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  • Writer's pictureAssociation of Academic Physiatrists

July 2020 Update

House and Senate health committees of jurisdiction have been very busy in the past two weeks holding hearings on the COVID pandemic. Both the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy & Commerce Committee heard testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, and other representatives from NIH, HHS, the FDA and the CDC. Fauci warned Members of Congress that he would not be surprised if the U.S. sees new cases of coronavirus rising to a level of 100,000 a day. He went on to express shock over people congregating in crowds, not wearing masks, and inadequate attention being paid to guidelines on reopening. Fauci said he is "not satisfied" with the direction the pandemic is going and the increase in new cases nationwide.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee plans to begin subcommittee mark-ups on July 6th, with the hope that all 12 bills will be reported to the full committee just two days later, and to the full House floor two weeks after that. If this timeline is met, the House would begin Floor debate when they return to session on July 21st. It would also be record-setting bill passage for the Committee.

House appropriators say they plan to include more pandemic aid and police reform measures in the annual funding bills. These two issues have paused appropriations mark-ups in the Senate, which was supposed to begin their hearings this week.

The House passed H.R. 1425, an Obamacare expansion bill, which aims to expand subsides for private insurance plans in the health exchanges and push hold-out red states to expand Medicaid. The bill passed almost entirely on party lines and will likely be used solely as a campaign talking point for the Democrats, as it is all but dead on arrival in the Senate. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have repeatedly worked to eliminate Obamacare and Dems will likely use this as a messaging point while campaigning that Republicans are only trying to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA), not improve it.

Lastly, thirty-three patient and clinician organizations wrote a letter to the FDA and NIH urging both agencies to speed up their efforts to develop non-opioid alternatives for chronic pain. The letter notes that this was a provision of the SUPPORT Act passed in 2008. The groups are asking that NIH make new, non-addictive pain treatments a research priority, and that the FDA convene at least three public meetings on the topic in the next 18 months. The groups are also calling for genetic, age and sex diversity in those trials, specifically citing how women and men can experience chronic pain very differently.

Update provided by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP

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