act.


Congress officially created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) in its FY 2022 omnibus, but specific details on the new agency remain unclear as work continues on authorizing legislation. While both the House and Senate bills to authorize ARPA-H contain many similarities, they differ in one key area – the Senate bill would make ARPA-H a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while the House bill calls for making ARPA-H an independent agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Despite differences on the structure of the new agency, Democratic leaders of the House and Senate health committee remain highly interested in finishing ARPA-H authorizing legislation this year.

Key Primary Races to Watch in August 2022 (8/2/2022) 

The long 2022 primary season isn’t over yet.  Starting today, 15 states will hold primary elections over the next 30 days, and the results of some races will be more impactful than others.  By the beginning of September, American voters are sure to have a clearer idea of the importance of political dynasties, and more importantly, how much influence former President Donald Trump wields over the GOP electorate.   

Michigan Democrats: Levin v. Stevens (August 2) 

Michigan lost a congressional seat in the 2020 Census.  The state’s new congressional map is the product of an independent commission, and while the commission has been successful in avoiding partisan gerrymandering, it wasn’t enough to stop a race between two incumbents.  Both Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) could have opted to run in the new 10th Congressional District, which leans slightly Republican and contains suburban communities northeast of Detroit.  But instead, both Democratic incumbents chose to seek reelection in the 11th Congressional District, which features a more Democratic-leaning electorate in the suburb’s northwest of Detroit.   While Levin resides in the new district, Stevens’ current district includes much of the new one she’s running in. 

Both Levin and Stevens first entered Congress at the start of 2019, meaning they have been incumbents for the same length of time.  However, Levin has one possible advantage in the form of name recognition.  His father, Sander Levin, served in the House before retiring in 2019, and his uncle, Carl Levin, served in the Senate from 1979 to 2015.   

Missouri Republicans: Greitens v. Schmitt (August 2) 

Eric Greitens was elected Governor of Missouri in 2016, but he resigned in 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct and violations of campaign finance laws.  Having secured Trump’s endorsement back in 2016, Greitens threw his hat in the ring as a Trump-friendly candidate in the 2022 Republican primary to replace the retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) amid a crowded field consisting of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO).  While Trump has yet to formally endorse a candidate in the race, he has positively commented on Greitens as recently as July 8.  However, Greitens’ initial lead in the polls seems to have has fallen after allegations of domestic abuse became public and the release of a controversial ad about hunting “Republicans-in-name-only,” or RINOs.  

Currently, one poll has Greitens in third place behind Schmitt and Hartzler, while another has all three candidates tied for first.  As voters in Missouri head to the polls, many Republicans including members of the former president’s inner-circle are currently divided over whether to support Greitens or Schmitt.  However, given Trump’s 15-point victory margin in Missouri two years ago, whichever GOP Senate candidate prevails on Tuesday is all but certain to win in November. 

Arizona Republicans:  Brnovich v. Masters (August 2) 

Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich led the polls for months as the Republican candidate in the primary race for the Senate.  However, Brnovich began to lose ground after former President Trump criticized the attorney general for not supporting him during the 2020 election audit of Maricopa County.  In June, Trump endorsed Blake Masters, bringing the 35-year-old venture capitalist to first place in the polls.  A critic of the validity of the 2020 presidential election, Masters has been also questioning whether the results of the 2022 midterm election will be legitimate, which some Republicans worry could backfire and dissuade some GOP voters from showing up at the polls this November.  Whoever secures the Republican Primary will take on freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) this fall in a race that the Cook Political Report currently rates as a “toss-up.”  But the nomination of a hardcore Trump loyalist and election skeptic like Masters to the GOP ticket could turn off moderate and independent voters, leaving Kelly with a slight edge in November. 

Wyoming: Cheney v. Hageman (August 16) 

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was a rising star in the Republican Party, having been elected House GOP Conference Chair in August 2019.  However, Cheney lost her leadership position in May 2021 after drawing the ire of House Republicans for her criticism of former President Donald Trump.  Since then, Cheney has only doubled down on her criticism of Trump by serving as the Vice Chair of the January 6th Committee.   

Wyoming voters picked Trump over then-candidate Joe Biden in 2020 by a 40-point margin, so it’s no surprise that Cheney is trailing the Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hagemen by nearly 20 points in the GOP primary.  Cheney’s current situation is a sharp contrast from 2020, when she won reelection with 70% of the vote.  Cheney could theoretically find a narrow pathway to victory if she secures the votes of independents and Democrats over the coming days, but a landslide loss would mean the former president is still capable of commanding influence in states that strongly lean red.   

The Rest of Primary Season 

After August 31, only four states have primaries left: Massachusetts’ primary is scheduled for September 6, while Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island have their primary elections on September 13.  Given the number of consequential primaries in August, however, voters won’t have to wait until the end of the month to get a sense of what the midterm election in November will look like – and how much of an influence the former president has on the GOP. 

What Happened, What You Missed: July 25-29

Schumer, Manchin Reach Deal on Sweeping Reconciliation Bill

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) surprised the political world by announcing they had reached a deal on a new reconciliation bill with provisions to fight climate change, reform the tax code, and extend the enhanced Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium subsidies for three years.  Known as the Inflation Reduction Act, the measure would raise over $700 billion by establishing a 15% corporate minimum tax and allowing Medicare to negotiate  drug prices, among other items.  The bill would also invest nearly $369 billion in a host of clean energy and climate-related programs, including a new $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of used electric and hybrid vehicles. 

CMS Announces Maternity Care Action Plan, Extends Postpartum Coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) laid out a new Maternity Care Action Plan on Tuesday that aims to encourage health care industry stakeholders like hospitals and insurance companies to consider key commitments on improving maternal health outcomes.  The action plan is a part of the Biden administration’s overall effort to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities for mothers and infants.  Additionally, CMS approved the extension of 12 months of postpartum coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Kansas.  The extension is estimated to apply to 19,000 people in each of these states, bringing the total number of people eligible for 12 months of postpartum coverage nationwide to 284,000.

W&M Advances Bill to Streamline Prior Authorization

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to advance H.R. 8487, the Improving Timely Access to Care Act of 2022.  This bipartisan legislation would modernize the way Medicare Advantage and health plans use prior authorization by establishing an electronic prior authorization process and creating a process for real-time decisions for services and items that are routinely approved.  Backed by both payer and provider organizations, the bill is expected to be brought to consideration on the House floor this fall after lawmakers return from August recess.   The Senate version of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act (S. 3018) has been referred to the Finance Committee, although it is unknown when the committee will take up the bill. 

KFF: Vaccination Rates for Kids under 5 Remain Low

Only 7% of parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years have gotten their kids vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).  Unfortunately, the survey data suggests that the number of young, vaccinated children is not expected to rise significantly due to varying degrees of hesitancy among parents.  About 43% of parents surveyed said they will “definitely not” get their kids vaccinated, while 27% are opting for a “wait and see” approach.  The survey noted some partisan differences, as Republican-leaning parents were three times as likely as Democratic parents to say they will “definitely not” get their kids vaccinated.  Additionally, the survey found that 81% of parents who have yet to get their children vaccinated are worried about the side effects or long-term effects of vaccines.

ICYMI: “The Office” Fans Can Experience Dunder Mifflin in DC

Fans of the hit mockumentary sitcom “The Office” can experience their favorite TV series in a new live exhibit that opened Thursday in downtown DC.  According to the website for The Office Experience, visitors can explore 17 different areas that feature set recreations and original costumes and props from the show.  The exhibit was created by the same company that put together the FRIENDS Experience in DC, which closed back in June.  Fans will be able to view The Office Experience through January 16, 2023.

What Happened, What You Missed: July 18-22

Odds of September CR Increase

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) said bicameral appropriators aren’t likely to agree on topline Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending levels until after the midterm election in November, meaning Congress will probably have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to ensure government funding beyond the current deadline of September 30.  To date, the Senate has yet to introduce any appropriations bills, while the House is much further along in the process, having passed a six-bill minibus on Tuesday. 

Launch of 988 Deemed a Success

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra touted last Saturday’s rollout of the new 988 national suicide hotline number a success, with the hotline seeing a 60% jump in calls compared to the previous weekend for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  The administration has spent over $430 million to help states prepare for higher call volumes by hiring more mental and behavioral health counselors to take calls.  Meanwhile, Congress is working on its own proposals to boost access to mental health care services.  In particular, the Senate Finance Committee is set to release legislation that would expand the behavioral health care workforce and allow the integration of mental and primary health care. 

Advocates Call for More Government Action on Long COVID     

The federal government really needs to step up its work on addressing long COVID, according to health care providers and patients who testified before a House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Tuesday.  Some of the reforms witnesses called for include paid medical leave for patients, enhanced access to disability benefits, and more support for long COVID clinics.  During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-SC) stressed that more research is needed to understand the causes, risk factors, and effects of long COVID.  Witnesses also discussed the economic impact of long COVID, such as patients leaving the workforce. 

Senate Weighs in on Reforms to Electoral College

A pair of bipartisan Senate bills aim to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which controls the acceptance of presidential votes.  One proposal would increase the threshold to one-fifth of the members of the House and the Senate to object to the election results. Currently, only a single member of the House and Senate can object to a state’s Electoral College votes.  Another bill would increase the maximum penalty for people convicted of intimidating or threatening candidates, voters, and election officials to two years and make tampering with voting systems a federal crime.  Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has said that she hopes both bills can be signed into law by the end of the year.

ICYMI: 8 House Offices Are Unionizing

Eight House Democrat offices filed petitions to form unions after a new rule went into effect to allow legislative branch employees to unionize.  Relatively low pay as well as cases of harassment and burnout are among the reasons why staff have long been pushing for the right to organize on the Hill over the past few years.  Now, staff in the eight Democratic offices must wait on the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to review the petitions before they can hold a secret ballot election to ultimately decide on unionizing.