Legislative Update: Week of December 9, 2019
Members of Massachusetts’ Senate leadership cancelled their plans to travel to Israel this week in light of the on-going stalemate over the FY2019 supplemental budget. Senator Michael Rodrigues and Senator Cindy Friedman, who both sit on the six-person Conference Committee charged with negotiating the differences between the House and Senate budgets, were two of the 10 delegates expected to travel for the 10-day excursion, organized and mostly paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. To date, the appointed Conference Committee has not reached a compromise over the supplemental budget, which includes language to extend the sunset on copay assistance. The Legislature can still approve this bill during informal sessions that will be held twice-a-week for the remainder of the year.
On Tuesday, the Senate HELP Committee approved the nomination of Dr. Stephan Hahn as Commissioner of the FDA with a vote of 18-5. His nomination will now be advanced to the full Senate.
On Friday, the MA Health Policy Commission (HPC) and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) will hold public hearings on the proposed regulations governing drug manufacturers drug pricing practices. The hearing on the EOHHS regulations will begin at 10 am, followed by the hearing on the HPC regulations at 1 pm. The deadline to submit comments for the EOHHS regulations is December 13th at 5 pm, and the deadline to submit comments for the HPC regulations is December 20th at 5 pm.
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on Speaker Pelosi’s proposed bill, H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. House Democratic Leaders and Committee Chairs announced that they have enough guidance from the Congressional Budget Office to bring the bill to the floor. Among its provisions, H.R. 3 aims to lower prescription drug prices in Medicare and commercial markets through Health and Human Services (HHS) negotiations with drug manufacturers, with a cap on the negotiated price based on an average of the international prices paid for the same drug.
On Monday, as a Republican alternative to Speaker Pelosi’s H.R. 3, Republican leadership introduced H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act. This proposed legislation strips the most aggressive elements of H.R. 3, but would require drug manufacturers to pay 10% of drug costs at every stage of Medicare Part D coverage. It would also cap out-of-pocket expenditures for Medicare beneficiaries at $3,100, add a monthly cap, and cap co-payments for insulin at $50 per month under Medicare.