Congressional Corner




 May 11, 2017

ASTHO’s Work
ASTHO Signs On to Coalition Letter in Support of Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations  

Last week, ASTHO signed on to a letter developed by the Coalition for Health Funding, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, and the Committee for Education Funding. The letter supports increased funding for Labor, HHS, Education, and related agencies.

ASTHO Comments on National Drug Control Strategy

On Friday, ASTHO submitted comments to the Office of National Drug Control Policy regarding its National Drug Control Strategy. ASTHO’s comments applauded the Trump Administration’s action to prioritize and reduce drug misuse and addictions. The letter reinforced the need to focus on primary prevention, monitoring and surveillance, enforcement, treatment and recovery support, as well as infants exposed to opioids.

The White House  

White House Names Members of Opioid Commission

This week, President Trump announced appointments to the Commission Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which he established in March by executive order. Appointees include Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, as well as Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman who has spoken of his own addiction issues, and Bertha Madras, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital.

Capitol Hill

Senate Confirms FDA Commissioner

On May 9, the Senate confirmed Scott Gottlieb, MD, as commissioner of FDA by a vote of 57-42. Tackling the opioid epidemic will be a key priority for the new commissioner, as well as implementing the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes language to expedite drug approvals.

Senate Progress on Bills Slowed by Comey Firing

Due to unrest following former FBI director James Comey’s firing, the Senate postponed a markup on FDA user fees, which was planned for May 10. The markup has been rescheduled to May 11. Republican disagreement on AHCA also postponed a hearing last week on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which needs to be renewed by Sept. 30.

Senate Budget Resolution Could be Months

A budget resolution for FY18 will likely be delayed for several months due to a budget procedure known as reconciliation, which allows the Senate to pass a bill with a simple majority, thus not requiring any Democrats to pass health reform. The bill was due April 15. This is important because Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, insists that they will take their time to get health reform right. Work on a budget blueprint has already begun under the leadership of Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), as well as in the House of Representatives. However, final passage could be months away. The goal for both Congress and the administration is to create a budget that balances in 10 years.

FY17 Omnibus Spending Package  

The FY17 Omnibus passed last week, funding the federal government through Sept. 30. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies’ bill is Division H. ASTHO developed a chart basing President Trump’s request on our FY16 priorities. ASTHO’s government relations staff will continue to breakdown the budget request, with a more comprehensive document expected in the coming days.

Agency News

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Announces New Director

AHRQ announced Gopal Khanna as its new director. Khanna comes to AHRQ from Illinois, where he directed the State’s Data Analytics Healthcare and Human Services Innovation Incubator. In addition to serving as Minnesota’s first chief information officer, Khanna also served in the second Bush Administration in several senior policy positions.

CDC Releases Updated Anti-Lobbying Restrictions for Grantees

CDC released updated anti-lobbying restrictions this month. The document provides a general overview of lobbying restrictions on the work of CDC grantees, along with examples of restricted and permissible activities.

Health Reform

Aetna Announces Withdraw from Marketplaces

On Wednesday, Aetna announced that it will fully withdraw from ACA exchanges by 2018. It is estimated that Aetna’s withdrawal will affect approximately 255,000 customers in Delaware, Nebraska, Virginia, and Iowa.

Senate Will Wait for CBO Estimate  

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that it will release a budget estimate on the House-passed AHCA bill early in the week of May 22. Importantly, the Senate must have a score before it can formally move forward on the health reform debate.

FDA Seeks Comments on Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain

FDA seeks comments on its “Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain.” The draft broadens the current blueprint to include information on pain management, including the principles of acute and chronic pain management, non-pharmacologic treatments for pain, and pharmacologic treatments for pain (both non-opioid analgesic and opioid analgesic). Comments are due July 10 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.


NASHP Chart Provides Comparison of ACA and AHCA

A new chart from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) shows a side-by-side comparison of major components of ACA and AHCA. AHCA now moves to the Senate, and early reports indicate that states can anticipate a long process as the Senate deliberates changes. In addition to this new chart, NASHP also produced:

JAMA Internal Medicine Study on Life Expectancy

The Washington Post published an article on a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that U.S. life expectancy varies by more than 20 years from county to county. The article states what public health professionals know best: that the United States “needs to rethink how it delivers medical care, with a much greater investment in prevention, and a more holistic approach to creating healthy communities.”