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March 18, 2024

This Week in Health Policy for March 18

This Week (March 18 - 22)

House and Senate negotiators will continue to work on spending bills for the remaining appropriations bills, including for HHS, that are set to expire March 22, and any agreed-to ancillary policies. Language is expected to post by Sunday night. Lawmakers also will continue the FY 2025 appropriations process by holding hearings on the President's budget proposal.

House Ways and Means Committee will hold a field hearing on "Access to Health Care in America: Ensuring Resilient Emergency Medical Care."

  • Date: Monday, March 18 at 2pm CDT (Denton, TX)
  • More information available here.

House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra

  • Date: Wednesday, March 20 at 2pm EDT
  • More information available here.

House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on "Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services."

  • Date: Wednesday, March 20 at 10am EDT
  • Witness: Xavier Becerra, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services
  • More information available here.

House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Evaluating Approaches to Diagnostic Test Regulation and the Impact of the FDA's Proposed Rule."

  • Date: Thursday, March 21 at 10am EDT
  • Witnesses: Susan Van Meter, President, American Clinical Laboratory Association; Zach Rothstein, Executive Director, AdvaMedDx; Donald Karcher, President of the College of American Pathologists; Jeff Allen, President and CEO, Friends of Cancer Research; and Dara Aisner, Medical Director, Colorado Molecular Correlates Laboratory, Professor of Pathology, University of Colorado; Representative of the Academic Coalition for Effective Laboratory Developed Tests
  • More information available here.

House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will hold a hearing on "Assessing America's Vaccine Safety Systems, Part 2."

  • Date: Thursday, March 21 at 2pm EDT
  • More information available here.

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a legislative hearing on pending legislation

  • Date: Thursday, March 21 at 2pm EDT
  • More information available here.

House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on "The President's Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request."

  • Date: Thursday, March 21 at 10am EDT
  • More information available here.

Last Week (March 11 - 15)

Health Care Highlights

HHS launches probe into Change Healthcare cyberattack. On Wednesday (March 13), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS') Office for Civil Rights announced it has launched an investigation into the cyberattack impacting Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group (UHG), to determine if protected health data was compromised and if UHG has complied with federal breach notification and privacy and security rules. The cyberattack has disrupted claims submissions and billing operations at hospitals, medical groups, nursing homes, pharmacies, and others across the country. CMS on Saturday (March 9), announced impacted providers could apply for accelerated Medicare Part A providers and Part B suppliers and on Sunday (March 10), HHS sent a letter to health care organizations, calling on UHG, other insurance companies, clearinghouses, and others to take additional actions to mitigate potential harms related to the cyberattack.

White House launches challenge to reduce opioid overdoses. On Thursday (March 13), the White House launched a nationwide challenge, called the Save Lives from Overdose. The challenge, which is part of the Biden administration's unity agenda, calls on stakeholders from all sectors to commit to increasing training on and access to lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medications. Organizations can sign on to the commitment here and share a real-world impact story here.

EPA issues final rule on ethylene oxide sterilization. On Thursday (March 13), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final rule that sets new emissions standards on the ethylene oxide gas that commercial facilities use to sterilize medical devices and other equipment. The rule gives the medical device industry three years to come into compliance and includes temporary exceptions for devices that lack alternative sterilization methods.

Biden unveils FY 2025 budget request. On Monday (March 11), Biden released his FY 2025 budget request, which includes appropriations requests for agencies and includes health care policies related to coverage, prescription drugs, cybersecurity, mental health and more. The President's budget request is not binding and is typically viewed as more of a messaging document, but also kicks off Congress' budget and appropriations process. In addition to the budget request, the White House published fact sheets with more details on several health care topics:

Hearings, Markups, and Other Committee Activity

House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing on "Enhancing Access to Care at Home in Rural and Underserved Communities." On Tuesday (March 12), the Committee held a hearing on improving remote monitoring and home health care in rural and underserved communities. During the hearing, lawmakers heard from a panel of witnesses representing a home dialysis patient, a hospital at home patient, a digital health company offering remote patient monitoring tools, a doctor overseeing home health and tele-hospitalist programs, and an academic. There was general bipartisan support among witnesses and members on extending Medicare telehealth and Hospital at Home flexibilities and other ways to improve access to digital home health tools in rural areas, however some members and one witness raised concerns about ensuing high care quality and the impact on spending.

  • More information available here.

House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held a markup of 19 bills. On Tuesday (March 12), the Subcommittee advanced 19 bills to improve the quality of care for those with chronic diseases, improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, and improve access to care and medical innovation in rural areas. The bills advanced include reauthorizations for programs related to Alzheimer's Disease, rural emergency health providers, as well as other proposals to facilitate the use of mental health and substance use disorder services among health care providers and make permanent a waiver allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive medications by mail.

  • More information available here.

Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on "The President's Fiscal Year 2025 Health and Human Services Budget." On Thursday (March 14), the Committee heard testimony from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on President Biden's FY 2025 budget request for the department. During the hearing, lawmakers and Becerra discussed a range of topics from drug pricing to community health centers and behavioral health to HHS' role in caring for unaccompanied minors. Democrats generally spoke favorably of the budget request and actions HHS has taken to implement the Inflation Reduction Act's provisions to reduce drug costs, while Republicans spoke critically of the law and several raised concerns about processes related to unaccompanied minors.

  • More information available here.

Reports, Studies, and Journals

Food and Drug Administration: Artificial Intelligence & Medical Products: How CBER, CDER, CDRH, and OCP are Working Together. The report outlines the FDA's plan to regulate AI in medical products, as well as other efforts they plan to take, such as clarifying industry best practices and launching efforts to address gaps in AI knowledge and regulatory science.

Government Accountability Office: Medicaid Managed Care: Additional Federal Action Needed to Fully Leverage New Appeals and Grievances Data. The report makes two recommendations to CMS to address the potential for managed care plans to deny or limit services, including requiring states to report on appeal outcomes and number of denials and implementing actions to analyze, use, and publicly post state reported data on appeals and grievances.

HHS Office of Inspector General: Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report. The report highlights FY 2023 activity by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units, finding they recovered $1.2 billion in civil cases in FY 2023.

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Contact Information

For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:

Washington Council Ernst & Young