Axios Pro: Health Care Policy

November 15, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Congress is back! 🧐 Here's the latest on that lame duck agenda. We'll be back in your inboxes tomorrow.

  • Situational awareness: John Fetterman is tall. See the photo below, and also ask 6-foot-4 Ron Wyden, who said he introduced himself by saying “Welcome to the tall guys caucus.” (Fetterman is 6-foot-8.)

1 big thing: Stopping the Medicare physician cuts

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

We spent Monday and today catching up with members now that they’re back in town. Let’s see how our preview from Monday 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 Peter. But asked if the full 4.5% 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 Maya 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 Victoria that “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 “We’re going to fight for all the bipartisan ones that got out of the House.”

  • The House 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 were 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 supports 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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