Critical moment for health care on the Hill

Critical moment for health care on the Hill

The contours of power loom a week after Election Day: Democrats will control the Senate in 2023 by a margin of one or two votes. The Republicans have the House but with a narrow majority.

Until the new Congress sits in January, Democrats will continue to exercise unified control.

Next year, Democrats won’t be able to use the budget process that allowed them to pass Covid-19 Relief Legislation and to reform drug pricing as they have done in the current Congress. Instead, they will have to work with the GOP.

Oliver Kim, director of health policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, spoke with Ben about what to expect in the lame session that will end 2022, and beyond. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What do you think will be the health care priorities in the lame session and the new Congress?

In the lame duck, it will be the omnibus spending bill. And my questions are, can they build on the FDA policies that left out user fee reauthorization, any additional pandemic work, and Medicare doctor payment issues?

We are all trying to grapple with what the next Congress will look like. I wonder how the debt limit plays into larger conversations about taxes and duties.

Sen. Bill Cassidy is now in line to be the most senior member of the Senate HELP committee after Sen. Rand Paul announced he was seeking the top Republican oversight job. How do you see Cassidy?

Cassidy is often involved in making deals. Many stakeholders inside the Beltway would feel more comfortable and welcome Cassidy into a leadership role.

What provisions are most likely to be included in the omnibus?

It depends on where some of the outgoing members want to concentrate their tokens. Sen. [Richard] Burr is retiring and he has been influential in many areas, from FDA drug issues to pandemic preparedness. It depends where he wants to grow.

[Energy and Commerce Chair Frank] Pallone and [ranking Republican Cathy] McMorris Rodgers did a lot of things on user fees that weren’t reflected in what was passed in September. They will also have their say.

How important is the presence of Democrats in the Senate in terms of confirming health care candidates?

Being able to speed up some of those who potentially have 51 votes is going to be pretty important. You don’t have to schedule some of these key votes around the vice president’s schedule.

And the president’s ability to move judges is going to have a huge impact on health policy. Many Affordable Care Act lawsuits are matters of statutory interpretation.

What can be done on a bipartisan basis in the new Congress?

They both have a vested interest in using technology, whether it’s digital apps or telehealth, and modernizing how agencies incorporate that. There is certainly interest in payment issues. There is always interest in behavioral health and the opioid crisis.

Americans have become accustomed to free Covid tests, vaccines and treatments. Does it end next year?

It looks like a lot of things are going to go away. There are still insurance mandates related to the public health emergency, but that’s only for people who have insurance. Those who are uninsured may have less ability to get tested or vaccinated.

It’s where we explore the ideas and innovators that are shaping healthcare.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found that the same bacteria that causes leprosy may also be able to safely repair and regenerate organs. So far, this regenerative potential has only been observed in armadillo livers, but the researchers hope it could be transferred to humans.

Share news, tips and commentary with Ben Leonard on [email protected]Ruth Reader at [email protected]Carmen Paun at [email protected] or Grace Scullion at [email protected]

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Today on our Pulse check podcast, Grace speaks with Lauren Gardner about President Joe Biden’s request for Covid-19 funding, intense lobbying efforts on possible health care legislation and pressure from some key groups of doctors and hospitals to a public health emergency declaration for RSV.

The Global Fund to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria missed its three-year fundraising goal by more than 13%, which could mean a sharp reduction in the promised contribution from the United States.

The United States remains the Global Fund’s largest donor and has pledged $6 billion over the next three years to help the fund meet its three-year fundraising goal of $18 billion.

But the fund flopped after a September pledge event in New York raised $14.2 billion and subsequent engagements by the UK and Italy failed to close the gap. After the UK cut its contribution to $1.19 billion to deal with its economic downturn, the fund’s total stands at $15.6 billion.

Here is what other major donors promised:

  • France, $1.6 billion
  • Germany, $1.35 billion
  • Japan, $1.1 billion
  • Canada, $900 million
  • European Commission, $742 million

Unless the fund can raise more money, Congress will likely cut the US contribution to $5.2 billion. This is because US law allows the US contribution to cover only about a third of the fund’s budget.

The future of masks is in fashion and functional … if people ever agree to wear them again.

HHS Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority awarded $150,000 to mask designer Richard Gordon of Air99 for its Airgami mask and an additional $150,000 to Pennsylvania-based Global Safety First for its ReadiMask 365.

BARDA launched its mask design competition last year and contestants submitted more than 4,000 ideas. Attendees ranged from large corporations, such as Levi Strauss and Amazon, to garage do-it-yourselfers. Ten other finalists received $10,000 each.

The Airgami “uses the principles of origami to improve its fit, breathability and aesthetics”. Gordon designed his face covering to protect his family from air pollution at their home in Suzhou, China, years before Covid-19 hit.

The ReadiMask 365 adheres to faces without straps. Global Safety First CEO John Schwind started making masks after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, with the aim of helping people escape dangerous situations. The Defense Logistics Agency helped produce it.

But who will buy their masks?

Estimates suggest that only 8% of Americans still mask daily produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation based on self-reported data.

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