Policy Update

i Jul 11th No Comments by

The following update was provided for our members by Hall Render, NOSORH Legislative Liaison:

House Releases Draft FY 2019 HHS Funding

On June 25, the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee released the draft bill text for the FY 2019 HHS funding. The draft bill increases the State Offices of Rural Health funding to $11 million, a million dollar increase over FY 2018.

That is particularly good news considering the draft bill decreases overall rural health funding by $9.5 million for the upcoming year.  The bill would also decrease the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funding by $196 million from FY18.   Other funding under the HRSA account includes $33 million for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants and over $25 million for Small Hospital Improvement Grants.

The House Appropriations was scheduled to markup this bill the week of June 25, but delayed the markup to the week of July 10.  The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to markup their version of the HHS funding bill this week. The text has yet to be released.  Any differences between the House and Senate funding levels will have to be reconciled before the bill is passed into law.  Federal funding expires September 30, 2018.

SORH Reauthorization Bill Picks up Momentum in the House

Over the past three weeks, the House version of the State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization bill (H.R. 5641) picked up two important cosponsors. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) added their names to the list of House members officially endorsing the legislation.

Also during June, NOSORH leadership met with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to chart a path forward for the reauthorization bill.  Please contact your House members and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 5641.

Congress and HRSA Examine 340B

On June 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the third in a series of hearings examining the 340B drug savings program. The hearing featured testimony from Capt. Krista Pedley, the director of the Office of Pharmacy Affairs at the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the program. Likely, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will pivot back to the 340B program after opioid crisis work is completed.

The hearing came two weeks after HRSA released a final rule delaying the effective date of implementation and enforcement of the previously issued final rule implementing the 340B Drug Discount Program. The delayed rule, which was originally published on January 5, 2017, established the methodology for calculating the 340B ceiling price and civil monetary penalties (“CMPs”) for knowing and intentional overcharges of 340B covered entities. After repeated delays, this final rule further delays the effective date until July 1, 2019.

Also in this rule, HRSA signaled the intent to make additional changes to the 340B program including changes affecting providers. The agency stated, “HHS plans to issue separate policy documents related to drug pricing in government programs, including the 340B program, and disagrees with the commenters advising HHS to address these issues concurrently.”

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