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 Appropriators Complete Work on FY23 Spending Bills

The House Appropriations Committee has completed action on all 12 fiscal year (FY) 2023 spending bills, teeing up floor votes on the appropriations measures in the House of Representatives later this month. The panel approved its Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill on a party-line vote last week. The legislation totals $242 billion, with $124 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a more than 14% increase over current spending. Debate on the package centered on the overall funding level and the issue of abortion. For the first time since 1976, the bill does not contain the Hyde amendment banning the use of federal funds for abortions. During the markup, the panel also adopted an amendment to the bill’s report language urging HHS to ensure affordable access to abortion medication. While floor action on the bill is expected later this month, the evenly divided Senate means a continuing resolution (CR) will likely be needed to fund the federal government beyond the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

Progressives Urge WH to Act on Abortion

Following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, progressive members of Congress continue to push the administration to take drastic steps to ensure access to abortion across the nation. The lawmakers are pitching ideas including legislation to protect personal data in reproductive health apps, reinforcing the right of individuals to travel without interference, the provision of travel vouchers, and allowing abortions on federal property. Some are also pushing for changes to the structure of the Supreme Court by expanding the number of justices or instituting term limits. While White House officials have repeatedly stated that there is little that they can do to safeguard access to abortion without the support of Congress, President Joe Biden has said that he would support a change to the Senate’s filibuster rule to codify privacy rights and access to abortion. Senate Democrats, however, do not currently have the votes to change the chamber’s procedures. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) remain opposed to the elimination of or exceptions to the Senate’s filibuster rule.

USICA Talks Threatened by Build Back Better

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he will block bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. competition with China if Democrats decide to revive work on a partisan reconciliation package. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been in talks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on a scaled-back version of the Build Back Better proposal after the package stalled late last year over Manchin’s concerns about the total size of the bill. The roughly $1 trillion plan currently under consideration would include provisions to cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, increase taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and address climate change. Lawmakers had hoped to finish conference negotiations on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) by the end of this month.

Sen. Leahy Undergoes Hip Surgery

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) underwent hip replacement surgery after suffering a fall at his home on Wednesday. According to his office, Leahy is comfortably recovering. It is unclear for how long he will be on medical leave. The Senate is scheduled to return to session for votes on July 11. As Appropriations Committee Chair, Leahy’s absence could complicate plans to markup fiscal year 2023 spending bills in July. His absence could also impact Democrats’ ability to push a scaled-back version of the Build Back Better economic agenda through reconciliation, which would require every Democratic vote for passage. Democrats had hoped to complete work on the budget package before the August recess begins on August 5, given that after Labor Day their focus will shift to funding the federal government before the end of the fiscal year.

Warren, Grassley Urge FDA to Finalize OTC Hearing Aid Rule

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration related to an effort by hearing aid manufacturers, which the Senators believe would diminish the effectiveness of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. “Although couched in concerns about patient safety, the changes sought by these dominant manufacturers and their representatives would have the effect of making OTC hearing products less effective, protecting manufacturers’ existing market share and locking in their competitive advantage,” the lawmakers argue. They express support for the agency’s proposed rule to enact OTC hearing aid regulations and urge the agency to finalize a rule that is consistent with congressional intent and ensures OTC hearing aids are safe, effective, accessible and affordable for all Americans.

Hickenlooper, Smith Inquire About Contrast Media Shortages

Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Robert Califf asking what steps his agency is taking to address shortages of contrast media commonly used in medical imaging. These shortages have reportedly impacted as many as half the nation’s hospitals and limited the ability of hospitals to provide the 50 million scans performed with contrast media each year. The lawmakers assert that this is “yet another example where our supply chain has shown to be incredibly vulnerable to isolated issues that can quickly become widespread crises impacting both domestic and global supply of critical products and putting people’s lives at risk.” They ask the agency to detail what it is doing to ease the shortage, how new contrast media products are being directed to facilities that need them the most, and how the Food and Drug Administration plans to respond to future supply chain issues in a timelier manner.

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