Update on Health Care Policy From Washington, DC

Update on Health Care Policy From Washington, DC

Senate Fails on Attempt to Codify Roe v. wade. On May 11, the Senate, for a second time, failed to advance the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” a bill that would codify a national right to an abortion. The bill previously passed the House in September 2021. As anticipated, the vote failed 49-51, with Senator Manchin (D-WV) opposing the bill alongside all Senate Republicans. Democrats will now have to consider potential next steps, which could include consideration of a narrower bill being developed by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Any potential legislative solution, however, likely does not have the votes to survive a filibuster.

Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Advances FDA User Fee Agreements, Mental Health Reform, ARPA-H and More. The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved six bills on May 11, the most notable of which was the “Food and Drug Amendments of 2022” (HR 7667), legislation to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) user fee programs, which also incorporates various programmatic improvements across the whole of FDA.

The subcommittee also approved the “Advanced Research Project Agency-Health Act” or the “ARPA-H Act” (HR 5585), legislation that would accelerate innovation in health and medicine by investing in high-risk, high-reward research projects. ARPA-H is a signature priority for President Biden and is modeled on the similar DARPA program within the Defense Department. This bill is notable as it authorizes ARPA-H within HHS, conflicting with the Administration’s efforts already underway to establish ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health.

Lastly, amid the Centers for Disease Control announcing an all-time high of drug overdose deaths, the Committee also approved the “Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act” (HR 7666), a bill to reauthorize key programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Health Resources and Services Administration that address national mental health and substance use disorders.

Other bills approved by the subcommittee include the following: “Keeping Incarceration Discharges Streamlined for Children and Accommodating Resources in Education Act” (HR 7233), “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0” (HR 623), and the “South Asian Heart Health Awareness Act of 2021” (HR 3771).

All six bills advanced out of the subcommittee, and onto the Full Committee, which is expected to hold its own markup next week. Links to the bills and amendments can be found here. The Senate HELP Committee is expected to release its draft user fee legislation soon. In order to avoid FDA furloughs, user fee legislation needs to be enacted by August 1.

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