Last week, President Biden ordered a nationwide vaccine mandate applicable to nearly 100 million Americans. The order mandates that “all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.” Biden is also requiring vaccination for executive branch employees and contractors that work with the federal government, with no option for regular testing in its place.
Also on Thursday, Xavier Becerra, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposal to lower prescription drug prices. According to the press release, “one of the key policies in this effort is legislation that would allow the Secretary of HHS to negotiate Medicare Part B and Part D drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies and make those prices available to other purchasers, an approach that is projected to generate reductions inpatient cost-sharing and large savings for patients, government, and commercial payers.” A fact sheet for the plan can be viewed, here.
In addition, the Energy and Commerce Committee released their budget reconciliation mark-up. Included in the mark-up was HR3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) previously estimated HR3 could save the federal government more than $456 billion over ten years, while also increasing wages and reducing health insurance premiums. Among its provisions, HR3 requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to annually negotiate with drug manufacturers for the highest priced and most commonly used prescription drugs, including insulin and it requires drug manufacturers who increase their prices faster than inflation to pay back that excess amount to the federal government.
This week, beginning September 14, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means continues its markup of its portion of the $3.5 billion budget reconciliation bill, the “Build Back Better Act.” Of interest to the life sciences, the Committee will consider provisions to “expand access to health coverage, including through modifications to the Affordable Care Act (ACA); reduce prescription drug prices, including through Medicare government drug price negotiations; modify the Medicare Part D program; and create incentives for physician training in rural and underserved communities.” More information can be found here.
In Massachusetts, the Health Policy Commission meets on Wednesday to discuss and release its 2021 Health Care Cost Trends Report, which includes new research and policy recommendations for health care reform in Massachusetts. The agenda can be viewed here. Also on Wednesday, Senator Adam Hinds, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency joins MassBio for its next Policymakers Live. During the event, Senator Hinds will discuss his legislative priorities for the session, COVID-19’s impact on the state’s residents and business community, and what life in the Commonwealth may look like post-pandemic. Register for the event here.