HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Senators Pitch Youth Mental Health Bill

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The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday morning released a draft of the youth mental health policies they want included as part of larger mental health package.

The draft legislation would aim to expand mental health programs in schools by updating Medicaid guidance to states to clarify what services the program will pay for and would allow health-care providers to get Medicaid payments for delivering behavioral and physician health services on the same day.

“Young people across the country are facing unprecedented challenges, and it’s taking a devastating toll on their mental health,” Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) said in a statement.

The package was released by Wyden and the committee’s top Republican Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), as well as Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Alex Ruoff reports.

Happening on the Hill

Wednesday’s Hearings:

  • The House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee holds a Wednesday markup on its portion of the fiscal 2023 appropriations measure.
  • The Senate Judiciary Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee holds a Wednesday hearing on the consolidation of the baby formula manufacturing industry.
  • BGOV Calendar: See the full week of events.

Agriculture-FDA Would Get $27 Billion in House Bill: The Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies would get $27.2 billion in fiscal 2023, 8% above the previous year, under a proposed House spending bill. The bill includes $3.65 billion in discretionary funding for the FDA, $341 million above the previous year and slightly above the president’s request, as an infant formula shortage raises questions about the agency’s oversight. Maeve Sheehey has more.

Bill Blocks DOD From Funds to Deny Leave for Abortions: The Pentagon would be banned from using any funds to deny leave for troops or civilian employees if they need it to get an abortion under the House’s draft defense spending legislation for fiscal 2023, also released yesterday. The DOD would also be blocked from denying leave to spouses or significant others of a person seeking an abortion. That provision comes in response to a likelihood that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Roxana Tiron reports.

FDA Package on User Fees, Baby Formula Advances to Full Senate: A key Senate committee overseeing the FDA advanced a proposal to reauthorize the industry user fees that help fund the agency, paving the way for a vote in the full chamber. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Tuesday voted 13-9 in support of sweeping bipartisan legislation (S. 4348) that would revamp the Food and Drug Administration’s accelerated approval pathway and boost oversight on lab-developed tests. The committee adopted a substitute amendment that includes several measures to improve infant formula oversight amid the nationwide shortage. Read more from Celine Castronuovo and Alex Ruoff.

Lawmakers Urge FTC to Probe Janssen, Bristol-Myers Prices: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether price hikes for blood thinners were coordinated by Janssen and Bristol-Myers Squibb illegally, Stat News reported Tuesday, citing a letter. Klobuchar and Porter wrote to the FTC this week about Xarelto and Eliquis, which are some of the most expensive pharmacy drugs for the Medicare program. Read more.

Extending Covid Fraud Filing Period ‘Essential,’ DOJ Chief Says: House-passed legislation to double the statute of limitations on pandemic fraud charges to 10 years is “essential,” the Justice Department’s top prosecutor overseeing such cases testified to Congress. Kevin Chambers, who directs DOJ criminal and civil investigations of pandemic relief funding, said at a House hearing Tuesday that the “incredible volume of” ongoing and future cases necessitates the extra time. Read more from Ben Penn.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Biden Will Soon Unveil His Plan to Prepare for Next Pandemic: The Biden administration, applying lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, will soon unveil a new defense strategy against biological threats that puts the White House at the center of any future US response.

A senior administration official, speaking under the condition of anonymity as the strategy has not yet been released, said that the government has paid close attention to research that suggests there’s a 50/50 chance of another Covid-like pandemic — or one that is more deadly — over the next 25 years. The Biden plan is the result of more than a year of work by US national security and public health experts to improve the nation’s framework for preparedness, response and recovery. Read more from Riley Griffin.

Moderna Shot for Kids Wins Panel Support: Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children and teens gained the support of a panel of US regulatory advisers, putting the shot on track for likely clearance. The Food and Drug Administration’s 22-member vaccines advisory committee voted unanimously to back authorization of the immunization, intended for children and adolescents 6 to 17 years old. The vote was split into considerations of doses for children 6 to 11 years old and 12 to 17 years old. Read more from Fiona Rutherford.

Covid-19 Vaccines Seen as Model in Fight Against Other Diseases: The technology and collaboration used to develop and deliver Covid-19 vaccines could serve as a model for ramping up shots for other vaccine-preventable diseases, a former Operation Warp Speed vaccine lead said. Matthew Hepburn, who is currently a senior adviser to the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for pandemic preparedness, acknowledged such an effort would require a reprioritization of resources, Jeannie Baumann reports.

More Headlines:

What Else to Know Today

FDA Looks to Improve Cell, Gene Therapy Advice to Drugmakers: Cell and gene therapy companies will receive more consistent, coordinated advice from the FDA’s biologics center as it expects to beef up staffing during the next user fee reauthorization, Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics and Evaluation Research, said Tuesday. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Backlash Over Denials Stings Private Medicare Plans: Medicare’s steady transition from its founding fee-for-service care model has hit a serious snag with the growing flap over coverage denials by the program’s private managed care plans. By requiring plan approval, or “prior authorization,” before beneficiaries can receive certain health services, Medicare Advantage plans aim to reduce wasteful spending for unnecessary care, a problem that has dogged traditional Medicare for years. Read more from Tony Pugh.

Nursing Homes Blast Plans for Medicare Pay Cut: The nursing home industry wants the Biden administration to reconsider a proposed rule that would cut Medicare payments to facilities by $320 million in fiscal year 2023. The CMS has proposed a 3.9%, or $1.4 billion, increase in the Medicare base payment rate for nursing homes in fiscal year 2023. But facilities actually would end up with roughly $320 million less than this year due to a proposed “parity adjustment” that would reduce payments by 4.6% in the next fiscal year. Read more from Tony Pugh.

More Headlines:

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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