HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: McConnell to Unveil Stimulus Bill Today

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is set to unveil the GOP stimulus plan, with a series of bills that are set for introduction as soon as today.

Republicans and the White House reached agreement last night on spending for the stimulus, which will clear the way for McConnell to offer “a handful of bills” that will form part of the virus relief package to take into negotiations with Democrats, according to Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

“It will probably be several bills that come together as a package,” Blunt told reporters after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “They will all be available tomorrow, or maybe a little later than tomorrow. But the goal is tomorrow.”

Among the provisions are another round of direct payments to individuals, $105 billion in aid for schools including those that reopen classrooms and $25 billion to expand virus testing. Read more from Laura Litvan.

On Lawmakers’ Radars:

  • Almost 50 groups, including the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Consumers League, are pressing Congress to include funding for adequate testing in the next coronavirus package. A letter spearheaded by health care advocacy groups was sent to House and Senate leadership Tuesday. It urged them to “prioritize robust federal funding for the critical testing needed to reopen the country.” Megan Wilson has more.
  • Hospitals, doctors, and nursing groups joined in sending a letter to Senate leaders seeking another $100 billion in emergency funds to fight the virus. The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association said frontline health care providers “are experiencing significant financial losses” due to “the decrease of inpatient and outpatient services.” Read the letter here.
  • A group aligned with health industry lobbying firms launched an advertising campaign urging Congress to add emergency funds for hospitals and health care workers. The ads by the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care will play primarily in Washington, D.C., and a multimedia campaign will include radio ads and a social media push, the coalition said. Find the new ad here.

Happening on the Hill

GOP Seeks to Move PPE Supply Chains From China: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced legislation to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign supply chains for personal protective equipment, according to a statement the senators released yesterday. The bill would outline requirements for acquiring PPE for the Strategic National Stockpile, and establish an investment credit for qualifying PPE manufacturing projects, they said. Victoria Hodges has more.

Warren Presses CDC on Case Surge: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield about his agency’s legal authority to take actions aimed at suppressing the hike in Covid-19 cases. Warren in a letter to Redfield asked if the CDC has looked at whether harder-hit states would benefit from “more serious interventions from federal public health authorities,” including targeted mask requirements and a limit on gatherings. Read more from Jameelah Robinson.

Senators Unveil Maternal, Infant Mortality Bill: Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) unveiled a bipartisan bill yesterday they say can “help reduce the egregious racial inequities in maternal and infant mortality,” according to a statement. They cite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that mortality rates for Black mothers in recent years was more than double than that of White mothers. The bill would create a pilot program to support women’s postpartum health. Find bill text here.

Today’s Hearings:

  • Opening Schools: The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education plans a hearing on safely reopening schools after Covid-19-related shutdowns.
  • Heroes Act: The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), a House-passed $3.5 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package.

Appropriations: The first package of fiscal 2021 appropriations bills (H.R. 7608) will be considered on the House floor today and includes the Agriculture-FDA, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and State-Foreign Operations bills.

The House Rules Committee made 132 amendments in order in its rule for consideration yesterday, voting 8-4 in favor of the rule. Many of the amendments may be packaged together in “en bloc” amendments. For the State and Foreign Operations title of the bill, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) offered measures that would bar the U.S. from withdrawing from NATO or from the World Health Organization.

Second Package: The deadline for members to submit amendments for the House’s second spending package, which includes the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill (H.R. 7614). is 4:30 p.m. today. As of last night, a few measures had already been posted on the Rules Committee website, including a provision by Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) that would prevent the Justice Department from using funds to argue in court against the Affordable Care Act.

House Health Panel to Take Up Five Bills: Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who chairs the Health subcommittee, announced that the panel will hold a remote hearing next Wednesday to discuss five bills, Alex Ruoff reports:

  • H.R. 2075 to reauthorize school-based health centers;
  • H.R. 4078 to help improve the low-income housing credit;
  • H.R. 4439 to make permanent the authority of the secretary of Health and Human Services to issue priority review vouchers that would encourage treatments for rare pediatric diseases;
  • H.R. 4764 to reauthorize the “Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005; and
  • H.R. 5373 to reauthorize the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Fauci, Redfield, Giroir to Testify: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis announced a July 31 hearing about the need for a national coronavirus strategy, which will feature testimony from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Redfield, and Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir, according to a statement.

Vaccine & Treatment Efforts

Pfizer Vaccine Deal at $20 a Dose: In signing a $1.95 billion deal to supply their experimental coronavirus vaccine to the U.S., Pfizer and BioNTech are setting a price ceiling of less than $20 a dose that will impact how much other companies can charge to protect people from Covid-19. In the Pfizer deal, the U.S. agreed to secure 100 million doses of its candidate. The payment depends on approval by the Food and Drug Administration and ability to successfully manufacture it.

Pfizer’s $19.50 price-point will take into account the “public health requirements during the pandemic,” said Sally Beatty, a Pfizer spokeswoman. The companies are pursuing a two-dose regimen of one of its vaccine offerings, and the roughly $40 course is nearly 30% less than what other companies charge for a seasonal flu vaccine, Beatty said.

Governments worldwide are seeking to blunt a pandemic that’s killed more than 600,000 people, and dozens of companies are wrestling with how to price future vaccines. Rival drugmakers are unlikely to exceed the $20 price tag unless they can deliver a product that’s more effective, has fewer side effects or that doesn’t need as many doses, particularly those developing candidates based on mRNA technology, including Moderna. Read more from James Paton, Riley Grifin, and Robert Langreth.

  • Pharmaceutical companies have largely been coy about what they’ll charge for an eventual vaccine, and several shots going to market at once may not be enough to keep costs down. With global demand for the shots, several vaccine options won’t necessarily create market competition to drive down costs. However, that doesn’t mean pharmaceutical companies will be price gouging. Jeannie Baumann has more.
  • Separately, in a White House press briefing President Donald Trump said he thinks Pfizer is a “winner” after the deal. “Hopefully the approval process will go very quickly,” he said, Chelsea Mes reports.

Nursing Home Staff Tests Required in Covid Surging States: Nursing homes in states with a 5% or greater positivity for Covid-19 will be required to test all nursing home staff each week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced yesterday. The testing requirement builds on an earlier HHS announcement that rapid point-of-care diagnostic testing devices will be distributed to nursing homes along with $5 billion in the new funding from the Congress-approved provider relief fund. Read more from Fawn Johnson.

More Headlines:

What Else to Know Today:

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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