Capitol Hill Health Care Agenda

March 1, 2019

The House and Senate majorities have focused on some of their caucuses’ health care priorities in recent weeks.

The Senate Republican majority has been addressing rising drug costs and prescription drug pricing practices. The Senate Finance Committee held a high-profile hearing earlier this week at which top executives from eight pharmaceutical companies expressed a willingness to work with Congress and the Administration on several policy solutions, including the GNYHA-supported Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act. This legislation would drive down drug costs and increase competition in the pharmaceutical space by making it easier for generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to enter the marketplace. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also suggested investigating the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in rising drug costs.

House Democrats’ recent efforts have largely focused on “Medicare for All” due to the increased influence of progressives in the House Democratic Caucus. Earlier this week, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019 (H.R. 1384) with 106 original cosponsors, including 13 from New York State. To follow up on this enthusiasm for Medicare for All proposals, multiple House Committees could hold hearings on in the coming year, though it remains very unlikely that Medicare for All legislation could pass the House.

Congress will likely act on surprise medical bills in the coming year. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has requested information from insurers and hospitals on out-of-network billing practices, and Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has said that the Committee will craft surprise billing legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that addressing surprise medical bills is a priority for House Democrats. GNYHA will work to ensure that any Federal legislation that addresses surprise billing doesn’t interfere with New York’s current law.