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Stopping the Medicare physician cuts

John Fetterman towers over Chuck Schumer and Peter Welch

Here's Fetterman with Sen.-elect Peter Welch and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol today. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We spent yesterday and today catching up with members now that they’re back in town. Let’s see how our preview from yesterday on the lame duck agenda is holding up.

One thing we were right about: Lawmakers are bullish on averting Medicare physician cuts.

  • “We’re going to address that,” House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal told Axios' Peter Sullivan. But asked if the full 4.5 percent physician cut would be averted, he demurred, saying: “We're going to talk about that in the next 15 minutes,” as he walked to a meeting.
  • “I think it has to get done,” Ami Bera, a California Democrat and physician, told Axios' Maya Goldman in the hall today. “I think everyone understands we have to do it.” (Bera and fellow House doctor Larry Bucshon introduced a bill in September to stop the physician cuts.)
  • Rep. Buddy Carter told Axios' Victoria Knight “there’s a lot of momentum for it,” particularly among the GOP Doctors’ Caucus of which he’s a member.

FDA reforms are up in the air: Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie told us that “We’re going to fight for all the bipartisan ones that got out of the House.”

  • The House’s bill had several bipartisan provisions, including accelerated approval reform and clinical trial diversity standards, but Guthrie seemed skeptical about what could actually get through the Senate.

And how is the FDA reform push going over in the Senate? Sens. Patty Murray and Richard Burr said they’re working on it... but that’s about it.

We’re also watching: Maternal health legislation has a shot at ending up in the end-of-year package — at least if policy champions Robin Kelly and Lauren Underwood have anything to say about it.

  • The House Democrats ramped up advocacy today around maternal and child health policies, including a requirement that states cover 12 months of continuous postpartum Medicaid coverage, as well as permanent funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • Leadership is supportive of the policies, but it comes down to making sure they’re not forgotten on the cutting room floor this time, Underwood told Maya.
  • “We do not want this to get missed as they're working on the final finishing touches,” she said.

Drug pricing is still on Democrats’ minds, too.

  • “We're very much concerned about getting the maximum amount of relief from these crushing insulin prices,” Sen. Ron Wyden said Monday night when asked about his top lame duck health care priorities.
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