Senate Stimulus Bill Would Put Space Between Health Centers and Funding Cliff

Senate Stimulus Bill Would Put Space Between Health Centers and Funding Cliff

The Senate Republican economic stimulus bill released late yesterday would not give community health centers the five-year funding extension and big funding boost to fight the novel coronavirus epidemic they are seeking. But it would give centers an additional $1.3 billion through Sept. 30 for detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and treatment of the COVID-19 disease it causes. It also would direct the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to pay health centers for telehealth services the same as it pays for services furnished at physical locations.

As we reported yesterday, the $4 billion National Community Health Center Fund that accounts for 70 percent of all federal health center funding is set to expire on May 22. The funding cliff could imperil a big component of the national response to the COVID-19 epidemic, especially for underserved and vulnerable populations. A coronavirus supplemental appropriations bill that became law on March 4 gave health centers an additional $100 million this fiscal year to fight the epidemic.

House Democrats continue to work on their version of the economic stimulus bill. The five-year health center funding extension isn’t all that was kept out of the Senate bill. Also missing are provisions to protect patients from surprise bills from providers. Nor did it include the drug pricing bill that Senate Finance Committee leaders Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have been working on. Some key leaders from both parties in the House and Senate would like to address surprise medical billing and five-year funding authorization for health centers in the stimulus package but that could be more of a challenge now.

Yesterday afternoon, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting $100 billion for “front line health care personnel and providers, including physicians, nurses, hospitals and health systems.”

In addition to its $1.3 billion in supplemental funding for health centers, the Senate stimulus bill would:

  • prioritize and expedite drug review applications to prevent or mitigate shortages
  • require drug manufacturers to start warning the Food and Drug Administration about active pharmaceutical ingredient shortages
  • require the HHS Secretary to recommend market-based incentives to head off or respond to drug shortages
  • reauthorize Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) telehealth and rural health grant programs
  • limit liability under federal law for doctors and other clinicians who volunteer during the epidemic.

Amgen Posts Public Notice About 340B Inventory Management for Repatha

Providers that use a 340B inventory replenishment model can count accumulations of the LDL cholesterol-lowering drug Repatha under its old National Drug Codes toward replenishment of equal quantities of the drug under its new NDCs, drug manufacturer Amgen says in a new notice to providers on the HRSA Office of Pharmacy Affairs website. Amgen stopped selling Repatha under its three old NDCs at the end of 2019 as part of a price reduction.

Editor’s Note

The Tweets of Note item in yesterday’s edition did not include health care economist’s Rena Conti’s March 14 reply to a critic’s tweet that same day. We were unaware of Conti’s response. It has been added to the web version of yesterday’s edition.