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Healthcare Today - February 2, 2024


House Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Congressional Budget Office Oversight: On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), held an oversight hearing on the Congressional Budget Office featuring CBO Director Philip Swagel. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) raised the issue of pharmacy closures to the director and touted HR 1770, the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacists Services Act; Rep. Rudy Yakym (R-IN) raised concerns on drug innovation with implementation of the IRA’s drug price negotiation under CMS. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) also raised how coverage of anti-obesity drugs could affect federal budgets.  


CMS Sends First Negotiated Drug Price Offers to Selected Drugmakers: On Thursday, CMS sent out initial prices for the first 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiations under the IRA. Drugmakers can accept the prices or negotiate with CMS before a final price is set by September 1. The agency did not release the exact prices first submitted to the manufacturers. This next step in the agency timeline comes as both AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk continued their court challenges of the IRA rules in court this week; U.S. District Court Judge Colm Connolly seemed to indicate skepticism with AstraZeneca’s claims that the new law deprives the manufacturer of intellectual property on Wednesday. According to sources, the first court session on the case went poorly for the company. 


House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Healthcare Costs: On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs, focusing on the potential impacts of the already-passed Lower Costs, More Transparency Act led by Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Hearing panelists stood firmly behind site neutral policies included in the bill and voiced a desire for PBM transparency reform.  


CMS Releases Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Payment Updates: On Wednesday, CMS released Advanced Notice for payment policy updates under Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Programs. Reimbursement for Medicare Advantage plans will be increased by 3.7% in 2025, which is a .16%reduction in benchmark rate compared to current policy. The Advance Notice is open for public comment due by March 1, 2024. The final rate announcement will be published on or before April 1, 2024. 


HHS Finalizes Telehealth Rules for Opioid Treatment Programs: On Thursday, HHS finalized a rule allowing increased access for opioid use disorder treatments through telehealth. The rule allows some patients to administer unsupervised, take-home doses of methadone based on provider judgement and permits the initiation of buprenorphine if evaluation was made through a telehealth visit. This final rule comes two years after HHS announced its Overdose Prevention Strategy. The White House praised the new decisions in a Thursday statement.  


Healthcare Worker Safety Policies Gain Congressional Momentum: On Wednesday, members of Congress joined provider stakeholders at a Capitol Hill briefing on the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act. The bill, led by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), gained 8 new House cosponsors in January. On Wednesday, Senators Tim Kaine(D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN), with House members Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Susan Wild(D-PA), Buddy Carter (R-GA), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced bicameral reauthorization of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, as well. 

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