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February 13, 2023

This Week in Health Policy for February 10

This week (Feb. 13-17)

The House is in recess for the next two weeks, while the Senate will continue in session.

Senate Health, Education Labor & Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on "Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here?"

  • Date: Thursday, February 16, 2023, at 10:00 AM ET
  • More information is available here.

Last week (Feb. 6-10)

Health Care Highlights

House and Senate in session. This week, Senate committees held organizing meetings to approve rules and budgets, with some committees, such as the Senate Finance Committee, announcing subcommittee assignments. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) will chair the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. In the House, lawmakers voted largely along party lines to approve a bill (H.R. 185) to terminate the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions COVID-19 vaccine requirement for foreign air travelers arriving in the United States.

President Biden Gives State of the Union Address. On Tuesday (Feb. 7), the House and Senate held a joint session to hear President Biden's State of the Union address. Biden's speech struck a mostly optimistic tone and included a large focus on health care. Biden said that "thanks to the resilience of the American people, we have broken COVID's grip on us." He highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act's provisions controlling prescription drug costs and called for the cost of insulin to be capped at $35 a month for those with private insurance. The president also promoted a series of "Unity Agenda" health initiatives related to cancer, opioids, veterans' health and mental health. For a complete breakdown of Biden's health care initiatives click here.

CMS releases guidance on IRA's drug rebate program. On Thursday (Feb. 9), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) released preliminary guidance detailing implementation plans for the Inflation Reduction Act's (IRA) Medicare prescription drug rebate provisions. CMS said rebates will be paid to the Medicare Trust Fund if drug prices increase faster than inflation. CMS said, the first 12-month period for certain Part D drug inflation rebates began Oct. 1 and the first quarterly period for certain Part B inflation rebates began Jan. 1. However, the agency will not issue invoices for Part B and Part D inflation rebates until September 2025 and December 2025, respectively. CMS is seeking comments on several issues related to the rebates. CMS fact sheet, Part B guidance, and Part D guidance.

OMB seeks feedback on changes to federal race and ethnicity collection statistical standards. On Thursday (Jan. 9), CMS' Office of Minority Health sent out a reminder that the Office of Management and Budget is currently accepting comment on proposed changes to the federal race and ethnicity collection statistical standards. Feedback can be submitted until April 12.

Biden administration issues new guidance on ending the PHE. On Thursday (Feb. 9), the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) published a fact sheet detailing flexibilities that will not be impacted by the PHE, such as the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorizations, and flexibilities that will be impacted, such as flexibilities to allow health care facilities to expand capacity, COVID-19 testing cost-sharing, and more.

Senators urge telehealth companies to protect patients' health data. On Tuesday (Feb. 7), Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a letter to three telehealth companies — Monument, Workit Health and Cerebral — expressing concern about reports that online health companies are sharing patients' health information with social media companies. The letter comes days after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $1.5 million settlement with GoodRx for sharing users' health data with social media and internet companies for advertising.

Texas judge vacates provisions of No Surprises Act final rule. On Monday (Feb. 6), U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Kernodle ruled that the Biden administration's revised final rule detailing the independent dispute resolution (IDR) process for determining out-of-network payments under the No Surprises Act is inconsistent with the law. In a case brought by the Texas Medical Association, the judge vacated provisions of the final rule that require arbitrators to consider the qualifying payment amount and then other factors not incorporated into the qualifying payment amount. The order vacates the provision nationwide. On Friday (Feb. 10), CMS published a notice instructing arbitrators to hold all payment determinations until further notice. CMS also said arbitrators should recall any payment determinations issued after February 6.

Hearings and Markups

Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "Executive Business": On Thursday (Feb. 9), the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced five bipartisan bills that aim to lower prescription drug costs. The bills aim to lower prescription drug costs by cracking down on drugmaker tactics to extend patents, improving patent coordination between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and requiring the FTC to examine potentially abusive practices by pharmacy benefit managers. The Committee previously advanced each of the five bills at different times over the last two years. During the hearing, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle raised concerns that the bills would give the FTC too much authority and could hinder innovation.

  • More information is available here.

House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing on "Markup to Consider Committee's Oversight and Authorization Plan for the 118th Congress." On Thursday (Feb. 9), the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing to adopt its authorization and oversight plan for the 118th Congress. The oversight plan includes hearings on COVID-19 pandemic origins, health care costs, mental health care, the supply chain, and more.

  • More information is available here.

Joint Hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Health on "The Federal Response to COVID-19": On Wednesday (Feb. 8), the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Subcommittee on Health held a joint hearing to examine the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers heard testimony from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and National Institutes of Health acting Director Lawrence Tabak.

  • More information is available here.

Reports, Studies, and Journals

Health Affairs: Insurer Price Transparency Rule: What Has Been Disclosed? The article, which is based on an analysis of insurers' in-network pricing data, found that while most insurers comply with federal price transparency rules, the that lack of standardization makes it difficult for consumers to understand and use.

HHS Office of Inspector General: Technical Assistance Brief: Implementation of Inflation-Indexed Rebates for Part B Drugs. In the report, OIG details the challenges CMS could face in implementing the Inflation Reduction Act's Medicare Part B rebate provisions and offers recommendations to address those challenges.

Brookings Institution: Nurse licensure compacts before, during, and after COVID. The report found the COVID-19 pandemic eased progress toward state participation in nurse licensure compacts and that the pandemic highlights the need for policy interventions that benefit workers.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   • Heather Bell (