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Healthcare Today - March 1, 2024


Congress Passes Fourth Continuing Resolution: On Thursday evening, the Senate passed a continuing resolution funding bill, averting a partial government shutdown that would have gone into effect Saturday. Six less-controversial funding bills are now funded until March 8, including Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) said on the floor Thursday night that leaders plan to release bill text of the six finalized bills "in the coming days" to give lawmakers time to review them before a vote next week. The remaining six appropriations bills, including Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education must be passed by March 22.  

House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds Legislative Hearing: On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on rare disease treatment legislation. Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) released his discussion draft for the Patient Access Act, which would amend anti-kickback statutes to permit manufacturers to pay for incidentals in very limited circumstances. Other legislation considered were the Accelerating Kids Access to Care Act, Innovation in Pediatric Drugs Act, Creating Hope Reauthorization Act, and FDA Modernization Act 3.0.

HHS Issues New Guidance for Medicare Prescription Drug Program: On Thursday, HHS released new guidance on requirements for the new Inflation Reduction Act program that allows Medicare prescription drug plan enrollees to pay their out-of-pocket costs in monthly installments next year. The new guidelines for Part D sponsors cover opt-in steps, eligible Part D enrollees who could benefit, protections for program participants, and data collection requirements. The guidance requires drug plans to process election coverage requests within 24 hours, and to remind pharmacies to inform eligible customers about the program.  

White House Clears New EPA Final Guidance on Sterilization Compounds: On Thursday, the White House cleared the EPA’s new ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions regulations, which are scheduled to be released today. Some data has linked EtO, used to sterilize the majority of medical devices in the country, to higher rates of cancer, but the medical device industry is concerned new restrictions will cause device shortages. EPA is likely to skip publication of the rule in the Federal Register in order to meet today’s deadline and will publish the notice first to its website.  

CDC Recommends Additional COVID Vaccine for America’s Seniors: On Wednesday, CDC Director Mandy Cohen and the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices released new guidance advising adults over 65 to receive another dose of the Covid vaccine. The CDC cites “increased risk of severe disease (and Long COVID effects) in older adults.” Less than half of America’s seniors have received an updated COVID vaccine, according to CDC data.  

Senate Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Reproductive Health: On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), held a hearing on access restrictions to reproductive health. Chairman Whitehouse said health agencies are tracking “economic harms from the dismantling of Roe v. Wade, especially in already marginalized communities.” He also cited a study stating, “state abortion restrictions cost the national economy, on average, $173 billion per year.” Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), however, said the issue was both moral and economic, and the Budget Committee’s discussions on reproductive health under solely economic terms is “dehumanizing”.  

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