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Health Care Brief

The Health and Human Services Department will hold a budget press conference this afternoon, and the health secretary will testify Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee.

The hearing offers an opportunity for the panel to engage with Becerra on issues they hope to see addressed, Anna Kaltenboeck, a former senior health adviser on the Finance Committee who is now the practice director for ATI Advisory’s prescription drug reimbursement practice.

Several topics that the committee has shown an interest in this Congress include mental health care, Medicare Advantage marketing and enrollment practices, consolidation and corporate ownership in the health industry, and pharmacy benefit managers’ role, Kaltenboeck said. ”We could see these, and other priorities of individual Senators raised in the hearing.”

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking Republican Mike Crapo (Idaho) released a white paper on generic supply shortages in January, a month after holding a hearing on the topic.

“We are watching closely for updates on how their thinking is evolving, especially how to implement payment reforms in Medicare and Medicaid to encourage a sustainable supply of generic injectables,” Kaltenboeck said.

But the rollout of Biden’s budget comes before Congress has finalized 2024 HHS spending—both of which will be tight, Ellie Dehoney, senior vice president of policy, said. There’s currently a 1% budget cap on non-defense discretionary dollars from fiscal 2024 to 2025.

“It’s very hard to know exactly what we’re going to be working with, until we have final FY 24,” Dehoney added. “But Congress is going to have to really do some hard tradeoffs and prioritization if we’re going to see science and technology keep any kind of pace with what’s going on with our global competitors and what’s needed for patients.”