The House voted 234-183 on Thursday to pass H.R. 987, the MORE Health Education Act. This legislative package combines four ACA-related bills along with three prescription drug pricing bills that attracted bipartisan support, all advanced by the Energy and Commerce committee in March. This includes language that would nullify the final rule that expanded the availability of short-term limited-duration insurance (or short-term plans) that was issued last August. The move to rescind this regulation follows the House’s vote last week to rescind the Trump Administration’s guidance on the ACA’s Section 1332 State Relief and Empowerment Waivers that relaxed the rules for states to be exempted from some of the ACA’s coverage requirements. However, it should be noted that given the Republican control of the Senate, any attempts to rescind any Trump Administration guidance are effectively moot.
The ACA-related provisions include H.R. 1385, a bill that would provide $200 million annually for state based marketplaces, H.R. 1386 to provide $100 million to the federal navigator program, H.R. 1010 to reverse the Trump Administration's regulation expanding the availability of short-term plans, and H.R. 987 to restore ACA outreach and enrollment funding that was reduced by the Trump Administration. Unfortunately, the package does not include another bill that was advanced by the committee during the same markup, H.R. 1425, which would re-establish a reinsurance fund. NAHU has been working closely with Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and Angie Craig (D-MN) on this piece of legislation, and hopes to garner bipartisan support on the bill to move it forward independently.
The drug-pricing provisions include language from H.R. 965, the CREATES Act, which would penalize brand-name drug manufactures that withhold sample products from generic makers citing safety concerns. It also included language from H.R. 1499 that’s bans branded drug makers from paying generic manufacturers from keeping their products off the market for periods of time, and H.R. 938 that would limit first-approved generic makers’ ability to delay other rivals onto the market. These largely attracted bipartisan support, although some Republicans voiced objections to the CREATES Act arguing that it could incent generic drug makers to bring unnecessary lawsuits against branded manufactures.
Lawmakers opted to bundle the bills together over objections that it could hamper ultimate passage of the broadly supported drug pricing bills. NAHU is supportive of many of the bipartisan elements contained in the final package and has long advocated legislation that would reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals as a means to reduce the cost of healthcare, and in turn, health insurance. We identified the high cost of pharmaceuticals in our Healthcare Cost Drivers white paper, and in our overarching position paper for reforming the nation’s healthcare system, Access, Choice and Affordability. We will continue to work with the Senate as it takes up this legislation for consideration and again in the House as a combined package is negotiated.