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Daily News

March 18, 2021

The rapid invention of coronavirus vaccines with government funding has sparked conversations about taxpayers assuming a greater responsibility for drug development, and therefore price setting, that traditionally has been left to private investors.

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The pandemic relief law that President Joe Biden signed Thursday (March 11) takes a new approach to using the Defense Production Act to buy and make medical supplies, including drugs and vaccines.

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Congress should abolish biosimilars and instead set biologics prices, following their 12 years of exclusivity, that would give their inventors a 10% profit, according to researchers at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Drug Pricing Lab.

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State lawmakers in Colorado are considering a bill to import drugs from countries other than Canada, including France, Australia and the United Kingdom, but the state would not be able to import Australian and European drugs unless the U.S. Congress changes federal law to allow it.

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March 17, 2021

The House has delayed votes on three bipartisan drug-pricing and food safety bills that were originally slated to be taken up this week, a Democratic leadership aide told Inside Health Policy.

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The Senate Wednesday voted 50-49 to invoke cloture and advance the nomination of California Attorney General and former Congressman Xavier Becerra as HHS secretary.

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HHS will invest $150 million to increase use of COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies for patients in vulnerable communities, the Biden administration announced Wednesday (March 17).

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A group of progressive Democrats is upping the pressure on President Biden to reverse course at the World Trade Organization and support a proposal to waive some intellectual property rights to help combat the pandemic, a move they called a “moral obligation.”

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House Medicare for All sponsors Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) joined dozens of co-sponsors and advocacy groups Wednesday (March 17) to reintroduce legislation that would extend Medicare to all Americans, saying the pandemic has laid bare the problems with the existing system and made the transition more urgent.

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The Biden administration has directed HHS to invest over $12 billion in COVID-19 serial testing, $10 billion of which is allocated for asymptomatic screening testing in K-12 schools and $2.25 billion is set aside for testing underserved populations.

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Seventy-two percent of voters think it’s very important for President Joe Biden and Congress to take action to lower prescription drug costs this year and 92% said lowering drug costs was very or fairly important to them, according to a survey conducted by Families USA and released Wednesday (March 17).

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An HHS planning office analysis finds a number of state Medicaid waivers are tied to coverage losses and negative health effects in part because beneficiaries don’t understand the new conditions tied to work requirements, health savings accounts, healthy behavior incentives, premiums and more.

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Maternal health advocates are cheering the COVID-19 relief package’s provision that lets states extend Medicaid postpartum coverage for up to one year without asking CMS, but they still want Congress to make the extension mandatory and to send states additional federal funds to implement it.

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March 16, 2021

FDA is open to authorizing COVID-19 tests that can be used to regularly screen asymptomatic individuals at businesses and schools or at home, even if the tests have not been validated for use in asymptomatic patients, the agency announced Tuesday (March 16), saying it hopes the streamlined pathway to market will expand availability of screening tests and bolster testing programs.

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House Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) joined key Democratic senators to discuss next steps to control health care costs and expand coverage during a call with Protect Our Care Tuesday -- laying the groundwork for health and drug-pricing reforms that could be included in another reconciliation package.

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More than two dozen Democratic senators are sponsoring legislation that would reverse the Trump administration’s revised guidance on Section 1332 waivers -- codified as part of the 2022 exchange rule -- that they say promotes “junk” health care plans and undermines coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

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CMS is scrapping the Trump administration’s 11th-hour plan to test waivers that would let Part D plans ignore key Medicare patient safeguards: the six protected drug classes and the requirement that formularies cover at least two drugs in all other classes.

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The Biden administration says nonprofits and the private sector, not the federal government, should take the lead on developing and distributing so-called vaccine passports to those who get vaccinated against COVID-19, coming amid increased discussion around whether print and digital immunization certificates should be used as an incentive to ramp up vaccination rates in the United States.

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While supply restraints have been the biggest hurdle in the race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, one of the nation’s largest electronic health records (EHR) vendors says a lack of uniform standards in state public health databases is also slowing down the process.

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HHS will survey providers on how they collect and use social determinants of health data in electronic health records, and while some say this is a positive step towards better patient care and benefit coordination, others worry there isn’t consensus about what SDOH data collection is reasonable.

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