HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Bipartisan $35 Insulin Cap Making Headway
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’ll bring a bipartisan measure capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month to the Senate floor soon for a vote.
The new bill offered by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the product of months of talks. But so far, the only Republican to announce support is Collins, well short of the 10 GOP votes that Democrats will need to avert a filibuster and pass the measure using the normal legislative process.
Collins is talking with fellow Republicans like Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and John Cornyn (Texas) and believes there’s a plausible path to 60 votes, according to a Senate aide who asked not to be identified discussing the deliberations. She said she’s spoken with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the measure, but isn’t yet asking for co-sponsors.
Separately, Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are discussing capping insulin costs in a partisan budget bill that would require just 50 Democrats to pass the Senate. That bill would block insurers and pharmaceutical benefit managers from collecting rebates on insulin products kept at their 2021 Medicare Part D net prices—effectively allowing drug makers to keep a larger share of revenue. Read more from Erik Wasson and Alex Ruoff.
- Whatever happens with the Manchin-Schumer talks, House progressives still must be persuaded to support a slimmed-down version of the bill once called Build Back Better before a Sept. 30 deadline. Democrats, however, seem to at least have a tentative agreement on a prescription drug piece that would save money. “Prescription drugs is easy—I think we’re all in agreement on that,” Manchin said, Bloomberg News’ Steven T. Dennis, Erik Wasson and Laura Davison report.
- Manchin’s staff had previously explored altering the House-passed prescription drug provisions to expand the exception for Medicare price negotiations for new biologic drugs, two people familiar with the talks said. But when asked about it last week, Manchin said he isn’t looking to alter the House-passed bill’s prescription drug provisions. Read more.
House Passes Addiction, ARPA-H Measures
House Votes to Undo Addiction Drug Hurdles: Advocates for expanding the use of anti-addiction medications got a major win on Wednesday as the House passed legislation (H.R. 7666) by a 402-20 vote to make it easier for doctors to prescribe such medicines. Read the BGOV Bill Summary here. But the legislation has an uncertain future in the Senate, where the Finance Committee is crafting its own bipartisan package on addiction. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
- At the White House, US officials are making a play to solidify the pandemic era-expansion of telehealth access for people with addiction, offering up suggestions to federal agencies and Congress in a new report. The expansion, made possible by the public health emergency, has opened doors for treating those with substance use disorder. But the White House’s drug control office says whether the impact will be positive in the long term remains to be seen. Read more from Ian Lopez.
House Passes Bill to Create Biden’s Biomedical Agency: House passage of legislation to shepherd biomedical breakthroughs through a new agency marks a key step in shaping how the entity will use billions in health spending, Jeannie Baumann reports. The bill (H.R. 5585), which the House passed by a 336-85 vote, would establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health. Read the BGOV Bill Summary here.
Closer Look at Gun Bill’s Health Provisions
The bipartisan Senate gun safety package released on Tuesday features a slew of health-care provisions targeting behavioral health in youth. Under the Senate amendment to S. 2938, the federal government would authorize $50 million for fiscal 2022 for the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to states to strengthen Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) assistance through school-based entities, including school health centers.
The measure would also offer $40 million for additional planning grants and demonstration programs under the certified community behavioral health clinics program. It would direct HHS to award grants to states to apply for demonstration programs, so that up to 10 additional states could participate every two years. The measure would provide $5 million for two years and $1 million annually every year after for HHS to review states’ progress implementing Medicaid requirements for early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment benefits for children under 21. Christina Banoub, Dan Lee, and Brittney Washington break down the gun legislation in a BGOV Bill Summary.
Also Happening on the Hill
- The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis holds a Thursday hearing with Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as former President Donald Trump’s Covid response coordinator.
- The House Appropriations Committee will mark up their FY 2023 Agriculture-FDA spending bill Thursday, and the panel’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will mark up their spending bill the same day.
- The Senate Aging Committee holds a Thursday hearing on “Strengthening Support for Grandfamilies” through the Covid pandemic.
- BGOV Calendar: See the full week of events.
Nominations: President Joe Biden announced his intent Wednesday to nominate Moshe Marvit to be a member of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, Bruce Rolfsen reports, as well as Patrice H. Kunesh to be commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans at HHS.
Democrats Renew Anti-Hyde Amendment Bid: House Democrats will again push to end long-standing prohibitions on federal spending for abortions in their fiscal 2023 funding bills. The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday unveiled a draft bill to give the Health and Human Services Department $124.2 billion for the year starting Oct. 1, $15.6 billion over fiscal 2022, just shy of Biden’s request. It would end the Hyde and Weldon amendments, which bar federal funds from supporting abortion services. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
- Separately, House appropriators advanced a $761.6 billion fiscal 2023 defense spending bill with adopted amendments to prohibit Pentagon money from going to the Wuhan Institute of Virology or to EcoHealth Alliance for work in China. The latter once received a National Institutes of Health grant. The bill would also block the Defense Department from denying leave for troops or civilian employees who need it to get an abortion. Read more from Jack Fitzpatrick.
House Floor: The House is slated to vote on several health-related bills Thursday, including:
- H.R. 5407 Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act;
- H.R. 6493 Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act of 2022; and
- H.R. 6411 STRONG Veterans Act of 2022, as amended.
Read details of the bills in BGOV’s House Agenda for the Week of June 20
Senators Call for DOJ Inquiry of Formula Maker: Top Senate Democrats are urging the Justice Department to examine and potentially move to block the possible potential sale of Enfamil, the infant formula making arm of Reckitt Benckiser, to a private equity firm, Erik Wasson and Ben Scent report.
- Meanwhile, the FDA is investigating the death of another infant who consumed formula made by Abbott Laboratories. The baby died in January and the FDA was notified June 10, according to a Wednesday statement. Read more from Anna Edney.
Veterans’ Health Benefits Bill Faces Delay: A procedural snag in legislation to offer enhanced benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits may delay a House floor vote and prevent passage this week. The House was set to vote on a Senate amendment to H.R. 3967 as early as Wednesday before lawmakers noticed that it adds language regarding taxable benefits, which must originate in the House. Read more from Emily Wilkins.
What Else to Know Today
US to Expand Monkeypox Testing to Large Commercial Labs: The US plans to start testing for monkeypox at five of the nation’s largest commercial laboratories, broadening its effort beyond government facilities in an effort to address rising case numbers, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. Read more from Madison Muller.
One-Fifth of Patients Have Long Covid, CDC Says: Almost a fifth of US adults who’ve had Covid-19 are currently experiencing symptoms of long Covid that persist for at least three months, federal data show. The results of a June survey by the US Census shed light on how frequently the virus’s symptoms linger beyond the initial period when people are acutely sick. Read more from John Tozzi.
- The HHS told the Supreme Court that the Eighth Circuit was right to vacate a federal court’s preliminary injunction that had blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for health-care workers in 10 states. The Eighth Circuit resolved the federal government’s appeal in April, vacating the injunction and handing decision-making back to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Allie Reed has more.
- Moderna’s omicron-targeting vaccine triggered the production of antibodies against the strain’s most recent variants, though immune responses were less robust than seen with the original version that emerged last year. Still, everyone given Moderna’s lead omicron immunization generated neutralizing antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5 in the latest trial involving about 800 people, the company said. Robert Langreth has more.
Juul Users Rush to Hoard E-Cigarettes as Ban Looms: Brand-loyal vapers are flocking to stock up on Juul Labs’s e-cigarettes, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the FDA may order the company to stop selling its e-cigarettes as soon as this week. Madison Muller has more.
Generic Makers Score Big in Rare Federal Circuit Reversal: An unusual Federal Circuit decision has given generic drugmakers a new way to successfully challenge pharmaceutical patents with certain types of claims. Novartis’ patent on the dosage regimen for the blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya didn’t have an adequate description, which the Patent Act requires for a valid patent, a US Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit panel ruled in a new opinion this week. Samantha Handler has more.
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- Pfizer’s Covid Antiviral Drug Paxlovid Target of Enanta Patent Suit
- Merck’s PCV Nod for Kids Supports ‘Potential Blockbuster’
- Attorneys General Urge Federal Crackdown on Copycat Pot Edibles
With assistance from Steven T. Dennis, Erik Wasson and Laura Davison
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