Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir July 29, 2019

Hill Happenings

Budget Caps Deal Finalized

Last week, White House officials and Congressional Leaders have agreed to a two-year deal to raise budget caps by $321 billion and suspend the debt ceiling until July 2021. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 also includes $77 billion in offsets to pay for the deal, including an extension of cuts to Medicare and other nonexempt mandatory programs like the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week before leaving for August recess.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations is expected to begin the process of drafting and marking up its healthcare appropriations bill by the second week of September. Whether that bill will then proceed to the full Senate floor for a vote or to a conference committee so that any differences between it and the House version of the bill can be reconciled is still to be determined.

The Partnership to End HIV and Hepatitis, of which NASTAD is a member, released a statement on the budget deal, stating “We are encouraged by the two-year budget agreement reached by the President and congressional leadership and urge Congress to pass the agreement so that we can significantly invest in our nation’s public health infrastructure and increase funding levels for HIV, STD, and hepatitis prevention programs in the final FY2020 appropriations bills.”

Senate Unveils Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bill

Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) unveiled the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 which would make changes to Medicare by adding an out-of-pocket maximum for beneficiaries at $3,100 starting in 2022. The bill would also penalize pharmaceutical companies if the price of their drugs rises faster than the rate of inflation. The bill aims to reduce drug prices for the elderly while also providing more transparency. The Committee passed the legislation by a 19-9 vote with an amendment from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) to strike inflation rebates failing after a deadlocked 14-14 vote. The bill will now advance to the floor of the Senate, where failed amendments are likely to be reconsidered and debated.

Resources

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health will host a webinar on July 30, 2019, at 2-3 PM ET, titled "Syringe Service Programs – A Critical Public Health Intervention." You may register for the webinar here.

MMWR:  Progress in Testing for and Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Persons Who Inject Drugs

Job Opportunities

CLS Disease Intervention Specialist – Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health has two vacant Disease Intervention Specialists HIV Care Link Services positions in the Partner and Care Link Services Unit. These positions will primarily work with people whose HIV medical status is unknown or who are out of care to assist them in re-engaging in care. The vacancy will be open until midnight on Friday, August 16.

HIV Medication Assistance Program Manager – North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Communicable Disease Branch is accepting applications for HIV Medication Assistance Program Manager. This position is responsible for managing all aspects of the HIV Medication Assistance Program (HMAP), overseeing the HMAP supervisors, ensuring that eligible recipients receive life-saving medications appropriately, that the program is operating efficiently, and for assuring that the program follows all federal requirements.

Epidemiologist II – Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is hiring an Epidemiologist II within their Office of Health Care Planning of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. This posting is open until filled.

Upcoming Conferences

Fast-Track Cities 2019

Fast-Track Cities 2019 will take place September 8-11, 2019, in London. This will be the first international conference of more than 270 cities and municipalities, including from the United States, that are accelerating their responses to HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis. The conference’s aim is to highlight successes achieved across the Fast-Track Cities network, address cross-cutting challenges faced by local stakeholders, and share best practices in accelerating urban AIDS responses, inclusive of co-infectious diseases and comorbid conditions. Registration is currently open.

News Bulletin

U.S. District Court Orders FDA to Reconsider Application for Final Approval of BRIXADI™ (buprenorphine) Extended-Release Injection for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder

“The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (District Court) granted Braeburn's motion for summary judgment, vacating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) December 2018 exclusivity determination which blocked BRIXADI from final approval through November 30, 2020. Braeburn's application for final approval of BRIXADI is remanded back to FDA for reconsideration ‘with deliberate speed.’”

Someday, an Arm Implant May Prevent H.I.V. Infection for a Year

“In what could eventually become a milestone for H.I.V. prevention, very preliminary tests of an implant containing a new drug suggest that it may protect against infection for a full year.

The new implant, by the drug company Merck, was tested in just a dozen subjects for 12 weeks. But experts were quite excited at its potential to revolutionize the long battle against H.I.V.”