Today marks six years since the application to build the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline was first submitted. For the past six years, the project has been extensively studied and debated, but President Obama has yet to make a decision on whether or not to approve the Presidential Permit needed to allow construction of the cross-border pipeline. Instead, the president continues to come up with new excuses to extend the project’s review and stall his decision, blocking job creation and the delivery of safe and secure North American energy. In five separate reviews, the State Department found that Keystone XL was safe, would create thousands of jobs, support billions in economic activity, and would not increase greenhouse gas emissions, but the president still can’t find a way to say yes. Throughout history, U.S. presidents have achieved monumental accomplishments in far less time than President Obama has taken to come to a simple yes or no on the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline. Makes you wonder what they might think…
Please note that the preceding is a parody in an attempt to find a semblance of humor in the fact that President Obama has still failed to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. If you want to join the real conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #TimeToBuild.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today held a hearing to review the growing threat of antibiotic resistance and discuss ways to foster new drug development. Members heard from the Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Dr. Janet Woodcock and important health leaders and stakeholders to gain input on the global health crisis as part of the committee’s ongoing 21st Century Cures initiative. Witnesses suggested improving incentives for new drug development, streamlining clinical trials for highly resistant drug development, and considering changes to exclusivity periods for new drug development.
Pitts explained, “British Prime Minister David Cameron warned in July that if we do not confront the threat of antibiotic resistance, we could be ‘cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again.’ And, just yesterday, the president announced an Executive Order focused on efforts his administration plans to take with regards to the antibiotic resistance issue.”
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “This public health crisis is an important topic for us to explore as we continue our work on the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative and work to bring more effective treatments to patients more quickly.”
“It is virtually undisputed that we are facing a tremendous public health crisis because of the rise of serious antibacterial infections and the simultaneous decline in R&D in this area,” said Dr. Woodcock. “FDA is using the tools we have to begin to strengthen the antibiotic drug pipeline. However, more work is needed to improve the current climate, and FDA is looking forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to address this public health crisis.”
Dr. Barbara Murray, President the of Infections Diseases Society of America, offered support for the committee’s efforts as well as the ADAPT Act, bipartisan legislation authored by committee members Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX). She explained, “Antibiotic R&D, as you have heard, faces significant barriers. Discovery is hard. Scientific challenges lead to very high development costs. Economically, antibiotics have a very poor return on investment, because they are typically priced low, used for a short duration, and held in reserve by us to try to control antibiotic resistance.”
Gingrey added, “As we continue with the 21st Century Cures initiative we must work in a bipartisan manner to address this growing problem across the country. … Make no mistake, the cost of inaction in the fight against life threatening infections is grave and the CDC has already provided us with the statistics to prove that.”
“In the design of policies to meet this need of growing magnitude, focus must be fixed on the end goal, namely: more therapeutic and preventive options for patients, sooner,” said Dr. Adrian Thomas of Janssen Global Services. “To achieve this, we must foster more ‘shots on goal,’ galvanizing and mobilizing the larger innovator community to apply its time, talents and resources to the challenge of antibiotic resistance.”
“Currently in the news and foremost on our minds is Ebola. Ebola is a viral disease, but the next pandemic could be bacterial and arise in our own hospitals and communities,” commented Boston University Law Professor Kevin Outterson. “In the movies, heroic research scientists discover the cure before the credits roll; in real life, research programs require at least a decade and generally longer to deliver an effective antibiotic.”
Dr. Kenneth Hillan with Achaogen, Inc. added, “The process from initiation of an antibiotic discovery program through clinical trials and licensure can take well over 10 years. Given this long timeline, it is important to provide incentives to launch antibacterial research programs on an ongoing and predictable basis.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts Director Allan Coukell commented, “The Energy & Commerce committee has long understood the threat of antibiotic resistance and has done great work to bring this issue to the national stage. The need for new antibiotics and the potential an LPAD pathway has to bring therapies to critically-ill patients has been highlighted at a number of hearings and roundtables the committee has held as part of the 21st Century Cures initiative. We appreciate your leadership and continued commitment to this issue.”
Learn more about the 21st Century Cures initiative here.
More witness testimony and video of the hearing are available online here.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week built upon its bipartisan #RecordOfSuccess with President Obama signing two committee bills into law: one to improve pediatric health care and the other to boost hydropower as part of an “all of the above” energy strategy. Also, late Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate approved committee legislation to boost Muscular Dystrophy research. The bills join a growing list of over two dozen committee measures that have been signed into law in the 113th Congress to promote job creation and economic growth, modernize government for the innovation era, and protect families, communities, and civic initiatives.
Signed into Law
S. 2154 – Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014. S. 2154 is the Senate version of H.R. 4290, the Wakefield Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Pete King (R-NY). The legislation reauthorizes grant programs that support the expansion, improvement, and evaluation of emergency medical services for children. The program supports the training and education of EMS providers and identifies innovative models that can increase pediatric care in rural and tribal communities. The bill also would support the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network that facilitates collaborative research on pediatric EMSC.
S. 276, a bill to reinstate and extend the deadlines for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the American Falls Reservoir. Harnessing energy efficiency and innovation is a key pillar of the committee’s Architecture of Abundance energy vision for the 21st century.
Cleared by the Senate, Awaiting President’s Signature
H.R. 594, the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education Amendments of 2014, introduced by Health Subcommittee Vice Chairman Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). The legislation updates surveillance, research, and education activities to reflect scientific developments and continue the support of research and patient support initiatives across all forms of Muscular Dystrophy.
Burgess commented, “Since 2001 this law has successfully changed the lives of families impacted by all forms of Muscular Dystrophy. It has coordinated and focused federal biomedical research on nine forms of Muscular Dystrophy, developed epidemiologic data, and created patient care guidelines. But with the progress that we have made, more work remains and this legislation will help advance our efforts. I am pleased that with the president’s impending signature, this law will continue making a profound difference as we work to find better treatments and accelerate the path to cures.”
WASHINGTON, DC – The House of Representatives today approved H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), is a broad energy package that brings together American energy solutions previously approved by the House, including several bills authored by Energy and Commerce Committee members. H.R. 2 will help build a modern energy infrastructure, allow the safe and responsible production of America’s energy resources, ensure Americans have access to affordable and reliable electricity, promote efficient new technologies, and unleash the power of energy diplomacy. With today’s passage of H.R. 2, the House is giving the Senate a second chance to support these commonsense American energy solutions that will create jobs and make energy more affordable for all Americans.
“This is a commonsense energy approach that grows our economy, creates jobs, and ensures our energy is affordable and reliable,” said Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), sponsor of H.R. 2. “The House continues to do our job with legislation, but the Senate continues to block it. I am not going to stand idly by and keep allowing that to happen.”
“Many of the American energy solutions we voted on today as part of this package received strong bipartisan support in the House, but Senate Leader Harry Reid has failed to bring any of them to the floor to a vote. Creating jobs and keeping energy affordable is a subject that should rise above partisanship. Today, we are giving the Senate yet another shot to put politics aside and American families first. We welcome the Senate to join us as we say yes to American jobs and yes to American energy,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
“If America is going to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we need access to low-cost, abundant, affordable, and reliable electricity,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). “This commonsense bill will stop the president’s policies from driving up energy costs, and I urge the Senate to act.”
Click HERE to learn more about the American energy solutions included in H.R. 2.
Click HERE to view a list of supporters of H.R. 2.
Reports Show Enrollment Numbers Have Dropped in Absence of Administration’s Reports
“For the past five months, the administration has been silent on enrollment details for the president’s health care law, and now we know why: the number was going down. Sadly, this comes as no surprise,” commented Vice Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX). “Meanwhile, there are plenty of unknowns still surrounding this law: What is the status of building the backend? Is HealthCare.gov secure? The fight for transparency continues…”
President Obama took to the Rose Garden on April 17 and declared mission accomplished for his health care law with the news that 8 million Americans had signed up for health insurance. The White House celebrated their enrollment reports with not one, but two Hollywood champagne parties. Then the reports stopped.
Today, The Associated Press headline tells us what has happened since: “Latest health law enrollment figures show slippage from 8M high point.” The administration now says that 7.3 million Americans have enrolled in and paid for health coverage through the law. National Journal adds, “The number could drop again at the end of the month, when individuals who have not verified their citizenship or immigration status will lose their coverage. CMS said this week that there are currently 115,000 individuals whose discrepancies in records of legal status have not been resolved.”
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified that these figures represent data through August 15, 2014, which is just days after reports indicated enrollment figures were falling. Investors Business Daily reported on August 11, 2014, “Aetna’s Obamacare exchange statistics should clear up any doubt as to why the Obama Administration has been tight-lipped about enrollment since celebrating 8 million sign-ups in mid-April. Reality, evidence suggests, could require quite a come-down from those lofty claims.”
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, “Suicide Prevention and Treatment: Helping Loved Ones in Mental Health Crisis.”
For the first time, former Florida Member of Congress Lincoln Diaz-Balart shared the very personal story of his own son who died by suicide last year. Diaz-Balart told the Subcommittee, “I must admit, I believed that all you need is love. I never thought our tragedy of May 19, 2013, was possible. But it was possible. Sometimes, love is not enough. Assertive, proactive intervention is sometimes required to get needed treatment to those in mental health crisis and thorough discussion of the realness with those who are sick.”
The Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Former Member of Congress
Murphy noted, “Suicide is an American public health crisis, that results in more lost lives than motor vehicle crashes, homicide, or drug use. As we will hear today, it is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, and the second leading cause of death for adults ages 25 to 34. Each day, we lose 22 veterans to suicide. In 90 percent of suicide, an underlying diagnosis of mental illness was a contributing factor. Suicide is the very definition of a ‘mental health crisis.’”
Joel Dvoskin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, underscored the scope of the problem, testifying, “Suicide is of such extraordinary magnitude and importance that it consistently ranks among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Nearly 40,000 Americans commit suicide each year -- approximately 105 per day.”
U.S. Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, M.D. explained, “We are all here because we know that suicide remains a serious public health problem. Although some people may perceive suicide as the act of a troubled person, it is a complex issue that is influenced by many risk and protective factors. … We also know that those who die by suicide are far from the only ones affected by this tragedy. Suicide exacts a heavy toll on those left behind as well. Loved ones, friends, classmates, neighbors, teachers, faith leaders, and colleagues all feel the effects of these deaths. Sadly, these deaths are just one measure of the challenge we face. For every American who dies by suicide, many others attempt suicide, and many others suffer the despair that leads them to consider taking their own life.”
Dr. David Brent, Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies and Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Epidemiology, and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “There is a need to develop and test agents that rapidly reduce depression and suicidal ideation. We need biomarkers that can identify which patients will respond to which treatments, so that we can speed up the process of matching effective treatments to patients. Since maltreatment is an important risk factor for suicidal behavior, and also predicts non-response to treatment, we need to understand why treatments don’t work for these patients and what treatments should be offered instead.”
Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “Like other areas covered by our committee’s work on 21st Century Cures, success will depend on our ability to close the gaps between advances in scientific knowledge about treating serious mental illness – which have been extensive – and how the federal government prioritizes and delivers these treatments to the most vulnerable populations. Our delivery of mental health services must keep up with the impressive pace of research and innovation in the field.”
Christine Moutier, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, offered a “hopeful and actionable” message to the committee: “I believe we can accomplish the goal of reducing the suicide rate in our country 20% by 2025. Science provides clear evidence for strategies to take, and I believe the American people are ready for a greater understanding of the issue. If we push hard with an effective strategy, we can save lives.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Republican leaders of the House and Senate Committees of jurisdiction today sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner regarding the ongoing challenges states are facing while implementing the health law’s changes to Medicaid.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) write, “The challenges states are experiencing with Medicaid applications are problems that CMS itself directly contributed to or created. … CMS’s focus on state challenges wrongly ignores the serious, systemic operational challenges created by the agency.”
Upton, Hatch, and Alexander first wrote to CMS regarding the backlog of Medicaid applications on May 22, 2014. The administration failed to address the concerns outlined in this letter in its July response to the leaders. Following that response, CMS again pressed several states regarding their implementation of Medicaid changes under the health law, demanding answers within 10 days of receipt of the letter.
Upton, Hatch, and Alexander write, “We also find it troubling that in these letters, CMS demands a level of transparency and accountability to which it is not also willing to hold itself. … Nearly nine months into the Medicaid expansion established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), CMS has yet to publicly release the number of newly-eligible childless adults enrolled in Medicaid under PPACA – despite repeated requests from our offices.”
The leaders request the same level of transparency from the administration, seeking answers to several questions regarding the health law’s Medicaid expansion within 10 days of CMS receiving this letter.
Read the complete letter online here.
The House Majority Leader today announced that the House is no longer scheduled to be in session tomorrow. However, the Health Subcommittee’s hearing scheduled for tomorrow, September 19, 2014, entitled “21st Century Cures: Examining Ways to Combat Antibiotic Resistance and Foster New Drug Development” will proceed as scheduled. The hearing will be held at 9 AM in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
As the 21st Century Cures initiative continues, subcommittee members will review the growing threat of antibiotic resistance and explore efforts to counteract this global health threat.
The Majority Memorandum, witness list, and witness testimony are available here.
5 Years + 1 = 2014 Updated Edition
Remember the GIF-story of the Keystone XL pipeline? Last year, on the five year anniversary of the Keystone XL pipeline’s initial application we brought you a series of GIFs to highlight the emotional journey of the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval process. We hoped this would be observing the last birthday of the application, but alas, we were wrong. Defying reason in this self-proclaimed “year of action,” President Obama has let the application slip into its sixth year of review. Tomorrow will mark six years since the application to build the job-creating project was first submitted, and so the GIF-story of the Keystone XL pipeline lives on. Here is an update chronicling our emotions from when we last left off.
In January 2014, when the U.S. State Department issued its fifth and (hopefully) final environmental impact statement for the permit application, confirming Keystone XL is safe, will create over 42,000 jobs, and will have limited environmental impacts:
In April 2014, when the U.S. State Department announced it will delay the national interest determination period indefinitely, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court can rule over the route:
In May 2014, when a bipartisan group of Senators attempted to bring a vote to the floor to build Keystone XL, but the measure was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
And today, on the eve of the application’s six year anniversary, we are still feeling like this:
Just how much longer will the president make us wait for Keystone’s jobs and energy? At this point, it is anyone’s guess. The president has used every excuse in the book (and written a few of his own) to say “no” to this project that will strengthen America’s energy security, boost economic growth, and create thousands of good-paying American jobs. After six years, it’s time for the president to put politics aside and finally say “yes.” Yes to American jobs, and #Yes2Energy.Read More
Even After Dealing with Broken HealthCare.gov, Families Face Same #BrokenPromises Again
The president sold his health care law on three core promises to the American people:
Over and over again these promises have been broken, stripping families of the health care peace of mind they deserve. Even for those Americans who have managed to navigate the system – struggling with a broken HealthCare.gov in the first open enrollment period, finally finding a doctor, and securing actual health coverage – the challenges aren’t over. The New York Times reports, “The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year – and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Centers for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. … all the jostling around in the market means that consumers are stuck with tough choices – swallow a big premium increase or switch to a cheaper plan that may cover different doctors and hospitals.”
“If the first year of HealthCare.gov was not bad enough for consumers, they now have to go back to the still-incomplete website to shop again in order to avoid #RateShock – but doing so could cost Americans access to their trusted physicians,” commented Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA). “The administration has repeatedly refused to admit that this law is unworkable and its promises are impossible to keep, and it’s hardworking, middle class families and small businesses who are left to pay the price.”
September 17, 2014
With New Health Law, Shopping Around Can Be Crucial
If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year.
The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices.
The combination will create a dilemma for many people and highlights both a benefit and drawback of the new insurance marketplaces created by the health law. As the law’s designers intended, plans are competing for customers, which often holds cost down. But all the jostling around in the market means that consumers are stuck with tough choices — swallow a big premium increase or switch to a cheaper plan that may cover different doctors and hospitals. …
Read the article online HERE.
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