HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Advocates Target Home Care for BBB Revival

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Groups and lawmakers advocating for Democrats’ domestic agenda, from clean energy to health care, are renewing campaigns tailored to their target audience: Joe Manchin.

Labor groups recently held a tele-town hall for West Virginians to talk about the need to expand home care offerings. The Service Employees International Union recorded a robocall with actress Jennifer Garner, a native of the state, urging West Virginians to call their senators and ask for action on home care. And child-care advocates rallied outside the Capitol last week in favor of a proposal from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that would increase funds to states for child care and early childhood education.

Many of Democrats’ priorities are unlikely to receive enough bipartisan support. To get favored measures through in a sweeping package with a simple majority, they need to convince the West Virginia senator to get on board by addressing his concerns about growing inflation and the problems facing his home state.

The effort comes as Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have restarted talks on a reconciliation bill. They met again Wednesday to discuss a potential deal, according to an aide granted anonymity to speak candidly. Read more from Zach C. Cohen and Alex Ruoff.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Friday’s Hearings:

  • The Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds a Friday listening session on the cannabis industry in Native American tribes and communities, “as discussions around national cannabis reform legislation take shape,” according to a statement.
  • BGOV Calendar: See the full week of events.

Romney Slams Biden Team on Covid Aid Talks: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said the Biden administration gave him “patently false” information about its ability to buy more Covid vaccines with existing funding earlier this year and said that his relationship with the White House has been “shaken.” Romney was a top negotiator for a $10 billion package of Covid aid that remains stalled after Republicans tried to tied an immigration policy to the legislation, Alex Ruoff reports.

He told Biden administration officials at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Thursday that he wouldn’t have put his support behind that package if the White House had been clearer about available funds. The administration this month shifted roughly $10 billion meant for coronavirus supplies and other programs to buy next-generation vaccines and antivirals.

House Floor Next Week: The House plans to vote on bills to terminate the special waiver doctors need to prescribe substance use disorder treatment medicine (H.R. 7666); direct the federal government to collect voluntary data on sexual orientation and gender identity to measure discrimination (H.R. 4176); establish a new agency focused on developing medical breakthroughs for diseases such as cancer (H.R. 5585), enhance mental health care for veterans (H.R. 6411); and provide treatment for vets who were exposed to toxic burn pits (H.R. 3967) — which the Senate passed yesterday — according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Industry and Regulation

FTC Targets Pharmacy Agent Fees: High drug rebates that pharmacy benefit managers require from drugmakers may violate federal competition laws if they stifle patient access, according to a policy statement passed unanimously by the FTC Thursday. The Federal Trade Commission voted to issue an outline for how it will use existing competition and consumer protection laws to examine rebates and fees paid by drug manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers, which run prescription drug benefits. Read more from Celine Castronuovo.

Rule Advances on Resolving Surprise Billing Fights: A regulation that may affect the way arbitrators decide claims disputes in surprise billing cases is under review at the Office of Management and Budget. A federal court in February overruled a provision in an interim rule to instruct arbitrators to prefer the amount closest to the median in-network rate in settling payment disputes between insurers and out-of-network health-care providers. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Medicare Age 60 Would Cut Uninsured but Swell Spending: Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 would cut the number of uninsured by 400,000 in 2023 and cause 2.5 million people to leave their employer-sponsored health coverage to join the program, according to research released Thursday by the Urban Institute. The new enrollees would hike Medicare spending by nearly $65 billion, and the US deficit would grow by $504 billion over a decade, the analysis says. Read more from Tony Pugh.

WTO Approves Vaccine-Patent Waiver to Help Combat Pandemic: The World Trade Organization approved a politically important deal Friday to water down intellectual property restrictions for the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines after an almost two-year effort involving scores of high-level meetings and much political arm twisting, Bryce Baschuk reports.

More Headlines:

What Else to Know Today

Low-Income Drug Discount Fight Looms in HHS’s Supreme Court Loss: A US Supreme Court loss for the HHS in a Medicare case gives the agency ammunition in a broader battle over drugmaker discounts for low-income Americans. All nine Supreme Court justices agreed that HHS wrongly slashed $1 billion a year in drug reimbursements to hospitals through a program designed to help at-need populations. The HHS and hospitals are now on the same side in another courtroom conflict over that program—whether the HHS can require that drugmakers offer discounts to certain pharmacies. Read more from Ian Lopez and Allie Reed.

Monkeypox Shows US Learned Little From Covid, Advocates Say: US testing for monkeypox is insufficient to determine how widespread the virus is and where new cases are cropping up, infectious disease experts and advocates say. While government labs have the capacity to test as many as 8,000 samples a week, they are only using 2% of that capability. Madison Muller has more.

Biogen Seeks SCOTUS Review of Description Standard: Biogen International is seeking Supreme Court justices’ views on how much support an inventor must provide to adequately describe an invention in a patent, an issue that’s split the Federal Circuit. Samantha Handler has more.

Employees Defer Medical Care Amid Financial Pressures: Forty percent of employees surveyed by benefits advisory company Willis Towers Watson deferred medical care over the past year. Twenty-five percent of those employees said that they could not afford it, with a majority of that subset saying their health suffered. Read more from Sara Hansard.

More Headlines:

Editor’s Note: BGOV’s Health Care Briefing will not publish on the Monday, June 20 federal holiday celebrating Juneteenth. Publication will resume Tuesday, June 21.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at; Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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