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Congress settles on health riders to spending deal

Illustration of the U.S. Capitol Dome with radial lines coming out of it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Negotiators today released text of a six-bill minibus to keep government agencies funded that includes a narrower list of health measures than lawmakers with jurisdiction had hoped for.

Why it matters: Funding for key programs like community health centers will continue, and the package sets a new funding deadline for additional health policies in a lame duck session.

What's inside: Community health center funding is renewed through Dec. 31, with Republicans and Democrats using different measurements to portray the size of the increase as roughly 7% and 10%, respectively.

  • That's far less than Senate HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders had been pushing for in the face of a serious shortage of primary care providers.
  • The package would partially reverse a Medicare physician payment cut that took effect at the beginning of the year, making the 3.4% cut more like a 1.7% reduction.
  • There are Medicaid provisions addressing the opioid crisis. Those include making permanent a state option to provide coverage of inpatient addiction treatment, and requiring states to suspend rather than terminate coverage for people entering prison, in order to make it easier to reenroll.

Between the lines: As we previously reported, the package does not include measures that had been on the table to reform PBMs or to increase price transparency in health care.

  • "It is a real missed opportunity that these critical, bipartisan provisions will be unnecessarily delayed until December or longer," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said in a statement, referring to the PBM provisions and his effort to address "ghost networks" in mental health.

The six-bill package includes $6.72 billion for the FDA.

  • It does not include a contentious rider that would would have nullified FDA policy allowing the commonly used abortion drug mifepristone to be sold by mail and at retail pharmacies.
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