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ACCP Report - March 2019

Washington Report. After the Shutdown … Introducing the 116th Congress

Written by John McGlew
Director of Government Affairs


Under the cloud of the government shutdown brought about by a dispute over funding for a proposed wall to protect America’s southern border, the 116th Congress welcomed the most racially diverse class in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives and the most women ever elected to Congress. Presiding over events, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reclaimed the position of Speaker of the House – the first woman in history to hold that office – as her fellow Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the second time in 8 years.

The stalemate lingered until January 25, when lawmakers finally reached an agreement with the White House to reopen the federal government, ending the unprecedented 35-day shutdown. Yet Capitol Hill remains in the grip of legislative gridlock, and after 4 years of bicameral Republican control of Congress, there is little optimism for bipartisan compromise, with eyes already looking ahead to the hyper-politicized 2020 presidential elections.

Key Players for Clinical Pharmacy

On the House side, the incoming Democratic majority meant a shakeup in the control over committees, including those with jurisdiction over health policy and the Medicare program. In the new Congress, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is well respected in Washington as a shrewd health care policy leader dating back to his work in navigating the passage of what became known as the Affordable Care Act. Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and brings with him a proven record of working in a bipartisan manner to advance incremental improvements to strengthen Medicare payment and care delivery structures. Although comprehensive Medicare reform seems uncertain in the current political climate, ACCP is encouraged by the new House committee leadership’s willingness to take a pragmatic approach to legislating.

On the Senate side, Iowa icon Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took over the gavel for the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over Medicare payment policy. Grassley is widely known as a leading champion on Capitol Hill for the pharmacy profession at large. ACCP has an excellent longstanding working relationship with Grassley’s office: Mary Abdelmalak, Pharm.D., spent a year as a health policy adviser through her role as an ACCP Congressional Health Policy Fellow.

Legislative Outlook

Despite (or perhaps in a calculated effort to deflect attention from!) the government shutdown, Congress hit the ground running with a series of high-profile hearings into the contentious issue of prescription drug pricing and possible policy and oversight solutions to lower costs for American patients. ACCP’s position statement Optimizing Specialty Drug Use urges the integration of patient-centered, team-based, and evidence-driven comprehensive medication management (CMM) into emerging value-based pricing approaches to better ensure the optimization of rational and economical use of specialty drugs for both patients and the health care system.

ACCP’s Washington office also recently responded to a Senate HELP Committee request to expert stakeholders for ideas to address rising health care costs. This statement calls for coverage of CMM as part of improvements to health care delivery that help ensure medication optimization, enhance patient safety, promote value-based rather than volume-based care to patients, and contribute to greater affordability and sustainability for the Medicare program.

Please contact us if you practice in Tennessee and have compelling case studies, best practices, or outcomes/savings data to share with HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

In light of the challenging political environment on Capitol Hill, ACCP is increasingly focusing its advocacy resources on advancing clinical pharmacy and CMM through regulatory opportunities. ACCP’s efforts have yielded some important developments in conversations with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Throughout this process, however, ACCP has remained engaged and active on Capitol Hill, where the College continues to pursue the integration of CMM into evolving Medicare payment structures.