Congressional committees have held several hearings this week on health policy issues. On March 24, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the 340B drug pricing program. Also on March 24, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight examined CMS’s use of the Fraud Prevention System (FPS) to identify and stop Medicare fraud, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing entitled “Continuing America's Leadership: Advancing Research and Development for Patients.” On March 25, the Senate Special Committee on Aging examined “The Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease: Are We on Track to a Treatment by 2025.”
On March 24, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight is holding a hearing on CMS’s use of the Fraud Prevention System (FPS) to identify and stop Medicare fraud. Government and non-governmental witnesses will discuss the progress that the FPS has made and how data analysis is being used to identify and stop Medicare fraud and waste.
On March 10, 2015, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “Continuing America’s Leadership in Medical Innovation for Patients,” featuring testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD.
On March 17, the HELP Committee has scheduled a hearing on “America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records into Better Care.” The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on the “Affordable Care Act at Five Years” on March 19.
The Energy and Commerce has not yet rescheduled a previously-announced hearing on the 340B drug pricing program that was cancelled due to weather.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on Thursday, March 5, 2015 on “Examining the 340B Drug Pricing Program,” focusing on the functionality of the program and the extent to which it meets its goal of improving access to prescription drugs for needy patients at facilities serving these populations. Scheduled witnesses include officials from the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Government Accountability Office, and the Office of the Inspector General.
** Note: this hearing has been rescheduled for March 25.
Ways and Means Committee to Markup Medicare Fraud, Competitive Bidding, and other Medicare Policy Bills
On February 26, 2015, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on the following bills:
- H.R. 1021, “Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act of 2015” – a sweeping bill to promote Medicare program integrity and efficiency. Among many other things, the bill would: eliminate civil money penalties for inducements to physicians to limit services that are not medically necessary; create a Part D drug management program for beneficiaries at risk of prescription drug abuse; require MACs to establish improper payment outreach and education programs for providers; expand the Senior Medicare Patrol program; require the HHS Secretary to issue guidance on the application of the “Common Rule” protecting individuals involved in research; and require the Secretary to issue a report on how to establish a permanent physician-hospital gainsharing program.
- H.R. 284, “Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act of 2015” -- which would require Medicare suppliers that bid under a durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program to submit binding bids or risk forfeiture of a surety bond.
- H.R. 876, “NOTICE Act” – which would require hospitals to provide certain notifications to individuals classified as being under observation status rather than admitted as inpatients.
- H.R. 887, “Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015” -- which addresses the treatment of patient encounters in ambulatory surgical centers in determining meaningful electronic health record use.
** These bills were approved with amendments
On February 11, 2015, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following bipartisan public health bills:
- H.R. 471, Ensuring Patient Access to Effective Drug Enforcement Act (to improve enforcement efforts regarding prescription drug diversion and abuse);
- H.R. 639, Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act, as amended (to amend the Controlled Substances Act to improve the efficiency, transparency, and consistency of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s process for scheduling new drugs);
- H.R. 647, Access to Life-Saving Trauma Care for All Americans Act (to reauthorize language from the Public Health Service Act to fund trauma care centers); and
- H.R. 648, Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act (to reauthorize grants supporting state and rural development of trauma systems and authorize new regionalized emergency care model pilot projects).
The following Congressional panels have held hearings recently on various health policy issues:
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing entitled, “Can Americans Trust the Privacy and Security of their Information on HealthCare.gov?”;
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the reemergence of vaccine-preventable diseases; and
- The Energy & Commerce Committee held hearings on ICD-10 implementation and federal mental health programs.
Three health policy hearings are scheduled for February 26, 2015:
- The Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the Obama Administration’s proposed FY 2016 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);
- The Senate HELP Committee is holding a hearing entitled “Medical and Public Health Preparedness and Response: Are We Ready for Future Threats?”; and
- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing entitled “From Health Care Enrollment to Tax Filing: A PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) Update."
Recent Congressional health policy hearings have addressed the following issues:
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on generic drug pricing;
- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee focused on its concerns associated with transparency in passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act in a hearing featuring CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Dr. Jonathan Gruber (); and
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee addressed fiscal challenges and opportunities for savings within the federal health care budget, and the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Looking ahead to 2015, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton has indicated that his panel will hold a hearing on preparation for ICD-10 implementation.
On November 6, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on the U.S. government response to the Ebola outbreak. This follows an October 24 House Oversight Committee hearing on coordination of a multi-agency response to the Ebola crisis, along with an October 16 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak.
On September 9, 2014, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is holding a hearing entitled “21st Century Cures: Examining the Regulation of Laboratory Developed Tests.” The hearing will focus on the FDA’s recent guidance on the regulation of lab developed tests and its “impact on innovation and the practice of precision medicine.” The panel will also host a “roundtable” discussion September 10 at which HHS Secretary Burwell, NIH Director Collins, FDA Commissioner Hamburg, and other experts will address opportunities to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments. In addition, two hearings are scheduled on ACA implementation. On September 10, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health will review ACA Marketplace administration, including verification of tax credit eligibility. On September 18, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will address Healthcare.gov transparency, accountability, and information security.
On September 9, 2014, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is holding a hearing entitled “21st Century Cures: Examining the Regulation of Laboratory Developed Tests.” The hearing will focus on the FDA’s recent guidance on the regulation of lab developed tests and its “impact on innovation and the practice of precision medicine.”
The Senate Aging Committee has released a staff report entitled “Improving Audits: How We Can Strengthen the Medicare Program for Future Generations.” The report describes the burden audits can impose on providers, and raises concerns that CMS’s current efforts are “aimed more at identifying and recovering improper payments that have already occurred, rather than a proactive strategy to ensure that those errors are not made in the first place.” For instance, the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) contingency fee structure “could be viewed as providing an incentive to keep improper payment rates high.” The report also notes that inconsistent local coverage determinations (LCDs) can increase the burden on providers and contractors, since different rules apply depending on the location of the service provided. Moreover LCDs have not been targeted to the most costly, highly-utilized services in a consistent way and may lead to discrepancies in access to care based on the beneficiary’s location. The report includes a series of recommendations for reforms of the audit and local coverage decision processes, including consolidating post-payment review activities; revising the RAC incentive structure to focus on reduced improper payment rates; assessing the effectiveness of pre-payment review processes; improving provider education; and ensuring that LCDs are targeted and do not create inconsistent access to care. The report was issued in connection with a hearing on improving the Medicare audit program.
Congressional panels have held numerous hearings on health policy issues this month, including the following:
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a series of hearings on its “21st Century Cures” initiative, focusing on personalized medicine, barriers to evidence development and communication, technological innovations, the patient perspective, and modernizing clinical trials. A separate hearing focused on ACA’s insurance eligibility verification system. Coming up, the Committee will examine plan “bailouts” and cancellations under the ACA (July 28) and the status of ACA payment and verification systems (July 31).
- The Ways and Means Committee held hearings on the integrity of the ACA’s premium tax credit verification system and the future of Medicare Advantage health plans.
- The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on Medicare appeals reform.
- The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee examined “Policies to Spur Innovative Medical Breakthroughs from Laboratories to Patients.”
- A Senate Finance Committee hearing focused on chronic illness and patients’ unmet needs.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee examined preventable deaths and improving patient safety. The Committee also approved a number of bipartisan bills, including S. 315, the "Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments; S 2154, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act; S. 2405, the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act; S. 2406, the Improving Trauma Care Act; and S. 2539, the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act.
Recent Congressional hearings on health policy issues include the following:
- A House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee “21st Century Cures Roundtable” discussed steps Congress can take to bridge the gap between medical advances and the regulatory policies that govern them, and ultimately advance digital and personalized health care. The panel also released a related white paper on digital health care and is seeking feedback on this topic through July 22, 2014.
- The Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing on “Medicare Program Integrity: Screening Out Errors, Fraud, and Abuse.” The Committee also held hearings on health care access under the ACA.
- The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing entitled “State of Play: Brain Injuries and Diseases of Aging.”
- The Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on MedPAC's June Report to the Congress on Medicare delivery reforms.
- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on health insurance company profits under the ACA.
On May 28, 2014 the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved by voice vote three bipartisan public health bills:
- H.R. 4299, “Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act,” which is intended to improve the Drug Enforcement Agency scheduling process for new FDA-approved drugs under the Controlled Substances Act and the registration process for the use of controlled substances in clinical trials to allow treatments to get to patients in a more timely and predictable manner.
- H.R. 4709, “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act,” which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify definitions, allow parties to submit a corrective action plan prior to revocation or suspension of a registration, and require a report identifying how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patient access to medications and prevent diversion and abuse of controlled substances.
- H.R. 4631, “Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2014,” which would continue autism-related federal research, early identification and intervention, education, and activities of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
A number of Congressional panels have focused on following health policy issues recently, including the following:
- The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee examined various Medicare hospital issues, including the CMS two-midnights policy, short inpatient stays, outpatient observation stays, Recovery Audit Contractor audits, and the appeals backlog.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on two bills that seek to equalize payments between different providers: (1) the Medicare Patient Access to Cancer Treatment Act of 2014, which would establish payment parity under the Medicare program for ambulatory cancer care services furnished in the hospital outpatient department and the physician office setting; and (2) the Bundling and Coordinating Post-Acute Care (BACPAC) Act of 2014, which would provide bundled payments for post-acute care services under Medicare Parts A and B.
- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings entitled "Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders" and "Medicare Mismanagement: Oversight of the Federal Government Effort to Recapture Misspent Funds."
- The Senate Special Committee on Aging focused on the role of health care providers in advance care planning.
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee examined the ACA minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements, which requires health insurers to provide rebates to consumers if the plans do not spend sufficient proportion of premium dollars on medical care.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a May 21 hearing entitled “Keeping the Promise: Site of Service Medicare Payment Reforms,” which will focus on two bills that seek to equalize payments between different providers:
- The Medicare Patient Access to Cancer Treatment Act of 2014, which would establish payment parity under the Medicare program for ambulatory cancer care services furnished in the hospital outpatient department and the physician office setting.
- The Bundling and Coordinating Post-Acute Care (BACPAC) Act of 2014, which would provide bundled payments for post-acute care services under Medicare Parts A and B.
The Committee will examine whether such proposals can save money for beneficiaries and the Medicare program without compromising quality of care.
On May 20, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing on current Medicare hospital issues, including the CMS two-midnights policy, short inpatient stays, outpatient observation stays, Recovery Audit Contractor audits, and the appeals backlog.