This week the Senate Finance Committee will mark up its opioid package. Additionally, the HELP Committee will hear from Secretary Azar on the Administration’s effort to lower prescription drug prices. For our complete review and what else to watch for this week, click here.

To date, 34 states (including D.C.) have adopted Medicaid expansion. Of the remaining 17 states, some are considering expanding Medicaid. States with recent activity relating to Medicaid expansion include Florida, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.  Last week, Virginia became the latest state to expand Medicaid and also tied a Medicaid work requirement to the expansion. California is also exploring expanding Medicaid to undocumented adults.

Below we have highlighted recent state grassroots, legislative, and executive action to expand Medicaid. Continue Reading A Rundown of Recent State Action Relating to Medicaid Expansion

On Wednesday May 9th, I was floored when the Administration released the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which contained this nugget: by December 2018, HRSA will publish its 340B Omnibus Guidance. Readers of our blog know that, as we predicted, this so-called Mega-Guidance was withdrawn in January 2017 without ever seeing the light of day. Within a day, the Unified Agenda was reposted with references to the so-called 340B Mega-Guidance removed, and HRSA acknowledged that its inclusion in the Unified Agenda was an error. The 340B Guidance remains shelved.  Continue Reading Last Week in 340B: the Revival [not] of the 340B Mega-Guidance, Another Senate Hearing, and the Trump Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices

This week, the House is set to vote on Right to Try legislation which has gained the support of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. In the Senate, the HELP Committee will review the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act, or PAHPA, along with rural health care issues, which the Senate Finance Committee also happens to be looking at this week. On the Administration’s side, several agencies took steps forward consistent with the President’s agenda on drug pricing. How this plays out over the next several months will be relevant to all stakeholders in this space. We cover this and more in this week’s preview, which can be found here.

On Friday, after weeks of delay, the President finally delivered his Drug Pricing Speech and released the HHS Blueprint detailing the Trump Administration’s plan to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs.

The speech made pointed attacks on “the middlemen” and drug lobbyists. President Trump even called out Secretary Azar’s past role as a drug company executive when calling out drug companies’ role in high drug prices. Continue Reading President Trump Delivers Much Anticipated Drug Pricing Speech

On Tuesday, May 8th, the House held three hearings related to combating the opioid epidemic. The first hearing came out of the Energy and Commerce (E&C) Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which examined opioid distribution and diversion by the pharmaceutical industry. The second hearing came out of the E&C Subcommittee on Health, which examined the current statutory restrictiveness on the medical profession’s ability to coordinate substance use disorder (SUD) treatment due to prohibitions on certain patient information disclosure. The third hearing came out of the House Judiciary Committee and examined best practices in international and domestic enforcement on drug traffickers in curbing the supply of opioids across the U.S. Continue Reading Congress Holds Hearings and Proposes Legislation to Combat Vexing Opioid Crisis

This week, Congress is back in session with the House continuing its work on addressing the opioid crisis. There are three hearings and a markup on several pieces of legislation intended to address the ongoing epidemic. Once the House finishes its work, focus will move to the Senate side where the prospects of passage become more challenging as we head into summer. On the Affordable Care Act, insurers are beginning to submit rate increase proposals for 2019 which could lead to some jaw-dropping increases as we saw in Virginia last week. We cover this and more in this week’s preview, which can be found here.

This week, the focus shifts back to the Congressional push around addressing the opioid epidemic after the President’s speech on drug pricing was postponed. Both committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate are moving on opioid legislation this week, so that has our immediate attention. The speech delay offers a momentary reprieve for stakeholders, but there’s still a Request for Information of some kind pending at the Office of Management and Budget, so it is likely that there will be action in this eventually.

Additionally, on our radar are new Democratic proposals around expansion of health coverage as well as the Administration’s potential action regarding ACA nondiscrimination protections. We cover this and more in this week’s health care preview, which you can find here.

On Monday, CMS published a number of policies changing the dynamics of the individual market, including the Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019 Final Rule, guidance on hardship exemptions, and a bulletin on transitional (grandmothered) plans. When interpreting all of these policies it’s important to keep in mind the following: What is success? And who is defining it?

The Obama Administration managed ACA implementation with the clear intention of making sure the outcome met the goals of the law: more people covered, more choices of coverage for those people, and lower premiums.  While the success of their efforts can be debated, the intention was always known.

For the Trump Administration, it is not necessarily clear how successful implementation of this next rule will be judged.  Are they trying to maximize the number of people covered, maximize the number of choices available or lower premiums?  What is the organizing principle?  Is it as simple as providing additional regulatory flexibility?

There are two other stakeholders who also have to determine their definition of success in the face of this rule: states and insurers.  For states, they will have to determine if and how they will use the additional flexibility granted to them under their rule.  Insurers, with the loss of the individual mandate and CSRs, and the looming threat of STLDIs and AHPs, have to decide if the rule provides a stable environment for participation.

From now through the start of the next open enrollment period, we expect significant backstage drama as insurers, states, and the Administration answer these questions.  The offerings and premiums available to Americans six days before the midterm elections depend on these decisions. Continue Reading CMS Benefit and Payment Rule: What is Success for the ACA?