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 Returns to Pass U.S. Postal Service Bill

The House of Representatives returned from August recess over the weekend to vote on the Delivering for America Act (H.R. 8015) to strengthen the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Despite a push from some of her rank-and-file members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided to not bring another coronavirus aid bill to the floor. Senate Republicans are currently mulling the introduction of a skinny coronavirus relief package that would include additional funding for the Postal Service, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), unemployment benefits, and COVID-19 testing, given the continued impasse between the White House and congressional Democrats on the next piece of stimulus legislation.

EUA Issued for Convalescent Plasma

President Trump announced the issuance of an emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 on Sunday evening. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has said that the data indicates a 35 percent improvement in survival rates for those treated with convalescent plasma, which is created from the blood of individuals who have recovered from coronavirus. It has already been used to treat roughly 70,000 Americans.

E&C Democrats Probe COVID Data Tracking

Democratic leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review recent changes by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hospital capacity reporting systems and requirements. The changes required hospitals, and in some cases states, to collect and submit additional information through new platforms with little advanced notice. The decision bypasses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was previously responsible for tracking key COVID-19 data metrics. “We are concerned that these reporting changes undermine the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, and therefore request that the Government Accountability Office review the process and impacts of these changes,” the lawmakers write. The letter was signed by Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). Perhaps in response to this probe and other questions, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced last week that the data collection process would return to CDC, although a timeframe for that shift has not been clarified.

Investigation of Impact of Postal Service Changes on Prescription Drug Deliveries

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) launched a probe into the impact of changes at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on mail-order prescriptions. Letters have been sent to a group of pharmacies and prescription drug benefit managers asking whether they have seen delays or received complaints about delayed or lost prescriptions. They also ask for input on whether changes to USPS operations should be reversed. Responses are requested by September 11, 2020.

House Dems Continue Push for Vaccine Distribution Plan

A group of House Democrats led by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) have written to the administration urging them to quickly roll out a vaccine distribution plan that considers high-risk populations, including communities of color, that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Health equity must be a priority and not an afterthought. We must plan now to ensure equitable allocation and distribution,” the letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar states. The letter was signed by 60 members of Congress.

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