Congress returns to work; appropriations bills are primary focus

The 115th Congress returned to work this week with a number of important issues on their agenda.  Of primary focus is to complete legislation to fund defense and non-defense (domestic) spending for the next two years.  The spending bills need to be passed into law by March 23.  The appropriations will be part of an omnibus bill that is not expected to include significant health care provisions, however we continue to remain watchful of the process.

Two other issues of importance to health care, the 34OB drug program and the opioid crisis, remain in the spotlight on Capitol Hill:

  • 340B – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently held a hearing related to a two-year study of the 340B drug pricing program.  Also, SDAHO joined the American Hospital Association (AHA) and 35 state and regional hospital associations last week in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse a district court decision and grant a preliminary injunction to stop a nearly 30 percent Medicare payment reduction for many hospitals in the program.  We will continue to work with AHA and our systems advocacy group to share the negative impacts of the payment reductions with our congressional delegation as we work to identify solutions.
  • Opioid Crisis –  Yesterday a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act 2.0, legislation that would increase funding authorization levels for CARA programs and implement additional policy reforms to combat the opioid crisis. The bill would authorize $1 billion in dedicated resources to evidence-based prevention, enforcement, treatment and recovery programs. Among other provisions, it would impose a three-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) also held a hearing on the opioid crisis and the role of technology and data in preventing and treating addiction. In opening comments, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the committee plans to markup legislation to address the opioid crisis as soon as the end of March.