WASHINGTON, DC – Following President Obama’s requested resignation of the Chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today wrote to all remaining members of the board concerning the board’s management and governance decisions.
The leaders wrote, “Recent events and investigations have called into question management and governance decisions by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The Board will soon have new leadership, but its challenges may go beyond particular personnel. As the leaders of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the CSB, we are seeking information necessary to ensure that the board will achieve its important mission going forward.”
The leaders continued, “Investigations by the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency into records management, contracting, and personnel actions, and questions of management and leadership highlighted by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings, have indicated a fundamental breakdown in management and governance at CSB. In fact, evidence of misconduct recently prompted the bipartisan leadership of that committee to request that President Obama use his statutory authority to immediately remove current leadership. The President requested the resignation of the Chairman, and received it yesterday evening. While this resignation is a significant development, we seek to ensure new board leadership will appropriately address remaining challenges to the proper functioning of this agency. …
“We request your assistance to help the committee understand recent board actions and related decisions to assess how they comport with CSB statutory authorities, how they may affect future CSB mission performance, and what should be done to ensure the appropriate governance of the agency.”
The committee leaders are requesting responses to a series of questions by April 10, 2015. To view the full letter to the board members, click HERE.
The letter was signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO).Read More
Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to Host #Cures2015 Roundtable on MONDAY
WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee member and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) on Monday will bring the 21st Century Cures initiative to the Inland Northwest with a roundtable discussion at the Washington State University Spokane Campus. Patient advocates, innovators, and researchers will join McMorris Rodgers to discuss the importance of technology and medical innovation in the discovery, development, and delivery cycle of cures and treatments.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) partnered with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) last year to launch the bipartisan initiative. Over the past year, the committee and its members have hosted nearly two-dozen roundtables in Washington and across the country to hear from all those involved in the cycle of cures. The committee in January began the legislative phase, marking the beginning of #Cures2015.
Input and feedback from local experts and innovators is essential as 21st Century Cures looks to take its next steps on the #Path2Cures. McMorris Rodgers will be joined by leaders from Washington State University, Team Gleason, the Spokane Arthritis Association, 23andME, the Spokane Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and others.
“21st Century Cures is a uniquely hopeful and proactive initiative that will have a real effect on the lives of families in Washington and across the country,” said McMorris Rodgers. “I look forward to bringing this discussion back home and hearing from the experts about their ideas for accelerating the pace of cures and giving hope to patients and their loved ones.”
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler regarding the commission’s work to relocate over 200 servers from Washington, D.C., to an offsite location in West Virginia. FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins explained during testimony before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on March 4 that the commission intends to move forward with these plans within “a couple of weeks.”
Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today requested information about the process for making this decision and documents related to the move so the committee may better understand the commission’s thinking.
“As you are aware, we have longstanding concerns with the fairness, openness, and transparency of the commission’s administrative and rulemaking processes, including issues related to its document management practices. We recently wrote to you seeking additional information concerning whether the commission is fulfilling its statutory responsibilities regarding transparent and open public processes,” wrote the leaders.
They continued, “Given the committee’s strong interest in the manner in which the commission is managing its own information technologies, we are writing to seek information to better understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the planned relocation of these servers and the impact, if any, such relocation may have on the FCC’s document management practices.”
The leaders requested a response from the commission by April 10, 2015.
To read the letter to Chairman Wheeler, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today discussed the future of U.S. spectrum policy. With ever increasing demand for this finite resource, members explored how the federal government can help meet America’s spectrum needs.
“There’s no question that mobile technology is one of the key components of the economy of both today and of the future,” said Walden. “Time and again, as the country that pioneered spectrum auctions once, and is in the process of doing it again, the world looks to the United States to lead spectrum policy and answer the challenge of meeting spectrum demand. We must continue to rise to that challenge.”
Members today reviewed the FCC’s progress toward the first-of-its-kind Incentive Auction. The auction – a result of bipartisan work on the committee – stands to free up valuable spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use. Members raised a number of questions about the auction including what is being done to ensure broadcasters choosing not to participate are not adversely affected, cross border coordination of spectrum use, and ensuring that small businesses, including those owned by women and minority groups, have the ability to compete in the auction.
Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) discussed their work to increase the efficiency of federal spectrum use, and today reintroduced the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act. The bipartisan legislation, H.R. 1641, aims to incentivize federal agencies to free up additional spectrum for commercial use by relocating and consolidating spectrum holdings in return for a portion of the auction revenues as compensation. “By encouraging federal agencies to make additional spectrum available, we can invest in innovation and ensure spectrum is available to meet the demands of our critical emergency needs and commercial uses,” said Guthrie. Watch Guthrie discuss H.R. 1641, which was cosponsored by Walden and subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), here.
Click to watch Rep. Guthrie
“Spectrum is a vital resource for the future of our economy and sound policy will ensure the continued leadership of the United States in the mobile space,” concluded Upton. "As the committee responsible for this sector, it’s essential that we continue to keep an eye on the status of the spectrum in the pipeline and what is being done to make it available for consumer use. If we do our jobs right, the future for consumers, jobs, and our economy is very bright.”
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing to discuss the growing problem of prescription drug and heroin abuse from state and local perspectives. Members heard from a number of experts who confront this growing crisis in communities all across the country. The subcommittee last year held a hearing to discuss this issue with witnesses from federal agencies.
“Something is desperately wrong with our nation’s response to the opioid epidemic, and it is quite literally a matter of life and death that we get honest answers and not remain misguided in our approach to how we solve this crisis,” Murphy said.
“The state and local perspective of this growing threat is essential as we evaluate what steps we can take at the federal level to help address this crisis,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added.
Witnesses from across the country shared their experiences and discussed efforts to confront the growing cycle of prescription drug and heroin abuse.
Witnesses being sworn in during Thursday’s #SubOversight Hearing
“The abuse of opiates continues to rise in Central Indiana. According to the Indiana University Center for Health Policy, the number of adolescents receiving treatment for opiate dependence has risen 9% over the last five years….One of the most staggering statistics is that the number of deaths related to overdose from opiates has quadrupled since 1999.”
“Given that the majority of young adult heroin users now report they were first hooked on pharmaceutical opioids it is clear that addressing inappropriate initiation is essential. The decision to begin prescribing opioids for minor injuries and pain needs to be carefully considered as does the total quantity dispensed if they are prescribed. Opioids in the home need to be carefully monitored and immediately disposed of when no longer needed. Parents need to know how to talk with their kids about medication safety as well as how to manage stress and pain without medications, drugs or alcohol.”
“The Tulsa Police Department recommends a continuation of the comprehensive approach to drug trafficking currently in place, which relies on coordination among law-enforcement agencies, community-oriented policing, intelligence and information sharing, improved technology, as well as additional federal efforts made to prevent drugs of all kinds from finding their way into communities across the United States.”
“There is not one treatment that works for all, but there are sufficient treatments that work for all and they should be widely available, effectively covered with providers accepting reimbursement. Unfortunately, access to treatment is limited by a few main factors:
• Acceptability, Availability and Accessibility of treatment options.
• Negative attitudes or stigma associated with addiction in general and drug treatment.
• Limited providers and limits on providers.”
“The problem of drug abuse will always be with us. Heroin and prescription drugs are the latest concern, following the epidemics of marijuana, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and others. The key is to minimize use and its impact.”
“The Partnership seeks to utilize the Drug Free Moms and Babies model for a Pay for Success (PfS) initiative. Under a PfS model, an investor finances the implementation of a “proven” or evidence-based social intervention program that is expected to improve social welfare and save government money in excess of the program implementation costs. The Partnership along with others in [West Virginia continue to work on addressing barriers to care, including transportation, child care, judgmental attitudes, and lack of providers.”
“Those of us who work in addiction medicine and mental health will continue to work with our local, State, and Federal partners to continue to prevent and reduce the devastating consequences of prescription drug and heroin abuse. There is tremendous work being done on the local and state levels that is clearly making a difference, but we have a tremendous amount of hard work in front of us to end this epidemic.”
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee members today spoke in support of H.R. 2 to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate, establish a fair and stable payment system for Medicare, protect seniors’ access to their doctors, begin to strengthen Medicare over the long term, and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program. H.R. 2 was approved by a vote of 392-37. Read a summary of the legislation online here.
Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI):
“This is a long time coming. Most of us came to Congress to fight for our nation's kids, seniors, and their families. Today’s vote is a defining moment for this Congress and for Medicare.”
Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA):
“We should see this bill as a first step toward strengthening and saving Medicare. This can’t be the end of the road.”
Full Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN):
“H.R. 2 is finally going to eliminate the flawed SGR. It will be replaced with commonsense legislation, which will provide health care providers with the predictability that is necessary to meet the needs of Medicare enrollees.”
Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), lead sponsor of H.R. 2:
“This is the work of a collaborative body. …It is time to end the SGR. Let us never speak of this issue again.”
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS):
“Now is the time to end this failed policy once and for all and protect access to care for seniors.”
Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN):
“Today is a great day for America’s seniors. After years of flawed Medicare policy, we are finally creating a stable system that ensures Medicare patients will have access to their doctors.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL):
“This bill will replace the SGR with a Merit Based Incentive Payment system. MIPS means physicians are practicing better medicine to keep their patients healthier.”
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC):
“This is what the American people want to see. This is about certainty. This is about governing. This is about giving solutions to a problem.”
Watch Republicans and Democrats from the Energy and Commerce Committee speak in favor of this important legislation.
March 26, 2015
Say Goodbye to the SGR
By Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
There is no shortage of complex policy acronyms in Washington, but this week we are finally going to erase one from our vocabulary. Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) has plagued seniors, Medicare physicians, and Congress for nearly two decades. This week, we hope Congress will utter it for the last time.
The SGR is a flawed formula that places quantity ahead of quality in seniors’ health care. Because of the havoc its price controls would wreak on Medicare, Congress finds itself in crisis mode every time the SGR looms. To date, the solution has been to temporarily stave off the cuts just to protect seniors’ access to their trusted doctors. This week, however, instead of another temporary reprieve we can put in place a better system – one that promotes higher quality care for seniors while also enacting Medicare reforms to put the program on more sound fiscal footing. This package is good for seniors, and it benefits kids too as it extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years.
This is a historic opportunity for a number of important reasons. First, we end the cycle of self-imposed doc-fix crises. The 17 temporary doc-fix patches have come at the cost of $170 billion and served as vehicle for other costly policies that have nothing to do with seniors’ health care. Permanently resolving the SGR would take away this vehicle for bigger government and higher spending.
Second, we repeal the flawed SGR formula and establish a new system that promotes innovation and higher quality care for seniors. This bipartisan, bicameral agreement puts us on the road to a Medicare payment system that rewards quality and gives physicians the certainty of a stable payment system.
Third, we take the first step in reforming Medicare so we can protect the program for future generations. The deal we will consider later this week includes Medicare reforms that will not only produce cost savings today, but the will also put Medicare on a more sustainable fiscal path. For years, Medicare’s trustees have warned of the coming insolvency of Medicare. Republicans have been working for several years on important structural reforms to strengthen the program, protecting this important safety net that gives peace of mind to our nation’s seniors. This week, for the first time, we have reached bipartisan agreement on some of these vital reforms. Of course, much more work remains to save this program for future generations, but this marks a monumental step in the right direction.
Finally, we extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program, giving states the certainty needed to craft budgets and keeping millions of children out of the president’s health care law.
The term SGR is a bureaucratic way of talking about a bad policy. On Thursday, we’re going to delete not only the acronym, but its anachronistic approach to our seniors’ health care. Say goodbye to the SGR.
Read the piece online HERE.
Overview of Bipartisan Discussion Draft Authored By Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Data breaches are a growing problem as e-commerce evolves and Americans spend more of their time and conduct more of their activities online. Technology has empowered consumers to purchase goods and services on demand, but it has also empowered criminals to target businesses and steal a host of personal data. This costs consumers tens of billions of dollars each year, imposes all kinds of hassles, and can have a lasting impact on their credit. To help protect consumers, Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) have put forward a bipartisan discussion draft of the Data Security and Breach Notification Act.
The Act requires certain entities that collect and maintain consumers’ personal information to secure such information and to provide notice to affected individuals in the case of a breach of security involving personal information.
Enforcement of the National Standards
Maintenance of and Interaction With Existing Consumer Protections
House to Vote TOMORROW to Protect Seniors, Strengthen Medicare
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the House will consider a bipartisan solution to the SGR. H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, introduced by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means Committees, will fix the Medicare payment formula for doctors, protect seniors’ access to their Medicare physicians, and strengthen the program over the longer term. Members, health care organizations, and experts continue to voice support for the legislation.
Energy and Commerce Committee member Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN) along with Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA) today authored an op-ed in The Hill offering a physician’s perspective on the importance of this bill. “As physicians, we understand why a permanent solution for SGR is necessary,” they write. “Permanent SGR reform will not only ensure seniors access to care, but also has the potential to transform how we deliver health care to improve it while also lowering costs.”
Learn more about the Energy and Commerce Committee’s effort to replace the SGR here.
March 25, 2015
Doctors’ prescription to secure Medicare: SGR reform
By Reps. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN) and Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA)
Despite how it sometimes looks from outside the halls of the Capitol, there are members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who are working together to make big, bold decisions for the future of the country. After all, that’s why people like us wanted to serve. We both ran for Congress because we wanted to work to put people before politics to solve this country’s problems, and we believed that medical professionals must be an integral part of the conversation regarding healthcare policy. As members of Congress from opposite parties, we don’t agree on every issue in health care, but we do agree on the fundamental idea that the patient should be at the center of our healthcare decisions.
That’s why we believe a permanent fix to Medicare’s fatally flawed formula for reimbursing Medicare health care providers, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), is so important. Developed by Washington in 1997, this formula has seen 17 short-term patches over the last decade, threatening access to health care for millions of Medicare patients and, costing taxpayers $150 billion. However, now it looks like a broad, bipartisan consensus on real reforms that will ensure access to quality care for seniors and help us protect the Medicare promise is within our grasp. …
As physicians, we understand why a permanent solution for SGR is necessary. Under the current formula, cuts are indiscriminate and across the board; high-quality, cost-effective doctors are penalized just as much as those who are inefficient. For more than a decade, the financial uncertainty caused by the SGR has left many doctors no choice but to reduce the number of Medicare patients they see and to delay investments in new equipment and innovative practice. Meanwhile, one out of every four Medicare patients is struggling to find a primary care physician. The Washington solution has become the problem.
Permanent SGR reform will not only ensure seniors access to care, but also has the potential to transform how we deliver health care to improve it while also lowering costs. …
We know what it’s really like in the exam room, and the real consequences that inadequate and uncertain Medicare payments have on patient care. Our seniors and their physicians should not have to continue to bear the consequences of Congress’ failure to fix a problem Congress created. This time we can’t let politics get in the way of progress. With 49 million patients enrolled in Medicare and another 10,000 baby-boomers aging in each day, we have a responsibility to seize this historic occasion to pass a bipartisan SGR repeal and to right the Medicare system once and for all.
Read the full column online HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC – Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted today to advance two critical pieces of legislation furthering the committee’s efforts to protect families and communities. This morning, the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy voted to advance a draft of the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act by a bipartisan vote of 16 to 5. This afternoon, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade advanced a draft of the Data Security and Breach Notification Act by voice vote. Both bills now move to the full committee for consideration.
The Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act, authored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), builds off the committee’s work from previous Congresses to establish a state-based regulatory program to ensure the safe management and disposal of coal ash. The bill seeks to improve EPA’s final rule issued in December and would eliminate the implementation issues by giving states the necessary enforcement authority to implement the standards set by EPA.
“This is a good bill. EPA developed technical requirements for coal ash that are protective of human health and the environment. This bill utilizes those requirements and makes them part of enforceable permits,” said Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL).
“This breakthrough idea works for states and for stakeholders, while preserving the protective requirements for coal ash articulated by the administration,” added full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
The Data Security and Breach Notification Act is a bipartisan solution to address the growing problem of cyber crimes and protect vulnerable information from criminals. The legislation establishes a nationwide safety regime for data protection and breach notification. Ahead of the vote, authors of the legislation Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) called for their colleagues to support their data security solution in an op-ed on CNBC.com. “Last year was dubbed the year of the breach. We are committed to making 2015 the year of bipartisan breach legislation,” they wrote.
During the markup, Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgress, M.D. (R-TX) pointed to the following charts highlighting how the legislation would expand consumer protections from today’s system of state laws:
“Finding a workable bipartisan compromise that can become law has been elusive. But I believe that by focusing on how the criminals make their money we can work together to broker a solution for the millions of Americans impacted by identity theft and financial fraud,” said Burgess. “Perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. And we must ensure that there are meaningful consumer protections in this draft.”
“Congress must do what it can now to help consumers, help the economy, and stop funding these cybercriminals. I look forward to working on this legislation as it advances through the committee to bring consumers the help they need,” said Upton.
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