Health Subcommittee Outlines Key Legislative Priorities

January 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - Last week, Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) outlined a 2012 agenda that focuses on job creation and medical innovation, with Congress continuing to dismantle a broken and unpopular law and creating in its place the framework for a health care system that puts patients first. The agenda includes: 
 
Prioritizing Patients, Protecting Jobs, and Promoting Innovation
The Health Subcommittee begins its work in the new year with a series of hearings in preparation for reauthorization of the drug and medical device user fee programs. The subcommittee is focused on improving the FDA regulatory process to prioritize patients, protect jobs, and promote innovation. In hearings and a first-of-its-kind forum held last year, the subcommittee examined how regulatory barriers are preventing life-saving and life-improving medical devices from reaching patients. The medical device industry is a major source of jobs, investment, and innovation in America, but the subcommittee has learned that regulatory impediments are driving the latest medical device breakthroughs overseas. Reauthorization of the user fee programs is an opportunity to bring more consistency and transparency the pre-market approval process and make other reforms to support patients and jobs. 
 
"The panel has already scheduled three hearings in February on reauthorizing the law (PL 110-85) that helps fund the Food and Drug Administration's review process for drugs and medical devices. The authorizations expire Sept. 30, and Pitts said he hoped to mark up user fee bills in April and have them signed into law by June 30
 
" The subcommittee may use those user fee measures to address the growing issues of prescription drug shortages. Pitts said the panel would focus on early notification and more transparency of facilities, as well as looking into manufacturing quotas set by the Drug Enforcement Administration for some prescription drugs." -
CQ Today
 
Shining a Spotlight on What Remains Hidden in the Health Care Law
In the face of continued controversy and public support for repeal, President Obama has grown increasingly quiet about the law that was supposed to be his signature accomplishment. In fact, the recent State of the Union address barely mentioned the law. But GOP members believe the American people deserve to know what the consequences of this controversial legislation will be, which is why the subcommittee agenda includes continued scrutiny of the law. Nearly two years after the president signed his health care mandate into law, we are still discovering new, costly consequences to patients, providers, taxpayers, states, and job creators. The subcommittee will continue to hold hearings to examine these harmful effects, specifically the impact on states, and vote on more legislation to repeal the bill piece by piece.  
 
"Over the next few months, Republicans also will try to repeal smaller sections of the health care law, Mr. Pitts said. House Speaker John A. Boehner has scheduled a vote [this] week to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, an insurance program for the elderly and those needing long-term care that the Obama administration has halted for reasons of financial instability.
 
"GOP leaders also are looking at legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel created by the health care law to rein in Medicare costs. The IPAB is loathed by Republicans, who say it will have too much power and could hurt doctors by cutting reimbursements too much." -
Washington Times

Commonsense Health Care Reform
House Republicans understand that the current health care system needs improvement. The president's health care law only exacerbated many problems in the system such as rising costs, while creating many new ones with unprecedented government intervention into the relationship between patients and their doctors. With the Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments in March regarding challenges to the law and a decision about its constitutionality expected in late spring or early summer, the subcommittee will continue exploring alternatives that address the rising cost of health care without massive new federal entitlements, spending, and government control.
 
"Much of the talk from Republican lawmakers on health care reform has focused on efforts to repeal the 2010 health care reform law. But this year, they are talking about what could replace it if they accomplished that goal." - National Journal
 
Long-Term Solutions for the Broken Medicare Physician Payment System
For years, Congress has been forced to offer temporary "patches" to the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate, a formula designed to hold down Medicare costs that has, in practice, threatened seniors' access to doctors by threatening drastic reductions in Medicare physician payments. This year, the subcommittee will hold hearings to examine a long-term solution to Medicare physician reimbursements, drawing on the expert input of over 50 medical associations who responded to the committee's request for ideas.
 
"Energy and Commerce has pretty broad healthcare jurisdiction, and hammering the Affordable Care Act isn't the only thing on its agenda. More odds and ends from Pitts: He still has sights set on a two-year "˜doc fix,' as opposed to the one-year patch lawmakers are trying to hammer out now." - The Hill
 
"As for the perennial issue of scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, Pitts said his subcommittee would explore permanently replacing the sustainable growth rate formula, which dictates the cuts, and how to pay for it." -
CQ Today

"The Health Subcommittee has outlined a robust agenda to tackle the challenges facing our nation's health care system, and I look forward to working together with my colleagues to ensure we accomplish this important task while also protecting individual liberty, jobs and taxpayers," said Rep. Joe Pitts.