HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Panel Preps Bipartisan Mental Health Bill

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A key House committee will vote on a bipartisan package of mental health legislation that would expand requirements for health insurers to cover mental health care.

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will vote next week on a bill introduced on Friday that would reauthorize several federal health programs and require self-funded, non-federal governmental plans to comply with laws requiring the same coverage for mental health care as other types of medical care.

The measure, unveiled by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the Democratic and Republican heads of the Energy and Commerce Committee, represents an effort by lawmakers to address the rising number of overdose deaths and suicides in the U.S. Annual overdose deaths reached 100,000 last year, an all-time high. The suicide rate in the U.S. has fluctuated in recent years but stands as the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Americans are counting on Congress to ensure that the care and treatment programs they rely upon are available,” Pallone said in a statement Friday. “This bipartisan, comprehensive legislation will help restore hope by bolstering programs that provide the essential support and care millions of Americans need right now.” If approved by the subcommittee, their legislation would also need the full committee’s approval before leaders schedule it for a vote on the House floor, Alex Ruoff reports.

Happening on the Hill

Hearings This Week:

  • The House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday on the National Institutes of Health’s fiscal 2023 budget request. The NIH’s acting director, Lawrence Tabak, and National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases Director Anthony Fauci are among those set to attend.
  • The House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee also scheduled a hearing on “maximizing” the well-being of older people. Elder Justice Coalition Director Robert Blancato and Senior Citizens Inc. CEO Patricia Lyons are among those set to testify.
  • The House Homeland Security Border Security Subcommittee plans to hold a Thursday hearing examining the Homeland Security Department’s effort to combat the national opioid epidemic.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to mark up a bipartisan measure (S. 3846) Thursday to reauthorize the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program that provides grants for mental health courts, crisis intervention teams and other programs to help law enforcement assist those with mental illness.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is set to vote this week on a bill introduced on Friday that would reauthorize multiple federal health programs and require self-funded, non-federal governmental plans to comply with laws requiring the same coverage for mental health care as other types of medical care, Alex Ruoff reports.
  • The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee may act on legislation to reauthorize user fee agreements between the Food and Drug Administration and health industry. The leaders of the full committee offered a bipartisan proposal last week that would let the FDA remove from the market any drugs that won accelerated approval if they fail to show clinical benefits, Celine Castronuovo and Jeannie Baumann reported.
  • Follow BGOV’s nomination and vote tracker here, and click here for a complete list of this week’s Hill hearings and markups.

Abortion Fight Center Stage

Biden Taps Party’s Abortion Fury as Midterms Loom: White House officials are seizing the political opportunity in Democrats’ doomsday scenario, the end of nationwide abortion rights, to try to salvage a midterm election thought to be all but lost for the president’s party. An expected Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling next month will give Biden the chance to convince abortion-rights supporters that voting is the best way to channel their frustration, one adviser said. It’s a message the White House believes will resonate with suburban women, minorities and young voters, the adviser said.

Senior Biden advisers say that since the leak of the court’s draft Roe decision, they have seen a spike in engagement, anger and enthusiasm from their base voters. Polls have previously shown Republicans more eager to vote in November, following attacks on Biden and his party on inflation, immigration, crime and the pandemic. But with new surveys showing broad support among women and young people for abortion rights, the draft ruling could “be a jolt out of complacency and malaise” for key segments of the electorate, said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

  • About 100 protesters took the battle over abortion rights to the homes of two conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices Saturday night. Bearing signs and chanting slogans, the group marched from Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Chevy Chase, Md. to Chief Justice John Roberts’ residence a half mile away. The protesters then returned to Kavanaugh’s before police ordered them to disperse. It wasn’t clear whether either justice’s family was home. Read more from Greg Stohr.
  • A broad majority of Americans in a new poll say abortion should be legal if the mother’s health is at risk or the pregnancy is due to rape—a potential risk for Republicans backing bans with no exceptions. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center released Friday, 73% of adults favor an exception to abortion bans for the mother’s life and health and 69% said back an exception for rape. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has vetoed anti-abortion bills from GOP-controlled legislature three times—and vowed promised to defend abortion rights as long as he’s in office. That window is fast closing. He steps down in January, and the battle to succeed him is one of the most contested among the 36 governor races this November. Pennsylvania is one of 12 states where control is split between the two parties. Read more from Elise Young, Gregory Korte, and Kelsey Butler.

Military Could Lose Female Troops Under Roe Rollback: U.S. troops could see abortion access severely curtailed if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark verdict on reproductive rights, potentially hurting military recruitment and the retention of women. As employees of the federal government, doctors on military bases are already prohibited from performing abortions—so female troops and the female spouses of troops must seek out the procedure on their own. That would become even more difficult if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. Read more from Roxana Tiron.

What Else to Know Today

Hepatitis Cases in Kids Under CDC’s Probe Grows: Twenty-five states and territories have reported cases of children’s hepatitis with no known cause, bumping the total number under investigation to 109, health officials said Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there have so far been five reported deaths among such cases and 14% of the patients needed liver transplants. About half of the suspected hepatitis cases were linked to adenovirus, which the agency said is at the “top of the list” of viruses of interest. Read more from Madison Muller.

More Headlines:

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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