9.24.18 – 9.28.18 Health Wrap Up

Please find below a summary of the latest major health policy developments in Washington this week. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Scheduling note: the House is now on recess through the November elections.


FY19 Appropriations

Wednesday evening, by a vote of 361-61, the House passed the conference agreement for the FY19 Defense and Labor HHS spending bills. Also included in the agreement is a continuing resolution to keep other agencies funded through December 7, including agencies covered by the Agriculture, Transportation-HUD, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, and Commerce-Justice-Science bills. The President signed the legislation today, ending the chance of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts on October 1.  As previously reported, Trump already signed into law the FY19 Energy-Water, Military Construction-VA and Legislative Branch appropriations measures.

Budget Process

On Thursday, lawmakers on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, the committee tasked with revamping the federal spending process, said they agreed that Congress should switch to using two-year budget resolutions, forcing Congress to set spending caps for two years at a time rather than the current practice of setting caps for just one year. The proposal would not include a biennial appropriations change, however, meaning lawmakers would still have to clear spending bills each year to dole out federal funding. Committee leaders, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) and House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), both said they agreed that the panel should call for a biennial budget system. Womack also said there is bipartisan support to include language essentially endorsing the use of “minibus” spending packages to move measures across the floor, to find a debt-to-gross domestic product metric to determine a healthy level of debt, and to keep members in Washington if they haven’t passed spending bills on time, however, Lowey said biennial budgeting is the only area of bipartisan agreement so far. According to Womack, members of the panel plan to mark up the legislation the week of November 12. They face a November 30 deadline to submit legislation that the majority of members in both parties on the committee support.


Opioid Legislation

Tuesday evening House and Senate leadership announced that a bicameral and bipartisan agreement had been reached on a broad legislative package addressing the opioid misuse and overdose epidemic.

The package easily passed the House today by a vote of 393 to 8. Senate consideration is expected to follow in October and, in all likelihood, the bill will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature prior to the November elections.

Please find attached a section-by-section summary.  These materials are also available here.

Ultimately, the bill did not include changes to the 42 CFR Part 2 privacy statute and House sponsor Rep. Mullin (R-OK) told reporters this week that he is hopeful the Senate will vote on the bill as a standalone measure during the lame duck session later this year.

The bill did include a repeal of the Institution of Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion and expanded buprenorphine prescribing authorities; as we had previously reported, those three provisions were among the biggest differences between the House and Senate packages.

Hearing on Sober Living Homes

This morning, the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing entitled, “Examining Sober Living Homes.”

Some of the key issues raised during witness testimony included: operation of sober homes by bad actors who exploit individuals in need of treatment in order to get insurance money, and the ability of state and local governments to regulate sober homes and the associated negative impact bad actor facilities may have on residential areas.

A detailed summary of the hearing is attached.


Pharmacy Gag-Clause Bills

The House passed two bills this week by voice vote to ban so-called gag clauses that prevent pharmacists from telling a patient that a drug may be cheaper if they do not use their insurance benefit.  The bills (S. 2553 and S. 2554) previously passed the Senate and now head to the President’s desk for his signature.


Maternal and Infant Mortality

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, “Better Data and Better Outcomes: Reducing Maternal Mortality in the U.S.”

A discussion draft sponsored by Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-WA) was the subject of the hearing and following emotional testimony from Charles Johnson, whose wife died after a planned c-section for the birth of their second child, Members expressed commitment to moving the legislation this year.  As the House will be on recess through the elections, Committee consideration and a vote on the Floor will likely have to wait until the lame duck.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed companion legislation in July.

A detailed summary of the hearing is attached.

Pandemic Preparedness

By voice vote the House passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (HR 6378).  The legislation, which reauthorizes Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) response to disaster and threats from emerging infectious diseases and chemical and other biological threats, now heads to the Senate for consideration.


As of press time, the following upcoming hearings of note have been noticed:

  • October 3, 2018
    • Senate Aging Committee entitled, “Patient-Focused Care: A Prescription to Reduce Health Care Costs”





Katie Weyforth Vanlandingham

Van Scoyoc Associates

800 Maine Ave SW

Suite 800

Washington, DC  20024