In Washington on November 19, the House passed the Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending plan. The bill includes language that would allow Medicare to negotiate some drug prices, penalize drug makers that hike prices faster than inflation, and cap drug costs for seniors and patients who use insulin. The Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis of the drug pricing policies Thursday, estimating the proposal could save the federal government nearly $300 billion. The package now moves to the Senate for consideration where action will likely not be taken until after Thanksgiving.
In Massachusetts on November 17, the Legislature wrapped up their formal sessions for the year. On the final day, the House passed H4262, an act enhancing the market review process. The bill would reform the state’s “determination of need” (DON) process by giving the Health Policy Commission the authority to investigate the market impact of hospital expansions, not just mergers and acquisitions, on service area of an independent community hospitals. The Senate passed S2572, an act addressing barriers to care for mental health. The bill increases access to mental health care, proposing to mandate insurance coverage for an annual mental health wellness exam, similar to an annual physical exam, and eliminate insurers’ prior authorization for patients who need acute mental health treatment. It also sets a rate floor to reimburse mental health clinicians at the same level as primary care providers for evaluation and management services. Also, the Committee on Health Care Financing released favorably from Committee, S771, an act relative to pharmaceutical access, costs and transparency, and H1311, an act relative to step therapy and patient safety. The Legislature will return to Formal Sessions on January 5, 2022.
Also on November 17, MassBio released a new report on the state of diversity and the opportunities to grow inclusion and equity in the Massachusetts biopharma industry. The report found a stunning 164% increase in gender diversity on biopharma Boards compared to a similar 2017 survey, while identifying positive trends in overall industry diversity. The report also presents clear opportunities for how companies can improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, especially around employee engagement, and data collection and measurement.