Pallone, Wyden Call on Administration to Stop Allowing Harmful Medicaid Waivers
On February 19, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Democratic Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar about waivers that impose restrictions on Medicaid eligibility. The letter asserts that these waivers “undermine access to health care and violate the plain text and purpose of Title XIX of the Social Security Act and Congress’s longstanding intent for the Medicaid program.” In addition, the letter says that “new evidence indicates that the Administration is failing to appropriately track or evaluate the impact of these misguided policies.” In conclusion the authors urge the Secretary “to put a halt to any and all Section 1115 demonstration requests that jeopardize the health and financial security of millions of low-income Americans.” See the Pallone press release; Top Democrats Rebuke Trump Administration for Medicaid Work Requirement Policies (CNN, 2/22/19).

Hearing on Restraint and Seclusion
A hearing titled Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint has been scheduled for February 27 before the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education of the House Education and Labor Committee. The hearing relates to the expected reintroduction of a bill from the last Congress, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (115th Congress H.R.7124 and S.3626). A live-stream of the hearing will begin at 10:00 am ET on the committee website.

Hearing on Drug Pricing
On February 26, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on prescription drug pricing, with witnesses from seven major pharmaceutical manufacturers. See the committee website for a recording of the hearing, witness list, and statements from Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). See also ‘It’s Finally Pharma’s Turn’: Drug CEOs Face Capitol Hill Reckoning (Politico, 2/25/18). Also interesting: Talk About Déjà Vu: Senators Set to Re-Enact Drug Price Hearing of 60 Years Ago (Kaiser Health News (2/22/19); ‘A Dark and Elaborate Art’: How Pharma Executives Are Training to Avoid Disaster at Tuesday’s Congressional Grilling (STAT, 2/25/19).

Insulin Investigation
In related news, last Friday, Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden launched an investigation into the price of insulin. As explained in the committee press release, they sent letters to leading insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi asking for specific information regarding recent price increases for insulin, including the process used to determine list and negotiated prices;  the cost of research and development, production, marketing and advertising; profits; and the companies’ funding of patient-assistance programs and third-party tax-exempt organizations. See, Drug Pricing Fight Centers on Insulin (The Hill, 02/20/19); (Powerful Senate Committee Launches Bipartisan Probe Into Insulin Pricing (STAT, 2/22/19).

Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act Introduced
The bipartisan Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647) has been re-introduced in the House by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), Yvette Clark (D-NY), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Greg Walden (R-OR), and now has over 100 cosponsors. The bill would expand and promote palliative care and hospice research, education, and training, and would institute a campaign to raise national awareness for palliative care. In the last Congress, similar bills were introduced in the House and Senate. The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and garnered 56 cosponsors (a majority of the Senate.) The Hospice Action Network has prepared a summary of the legislation.

House Passes Bipartisan Poison Control Bill
On February 25, the House passed the bipartisan Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 501) by voice vote. The bill, which would reauthorize the national network of Poison Control Centers, has not yet been acted upon in the Senate.

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