Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


House to Consider Two Health Bills this Week

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on two health care related bills this week. The Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act (H.R. 1734), as amended by the Senate in June, would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support research and other activities related to identifying xylazine (a compound used in veterinary medicine as a nonopioid tranquilizer), novel synthetic opioids, and other new psychoactive substances. The Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act (H.R. 542) would expand community-based services for aging veterans and aims to improve VA support for veterans and caregivers of all ages. Both pieces of legislation are scheduled to be considered under suspension of the rules.

White House Announces New Steps to Strengthen Medical Supply Chains

President Joe Biden announced nearly 30 new actions to strengthen the nation’s critical supply chains last week, including the establishment of a White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience. As a part of this effort the President will issue a Presidential Determination broadening the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) authorities under Title III of the Defense Production Act to enable investment in domestic manufacturing of essential medicines, medical countermeasures, and other inputs essential to the national defense. HHS will also designate a new Supply Chain Resilience and Shortage Coordinator for efforts to strengthen the resilience of critical medical product supply chains, and to address related shortages.

FDA Chief Scientist to Succeed Woodcock at FDA

Namandjé N. Bumpus has been appointed to replace Janet Woodcock as principal deputy commission of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when Woodcock retires next year. Bumpus has served as chief scientist of the FDA since June 2022. During her tenure, she has played a key role in the agency’s decision to remove Makena, a medication for preventing premature birth, from the market due to safety concerns, as well as in the agency’s proposal to ban formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in hair- straightening products marketed in the U.S. Prior to joining the FDA, Bumpus served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research career focused on drug metabolism, pharmacogenetics, bioanalytical chemistry, and infectious disease pharmacology. Bumpus will be the first Black woman to serve as principal deputy commissioner at the FDA.

Warren, Blumenthal Probe Private Equity-Backed Anesthesia Practice

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have sent a letter to U.S. Anesthesia Partners (USAP) raising concerns about reports that USAP is engaging in anticompetitive practices that are reducing patients’ quality of care, increasing prices, and suppressing worker wages. The letter cites an investigation by The Washington Post which found that the private equity (PE) backers of USAP have engaged in a series of small acquisitions to consolidate market power and then use “anticompetitive tactics to maintain its advantage – including restrictive non-compete agreements to prevent physicians from working for other practices in the area, cutting off choices for patients.” The lawmakers assert that USAP “is emblematic of the long-standing problems associated with PE’s involvement in our health care system,” and request a response from USAP by December 11.

Fauci to Appear Before Congressional Coronavirus Panel

Former White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci has agreed to testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in January regarding his role in the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci will be interviewed by the panel January 8-9 for seven hours per day. “Dr. Fauci was the face of America’s public health response during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his testimony will serve as a crucial component of the Select Subcommittee’s investigations into the origin of COVID-19, coercive mandates, gain-of-function type research, scientific censorship, and more,” Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

George Santos Expelled from the House

The House of Representatives voted to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) last week in a 311-114 vote, with nearly half of the chamber’s GOP members supporting his expulsion. Santos becomes only the sixth House lawmaker to be expelled in U.S. history, and the first since former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH) was expelled in 2002 following a conviction on federal corruption charges. The Santos decision followed a House Ethics Committee investigation into the lawmaker which found substantial evidence that Santos violated federal criminal laws. Republicans can now only afford to lose three members on party-line votes due to their slim majority. New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) will call a special election to fill Santos’ seat within the next three months, with party committees nominating candidates to fill the vacancy. Former Rep. Tom Suozzi is one of several Democrats who have declared their intention to run for the seat in the regular 2024 election.

A running list of other members of Congress who are retiring, vacating office, or seeking another office can be found below.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

Senate Finance Committee hearing “Drug Shortages: Examining Supply Challenges, Impacts, and Policy Solutions from a Federal Health Program Perspective;” 10:00 a.m.; December 5

House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of 44 pieces of legislation; December 5

House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation hearing “White House Policy on AI;” 2:00 p.m.; December 6

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing “Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon (SSG) Fox Suicide Prevention Grants: Saving Veterans’ Lives Through Community Connection;” 10:30 a.m.; December 12

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