What Happened, What You Missed: May 1-5, 2023


Study: 340B Suppresses Uptake of Biosimilars

Hospitals that participate in the 340B Drug Pricing Program see lower adoption of biosimilar drugs, according to a new study from Health Affairs. Roughly a third of the nation’s hospitals participate in the 340B program, which requires manufacturers to provide discounts on most drugs administered in the outpatient setting to help safety-net hospitals, although the discounted drugs are reimbursed by Medicare at the same rate as they are in non-340B hospitals. Researchers also found that 340B hospitals were associated with an overall increase in the use of increased use of pricier biologic medications. To conduct the study, researchers examined 340B hospitals’ 2017-2019 Medicare claims data for two commonly used biosimilars.

Vaccine Mandate for Employees at CMS-Certified Facilities Drops on May 11

The requirement for federal government employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 will end on May 11, the same day the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is set to expire. President Biden is expected to issue an executive order in the coming days to rescind the mandate, which applies to federal employees, contractors, international visitors, and people working at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)-certified facilities. Originally put in place in September 2021, the vaccine mandate was blocked by a federal appeals court in March 2023 after initially being upheld by a federal court in January 2023. According to the Biden administration, nearly 98% of federal employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

CBO Posts Estimate on TANF Work Requirements in Debt Ceiling Bill

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an estimate that the work requirement provision in the recently passed House debt ceiling bill would lower federal expenditures, but increase the number of people without health insurance without increasing hours spent in employment. H.R. 2811, the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 raises work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients up to 80 hours per month and increases the age through which those persons must continue working. CBO estimated that while this provision would save the federal government $109 billion over 10 years, it would increase costs to states $65 billion.

FDA Clears First RSV Vaccine for Seniors

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Arexvy as the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, the vaccine is administered as a single shot, and it approved only for adults ages 60 and older. Assuming a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) independent advisory committee votes to recommend the vaccine in June, Arexvy could be available to older adults as soon as this fall. Although RSV is mostly associated with babies and young children, an estimated 159,000 American adults 65 and older are hospitalized each year with RSV, and an estimated 10,000-13,000 die as a result of their infection. RSV vaccines for younger populations are currently under review and could made available by the end of the year.

Sen. Ben Cardin to Retire

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced on Monday that he won’t seek a fourth term in the US Senate in 2024. A longtime fixture in Maryland politics, Cardin was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates while he was still a student at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. He went on to become the chamber’s youngest speaker in 1979, and in 1986, he was elected to represent Maryland’s Third Congressional District in the US House of Representatives, where he served until 2007. That same year, Cardin became Maryland’s junior senator in the US Senate, where he would serve on the powerful Finance Committee. During his tenure in the Senate, Cardin has been a strong proponent of oral health, and he frequently sponsored legislation to make dental care a covered benefit under Medicare. Cardin’s announcement has set off what’s expected to be a competitive Democratic primary to succeed him. While no formal announcements have been made, Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and David Trone (D-MD) are seen as possible candidates, as well as Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

ICYMI: Freshman Lawmakers Launch Congressional Sneaker Caucus

Freshman Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) launched the Congressional Sneaker Caucus last week with fellow freshman Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR). Moskowitz and Chavez-DeRemer are among a small but growing number of lawmakers and staff who are opting to wear sneakers over more traditional dress shoes on Capitol Hill. Both members of Congress say they intended to use the caucus as a way for sneaker fans on both sides of the aisle to find common ground. They also hope to host meetings and partner with manufacturers on philanthropic activities.

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