Top House Democrat to focus on drug prices, diagnostics revamp in 2019
- With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, the new chair of the House Energy & Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee plans to explore ways to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, as well as investigate Trump administration actions around the Affordable Care Act.
- Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., told reporters Wednesday the subcommittee will not hesitate to call chief executives of pharmaceutical and device manufacturers to testify before the committee if appropriate. A long-time advocate for diabetics, the rising cost of insulin is one issue DeGette identified as a priority.
- "We are going to be seriously looking at American's access to healthcare and the affordability of healthcare,” DeGette said. "That includes devices, drugs, it includes services like reproductive health. You're going to be seeing an aggressive oversight agenda as well as a legislative agenda."
On the drug pricing front, DeGette floated support for a new agency to investigate pharmaceutical price spikes, among other actions.
"Some people, including me, are interested in introducing transparency legislation to require drug manufacturers to justify price increases that go above a certain threshold," DeGette said. "Another one that I've supported from day one is allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate prescription drug prices."
On the ACA front, DeGette said she will probe the Trump administration's cuts to cost sharing reduction payments and push to establish a permanent reinsurance program and extend risk corridors payments.
Expanding the ACA's cost sharing assistance programs, encouraging state Medicaid expansion and restoring advertising funding for ACA open enrollment are other ideas DeGette pointed to as potential priorities.
"One of the intriguing proposals that I think could get some bipartisan traction is to allow Americans over 50 to buy into Medicare," she said.
In December, DeGette and Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., unveiled a draft bill deemed the Leading-edge IVCT Development or VALID Act, to establish a framework to oversee lab developed tests and FDA-reviewed diagnostic tests under one umbrella.
The senior Colorado lawmaker said it is a top priority on the legislative front to work with E&C Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to schedule a hearing for her diagnostics bill. Degette said, however, that the conversation has not occurred yet.
"Getting that diagnostics bill back up and going is a priority and I've already been working with my colleagues on that," DeGette said.
It isn't clear if Democrats support FDA's idea to implement an in vitro clinical test precertification program, potentially only requiring individual premarket review for 10% of all tests.
Medical device safety oversight may get some attention, but don't expect it to happen immediately.
"Obviously medical device safety is always an issue in the committee," DeGette said. "It's not at the top of our list for this month, [or] for the first part of this year."
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