HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Formula Bill Has Short Reach, Experts Warn

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Legislation to pause tariffs on some infant formula imports is lawmakers’ latest effort to ease a supply crisis, but trade experts warn that other hurdles are keeping foreign formula out of the US.

Congress cleared a bill on Thursday to suspend tariffs on certain formula imports until the end of December, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden to sign. Lawmakers hope pausing tariffs of as much as 17.5% for some countries will make foreign formula makers more likely to export to the US, offering relief to parents facing empty shelves.

“This change should help make formula more affordable and accessible for families in every state,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the sponsor of H.R. 8351, said. Nearly 30% of shelves were out of formula in mid-July, data analytics company IRI found.

Still, industry researchers say a suite of factors beyond tariffs makes the US market unattractive to foreign manufacturers. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Senate bill’s sponsor, said he and other lawmakers are working on further actions to increase formula supply by lowering barriers for manufacturers. Read more from Maeve Sheehey.

Also Happening on the Hill


House Passes Bill to Shield Contraception: The House passed legislation to codify contraception access on Thursday, as Democrats sought to safeguard the right in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. But the measure (H.R. 8373) is unlikely to become law, after anti-abortion groups tied it to both emergency contraceptives and the abortion pill mifepristone. It passed by a 228-195 vote, with eight Republicans voting in favor and two voting present. Read more from Alex Ruoff.


  • Abortion Data: House Democrats are probing Amazon Web Services, Oracle and other firms over their handling of location data following the fall of Roe that could be used by law enforcement in states that significantly restrict abortions. Andrea Vittorio has more.
  • Employer Coverage: Two employer business groups are asking federal agencies for guidance that would provide them protection against states seeking to block them from covering abortion services. Employers are increasingly worried that they could face civil penalties or even criminal charges for actions they are contemplating to provide abortion access to workers. Sara Hansard has more.
  • Louisiana Abortions: A judge in Louisiana on Thursday blocked a state law barring abortions, allowing the state’s three clinics to continue providing services while the challenge goes to trial. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) is expected to appeal the order. Read more from Jennifer Kay.
  • Georgia Abortions: The Eleventh Circuit’s decision to let Georgia ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected creates a thorny situation for people relying on mifepristone—a drug long ago approved by the Food and Drug Administration to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Many Georgians are now effectively blocked from using the drug after the sixth week of pregnancy, even though that time frame is allowed under FDA regulation, attorneys say. Ian Lopez and Celine Castronuovo have more.

Panel to Weigh Worker Heat Protection Bill: The House Education and Labor Committee will weigh legislation compelling the federal worker safety agency to complete a heat stress regulation as major cities across the world suffer under record-high temperatures. The labor panel will take up the bill (H.R. 2193) from Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)—which calls for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create a federal heat-stress standard—on July 27. Read more from Paige Smith.

What Else to Know Today

Biden’s Covid Case Part of Latest US Surge: President Joe Biden—who tested positive Thursday—joins a rising national Covid-19 wave dominated by a fast-spreading new variant known as BA.5, a wily evader of immune defenses. Infections have been on the rise in the US, with 177,000 new infections reported July 19, up from around 27,000 new cases on April 1. Los Angeles is seeing so many positive cases that it’s likely to bring back indoor mask mandates next week, and San Francisco virus levels in wastewater have climbed higher than the winter. Biden has begun taking Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment.

“Community transmission is very high, likely similar to what we experienced in the omicron wave in December,” said Wesley Long, medical director of microbiology at Houston Methodist Hospital. BA.5 is very good at dodging immune defenses, so even some who were infected weeks earlier with another strain may get Covid again. Carey Goldberg has more.


Biden to Name First Woman to Lead National Cancer Institute: Harvard cancer surgeon Monica M. Bertagnolli is on tap to serve as the next director of the National Cancer Institute, indicating the White House plans to install a well-known cancer physician-scientist as it shores up the next phase of the Cancer Moonshot. Bertagnolli won’t need Senateconfirmation. Jeannie Baumann has more.

Amazon to Buy One Medical for $3.49 Billion: Amazon announced it would buy primary-care company One Medical for $18 a share, the latest move by the e-commerce giant to muscle into the health-care industry. Read more from Matt Day and John Tozzi.

Monkeypox Symptom Patterns Confound Doctors: Monkeypox patients across the world are suffering from symptoms not normally linked to the virus, leading to missed and mistaken diagnoses, researchers warn. Read more from Madison Muller.

First Polio Case in N.Y. Since 2013: New York state health officials reported the first polio case found in the US since 2013 in a patient living north of New York City. The unvaccinated patient was identified as a 20-year-old man who traveled to Poland and Hungary earlier in the year, The Washington Post reported. Brandon Sapienza has more.

N.J. GOP Wants Probe of State Health Costs: Republican lawmakers in New Jersey called for a special committee to investigate sharp increases in health-care premiums for state workers. John Tozzi has more.

Editor’s Note: The headline of BGOV’s Thursday Health Care Briefing was corrected to reflect Senate staffers were set to meet with the Senate parliamentarian on drug-pricing language.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

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

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