United States: Capitol Hill Healthcare Update - October 23, 2017

White House Eyes Panel on Drug Prices While Senators Call for Transparency

President Donald Trump is considering appointing lawmakers to a bipartisan commission that would develop strategies to lower prescription drug prices, while senators last week called for greater transparency into how medicines are priced. Trump has been sharply critical of the pharmaceutical industry, including as recently as last week when he repeated his remarks that drug companies are "getting away with murder." The president is said to be frustrated that drug prices in the United States are higher than in other industrialized countries where governments set prices.

It is not clear whether a commission will be created or whether it would replace a potential Trump executive order on drug prices, which administration officials had focused on earlier this year. Work on that executive order has cooled in recent months. Industry officials oppose the idea of a commission, which would give their opponents on the Hill – mostly Democrats – a platform to advocate for anti-industry provisions. Democrats have long wanted to lift the ban on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) negotiating prices for Medicare Part D drugs and removing the ban on importation of drugs from other countries where governments set prices.

There were media reports this weekend that Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) could be appointed to the commission, and the National Community Pharmacists Association circulated a draft letter to Trump urging the president to name Carter to any panel examining drug pricing. Before winning election to Congress, Carter was a pharmacist in Georgia.

Meanwhile, at a Senate committee hearing last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized Hatch-Waxman patent protections that she said permit drug manufacturers to raise prices without a check from generic drug companies or the government. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was exasperated by the lack of clarity on drug prices as rebates and discounts negotiated by manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers mean similar providers can often pay different prices for the same drug. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked witnesses why Americans pay more for prescription drugs than do consumers in other industrialized countries.

Lori Reilly of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) testified that because of current negotiations and competition in the marketplace, spending on retail and physician-administered medicines represents just 14 percent of overall U.S. healthcare spending – a percentage that hasn't increased in several years despite the approval of several high-cost medicines.

It was the Senate HELP Committee's second hearing this year on drug prices with witnesses including executives from PhRMA, the Association for Accessible Medicines (formerly GPhA) and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the panel will hold a hearing next month on a National Academy of Sciences report on access to affordable drug therapies.

ACA Stabilization Bill Stalls Amid GOP Infighting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this weekend that he would schedule a vote on bipartisan legislation that would authorize cost-sharing payments to insurers, but he's waiting for clarity from President Trump after the White House demanded changes to the bill.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last week reached an agreement to renew cost-sharing payments for two years to ensure insurance plans in the individual market were affordable for low-income consumers. The bill also would give states new flexibility from Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates to design coverage. That plan quickly picked up the support of at least 12 Republicans and all 48 Democrats, meaning the bill had enough votes to overcome a filibuster and win Senate approval.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) came out against the bill. White House officials said they wanted to expand the bill to allow the sale of insurance policies across state lines; allow all Americans – not just those younger than 30 years old – to purchase catastrophic-only plans; and expand the use of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

While Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling for a vote on the Alexander-Murray bill as soon as this week, the ongoing disagreements between the White House and Congress may signal that the bill could be delayed and included in larger healthcare legislation Congress is expected to consider in December.

Top Health Officials to Testify at House Panel on Opioids

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will lead a panel of top federal officials testifying Wednesday before a House committee on the opioid crisis. The Energy and Commerce Committee is examining the federal effort to combat opioids, including the status of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. That 2016 law authorized $181 million to boost federal prevention, treatment and law enforcement efforts. Other witnesses include Neil Doherty, deputy assistant administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration; Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) institute on drug abuse.

Lawmaker Seeks Opioid Data From PBMs, Insurers

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week called on insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to provide information on why they are limiting access to less addictive pain therapies. Responding to media reports, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) questioned why cheaper but more addictive opioids were covered while access to more expensive but less addictive pain drugs was restricted. Cummings said Medicare Part D plans frequently require prior approval for non-addictive pain treatments, which are also often on higher cost-sharing tiers. Cummings sent letters to the CEOs of Aetna, Anthem, CVS Health, Humana, Optum and UnitedHealth Group. He asked that companies respond with information by Nov. 2 on each of their covered pain medications and all cost-sharing, co-insurance, co-payment, prior authorization or step therapy practices associated with those drugs.

House Panel to Examine NIH-Funded Research

A House subcommittee Tuesday will hold a hearing examining the administrative costs associated with NIH-funded research. The House appropriations subcommittee that funds HHS's budget also will examine the role of external facilities in research backed by NIH grants. While NIH enjoys broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, some lawmakers have questioned the administrative costs linked to the agency's grants. Scheduled witnesses include Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma; Dr. Gary Gilliland, president of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Dr. Bruce Liang, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine; and Dr. Keith Yamamoto, vice chancellor for science policy and strategy at the University of California at San Francisco.

Democratic Senators Introduce Medicare Public Option Plan

Two Democratic senators last week introduced legislation that would allow consumers in rural areas to buy into Medicare via the ACA's individual health insurance marketplace. The plan by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is designed to strengthen the ACA's individual markets, especially in rural areas where there is limited competition among insurers. But most Democratic senators are backing legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would establish a single-payer health plan for all consumers. While the Bennet-Kaine legislation may not fully reflect where the Democratic Party's political center of gravity is currently, the senators say their plan represents a practical and reasonable approach to fortify the ACA.

House Panel to Probe Hurricane Impact on Health Preparedness

The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on Tuesday will hear from top federal health officials on HHS's public health preparedness and response to this year's hurricane season. Witnesses include FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Kimberly Brandt, principal deputy administrator for operations at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Gottlieb on Friday said his agency is working closely with pharmaceutical and medical device companies with manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico to help them get back online. More than 50 device manufacturing plants on the island have continued to run on generator power but haven't been able to return to pre-hurricane production levels, Gottlieb said.

Walden Seeks Details on Healthcare Malware Attack

The Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wants answers from a Massachusetts healthcare communications company that was hit with a malware attack last summer to understand potential cyber policy solutions his panel may pursue. In a letter to Nuance Communications, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said the so-called "NotPetya" cyberattack in June "severely disrupted the ability of healthcare professionals to treat patients." Nuance provides transcription and voice-to-text dictation services to healthcare providers. Walden asked the company to brief the committee by Nov. 2 about the initial infection, and the company's efforts to restore its services and prevent future attacks.

Down Syndrome Focus of House Committee Hearing

The House appropriations subcommittee that funds HHS's budget will hold a hearing Tuesday on the status of the science and potential for discoveries related to Down Syndrome. Two lawmakers with family members who have Down Syndrome – Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) – are scheduled to testify. Other witnesses include Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus; Michelle Sie Whitten, CEO of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation; Dr. William Mobley, executive director of the Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment; Dr. Joaquin Espinosa, executive director for Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; and Frank Stephens, recipient of the Quincy Jones Advocate award from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions