Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) will run to chair the House E&C Committee next session--and is considered by some lobbyists as the favorite to win--if Republicans maintain control of the House.

House GOP Starts Crafting Health Care Bills in Anticipation of Retaking Majority

The top Republicans on two U.S. House health subcommittees are leading a party effort to “craft legislative proposals that Republicans can advance after retaking the majority” in the November 2022 midterm elections. It is not known whether the group will make recommendations for the 340B program.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) announced the formation of the Healthy Future Task Force in late June. Energy & Commerce (E&C) Health Subcommittee ranking Republican Brett Guthrie (Ky.) and Ways and Means Health Subcommittee ranking Republican Devin Nunes (Calif.) are its co-leaders. Guthrie and Nunes announced the panel’s five subcommittees, their leaders, and their members on Monday

The E&C Health Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the 340B program and while Republicans were in the majority over the past decade, they repeatedly tried to place restrictions on the program. These efforts include scaling back the contract pharmacy program, narrowing 340B hospital eligibility and adding new reporting requirements for hospitals. However, not all GOP committee members have backed the changes and one of its senior members Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) is considered one of Congress’s leading advocates for 340B hospitals and other covered entities. Others have played a quieter role in trying to scuttle changes to the program.

Guthrie’s office was asked, but did not answer, if 340B and/or lowering drug prices is on the task force’s agenda. Based on the subcommittees’ mission statements, the Affordability Subcommittee might be where the House GOP 340B reform legislation gets written, if any is forthcoming. Its task is to “lower costs for all Americans and make health care affordable.”

Rep. Kevin Hearn (Okla.), a member of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, chairs the Affordability Subcommittee. Rep. Rick Allen (Ga.), the senior Republican on the Education and Labor Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee, and Rep. Victoria Spartz (Ind.), who sits on the Education and Labor and Judiciary committees, are its two other members.

Rep. Larry Bucshon (Ind.), a physician who sits on the E&C Health Subcommittee, leads the task force’s Doctor/Patient Relationship Subcommittee. In 2018, he co-sponsored legislation that would have imposed a two-year moratorium on hospital enrollment in 340B, including outpatient facilities. Bucshon also circulated draft legislation to require 340B hospitals to report on their 340B savings and charity care expenses.

Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas), who chaired the E&C Health Subcommittee during the 115th Congress, and was its ranking Republican during the 116th, is not on the task force. Neither is Rep. Buddy Carter (Ga.), a pharmacist and long-time E&C member who has been critical of the 340B program.

In 2018, Burgess circulated draft legislation that would have required 340B disproportionate share (DSH) and children’s hospitals to charge low-income patients no more than the 340B ceiling price for drugs. Carter that same year introduced a bill to require 340B DSH hospitals to report on the rates at which low-income patients use outpatient services.

After the November 2020 elections, E&C Republican leader Greg Walden (Ore.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), both of whom were retiring, invited 340B stakeholders to submit ideas on how to improve 340B. The deadline was Oct. 30. The fate of the submissions is unknown.