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Federal Health Policy Updates for the Week of March 18, 2024

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FY 24 
Enjoyed by Congress so much 
Might need overtime 

Publication Note: Congress is set to adjourn for its spring recess, and our newsletter also will take a brief pause. We will return to our regular publication schedule the week of April 8th. 

The Rundown

  • Congress is close to passing legislation that would complete work on FY 2024 spending
  • First Lady visits RTP following Executive Order on women’s health and research innovation 
  • Legislation on DEI in medical schools introduced in the House
  • Heard on the Hill: Committee updates
  • What’s up, NC delegation  
  • The latest from our desks  
  • Virtual office hours – Come see us on March 26th!   
  • Join the Duke Health Advocacy Network! 

Federal Updates

Can we wrap this up? Maybe soon 
This week – and if we’re going to real about it, yesterday – legislative text was released for the remaining six appropriations bills for FY 2024, including the Labor-Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill that supports many healthcare programs and policies. What happens now? It gets a little complicated. The current continuing resolution that is funding programs under those six bills expires at midnight. A vote is expected in the House this morning with the Senate trying to wrap up by tonight. Expedition and bypassing procedure will be the name of the game – and a single objection could drag out the process into the weekend, creating a brief and partial government “shutdown”. But there seems to be light at the end of this tunnel – and it’s probably not an oncoming train. Unless we’re talking about FY 2025. One thing at a time, though.  

Working under the constraints of the bipartisan budget deal reached last May, there was not much room for substantial increases in biomedical research funding as part of the final deal, although minor investments and mostly level funding are provided for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

Passage of the second funding package will not only avert any concerns of a longer-term government shutdown but will also ensure that all 12 appropriations bills have been passed by the end of April, preventing an automatic one-percent across-the-board discretionary funding cut. It’s taken several rounds of overtime, but we’re closing the books on FY 2024 as we are already into the first third of the FY 2025 process. 

The spending bill for HHS also provided funding for multiple priorities that our office advocated for over the past year, including Regional Biocontainment Laboratories, undiagnosed disease research, and resources aimed to support children experiencing different kinds of trauma. Our team is working with NC congressional offices to promote Duke Health policy and funding priorities for the next fiscal year. 

Visit to RTP follows Executive Order to advance women’s health research and innovation  
This week, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) and announced actions to advance women’s health research and innovation. In a White House press release, 20 new actions and commitments from federal agencies were outlined, including launching an NIH-Cross Cutting Effort to Transform Women’s Health Throughout the Lifespan.  

According to the White House, the EO “will direct the most comprehensive set of executive actions ever taken to expand and improve research on women’s health. These directives will ensure women’s health is integrated and prioritized across the federal research portfolio and budget and will galvanize new research on a wide range of topics, including women’s midlife health.” 

Following the announcement, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited the Triangle to discuss the new EO and efforts already underway at the federal level. She was joined by NC Governor Roy Cooper and introduced by Dr. Mary Klotman, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs for Duke University, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, and Chief Academic Officer for Duke Health. 

Legislation on DEI in medical schools introduced in the House 
This week, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, MD (R-OH) and Rep. Greg Murphy, MD (R-NC-O3) introduced legislation (EDUCATE Act) that would, among other provisions, eliminate federal funding support to medical schools that have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs or that employ DEI practices in their admissions processes. Our team has been in regular contact with Rep. Murphy’s staff about this bill, to share our strong concerns. 

The AAMC issued a statement on Monday, ahead of the bill’s introduction, supporting medical school curriculum of evidence-based education, emphasizing a firm commitment to diversity, and autonomy and flexibility for its 158 member institutions to adapt their curricula for the needs of the modern patient population.   

The legislation will likely not be considered by the House for the remainder of this year and Congress. We are closely tracking any and all DEI-related legislation and hearings as it relates to higher education. 

Heard on the Hill: Committee updates 

HHS Secretary discusses health priorities for FY 2025 
This week, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to examine President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The sole witness for the hearing was HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. During his remarks, he highlighted the Administration’s priorities for FY 2025 and achievements by the administration. Secretary Becerra said that this budget request “lays out a vision for a nation that fosters innovation, invests in health, and supports its most vulnerable.” Details on the priorities outlined can be viewed here. 

Discussion focused on issues including the administration’s support for extending telehealth flexibilities, addressing cyber-attacks, nursing home staffing, and reforming drug pricing. Committee member Rep. Greg Murphy, MD (R-NC-03) commented on surprise billing rules and implementation challenges, asking how HHS will enforce penalties against insurers that allegedly fail to adhere to the law. He also raised concerns about Medicare Advantage plan denials and the need for reforms.  

Energy and Commerce advances legislation; hearing held on LDT proposed rule 
As a follow up to last week’s update, this week the Full Energy and Commerce Committee continued work advancing a slate of health bills, including the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act and the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act, among others.    

Our team has been particularly active advocating in support of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize grant programs, created under the original legislation enacted during the pandemic (P.L. 117-105), for an additional five years. This program has supported Duke’s Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training Program grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The full list of bills can be viewed here. 

The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee also held a hearing entitled, “Evaluating Approaches to Diagnostic Test Regulation and the Impact of the FDA’s Proposed Rule.” Our team will continue engaging in advocacy related to the regulation of laboratory developed tests. 

What’s up, NC Delegation 
Senator Thom Tillis joined several colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling for immediate action on enacting pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reforms to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Legislation on this issue has moved through several House and Senate committees. The letter can be viewed here. 

From our desk(s): Duke Health GR this week 
This week, our office participated in the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Government Relations Officers Network Meeting in Washington D.C. The meeting provided an opportunity to hear updates from congressional staff and AHA staff on issues impacting hospitals.  

We joined other NC hospital colleagues in roundtable meetings with NC congressional delegation staff. These meetings, organized by the NC Hospital Association (NCHA), provide a collective opportunity to hear from staff and share updates on federal policy and the impact on hospitals in NC.  

Our team also participated in the Trauma Centers Association of America’s (TCAA) annual lobby day, joining trauma center professionals from around the country in support of the MISSION Zero military-civilian trauma grant program and a recently reauthorized package of federal grant programs supporting trauma center readiness and rural access. 

See You Soon – Virtual “Office Hours” on March 26th
Duke Health (federal) Government Relations is once again partnering with our Duke State Relations colleagues to hold virtual "office hours.” Open to members of the Duke Health Advocacy Network, these “office hours” are not formal presentations but instead an opportunity to talk about health-related issues before Congress and for us to learn more about the issues that are at the forefront for you and your work.     

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2024      
Time: 12:00pm

A meeting invite will be distributed soon. If you would like to be added to the meeting invite, click here.    

Not yet a member of the Duke Health Advocacy Network? No problem! Learn more about how to join below. 

Join the Duke Health Advocacy Network!
Looking for more opportunities to connect with fellow advocates and professionals interested in public policy across the health system? Join the Duke Health Advocacy Teams Channel! We’re growing leaps and bounds and hope you’ll consider joining us!

Managed and moderated by Duke Health Government Relations and Duke State Relations, the purpose of the platform is for you to connect with your colleagues throughout the health system who are engaged and/or interested in public policy advocacy. We hope the channel will be used as a space for sharing ideas, collaboration, and engaging with the government relations teams on the issues most important to your work.

We encourage you to explore the channel, as we will post relevant news items, policy updates, questions, advocacy resources, and opportunities for engagement. As importantly, this is your space to do the same and to help grow the community.

Click to Join

(Note: This is only open to Duke Health employees. By joining this teams channel, you acknowledge that the platform and your participation are intended for information sharing and connections/relationship building and is not an inducement by Duke Health Government Relations and Duke State Relations, or the channel’s participants, to act as an unauthorized advocacy and/or lobbying representative of Duke Health or Duke University).