WASHINGTON, DC – The House of Representatives today approved H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014, by a strong bipartisan vote. This bipartisan legislation, authored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), reauthorizes Brand USA, a public-private partnership that helps market U.S. destinations to international travelers at no cost to taxpayers. The bill also includes important reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enacting H.R. 4450 would reduce the U.S. federal deficit by $231 million over 10 years.
“My legislation means job growth without utilizing a dime of taxpayer dollars. Millions of Americans across the country are still struggling, and H.R. 4450 will help them get back to work. Brand USA reauthorization is a jobs bill,” said Bilirakis. “I am proud that my colleagues have joined me in a bipartisan effort to pass H.R. 4450 in the House of Representatives, continuing the House’s track record of passing meaningful, impactful bills to help Americans across the country. The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act will increase Brand USA’s efficiency, effectiveness, transparency – it is a huge step forward for the accountability of the program. It is my hope the Senate will pass the companion bill – S. 2250 – without delay.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “I thank Mr. Bilirakis and Mr. Welch for their leadership in spearheading this bipartisan bill that will encourage international travelers to visit U.S. destinations, which helps to create jobs and support economic growth in communities across the nation. In 2013, Brand USA generated an additional 1.1 million visitors to the U.S. and $3.4 billion in additional spending at U.S. businesses. This increase in spending triggered the creation of more than 53,000 American jobs and $2.2 billion in payroll. Brand USA delivers all of these benefits to the U.S. economy at no cost to the American taxpayers, and the added transparency and accountability measures included in this legislation will help improve the program and allow for even greater success.”
Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) added, “Thanks to Brand USA, travel agents from abroad can educate their clients on popular attractions in America’s heartland—not just New York City or Los Angeles. Nebraska alone has seen $4.4 billion in economic contributions and 44,275 jobs supported throughout the life of Brand USA. And with H.R. 4450, we increase accountability, as well as transparency requirements and performance metrics to ensure Brand USA is run efficiently. I thank Mr. Bilirakis and Mr. Welch for their hard work in drafting H.R. 4450 so that our economy can continue to benefit from Brand USA.”
A broad group of stakeholders support legislation to reauthorize Brand USA, including:
To read the letters of support, click HERE.Read More
Health Subcommittee Reviews Barriers to Communication Among All Involved in Discovery, Development, and Delivery Cycle
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), today held a hearing, 21st Century Cures: Examining Barriers to Ongoing Evidence Development and Communication. Subcommittee members and witnesses discussed the discovery, development, and delivery cycle and the importance of transparent collaboration in that cycle in order to bring better cures and treatments to patients more quickly.
Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commented, “Different uses for drugs or devices are constantly being discovered by physicians, researchers, and scientists in academia and industry. Particularly in the context of devices, improvements are continually made to products based on new evidence being developed about how certain patients are responding to certain treatments, technologies, or combinations thereof. We must work to ensure that our regulatory and reimbursement policies encourage this iterative process and do not stifle innovation.”
Pitts asked Mary Grealy, President of the Healthcare Leadership Council, about her testimony that said, “there are certain aspects of HIPAA and privacy laws in general that warrant policymaker review and discussion.” Grealy told Pitts, “The key here is to make sure that we have an appropriate balance between protecting patient information, and we believe very strongly in that, but we also don’t want to erect barriers to having access to that data.”
Michael Mussallen, Chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences explained that the company’s “recent experience with the development of an innovative heart valve replacement therapy, which enables a team of physicians to replace a patient’s aortic heart valve without open-heart surgery, has provided us a unique perspective on the current regulatory process.” Mussallem noted that this device was approved in the United States four years later than it was in Europe.
Mussallem offered three recommendations to break down existing barriers to innovation: “Evidence development mechanisms can be improved to reduce costs and delays; Economic incentives need to be aligned with promoting innovation; FDA’s vision to improve the regulatory process must be accelerated.”
Gregory Schimizzi, M.D., Cofounder of Carolina Arthritis Associates, testifying on behalf of the Alliance for Specialty Medicine, added, “current practices at both the FDA and CMS may be inappropriately hampering the exchange of information and making it difficult for physicians to receive the information they need to make valuable treatment decisions.”
Josh Rising, MD, MPH, Director of Medical Devices at Pew Charitable Trusts added, “Clinical trials are the gold standard of medical evidence. They are also the single largest contributor to the cost and length of product development. The key to facilitating innovation of new drugs and devices is to collect the information faster and cheaper, and ensure patients, providers, regulators and payers have the data they need. Registries, large databases that collect information over time on a group of patients treated for a particular medical condition, are one way to accomplish this.” Rising noted recent work conducted by Pew that found, “registry findings and reports should be publicly released on a regular basis, and that the governance, operations, and financing should be made publicly available. FDA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other stakeholders should encourage the use of registries that meet these criteria.”
The 21st Century Cures initiative will continue tomorrow with a roundtable to discuss personalized medicine.
The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, July 29, 2014, at 10:15 a.m. in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, “Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.”
Nanotechnology presents great opportunities to advance a broad range of industries from manufacturing to the environment to healthcare and more, and the science behind nanotechnology is led by premier research institutions across the country. Next week’s hearing will explore the current state of nanotechnology and the direction it is headed so members can gain a better understanding of the policy changes that may be necessary to keep up with advancements. Ultimately, the subcommittee hopes to better understand what issues will confront regulators and how to assess the challenges and opportunities of nanotechnology.
The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, July 29, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, “FERC Perspectives: Questions Concerning EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan and other Grid Reliability Challenges.” The subcommittee has invited all five Commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to testify.
At next week’s hearing, members will have the opportunity to question the FERC Commissioners about how new federal environmental regulations would affect the nation’s electric grid and energy prices, as well as other emerging threats to our power supply.
“I have serious concerns about how President Obama’s extreme policies will impact the nation’s electric grid. EPA’s ‘clean power plan’ does not explain how states and utilities will be able to keep the lights on while being forced to limit power options. Any plan which seeks to prohibit the use of coal – one of our nation’s most abundant and affordable energy sources – will surely drive up energy costs and threaten reliability,” said Chairman Whitfield. “I look forward to hearing the FERC Commissioners’ perspective on these new regulations and learning about what steps the agency is taking to ensure consumers continue to have access to affordable and reliable electricity.”
Ahead of the hearing, the subcommittee sent the FERC Commissioners questions related to EPA’s recently proposed carbon regulations for existing power plants, asking they each provide written responses as part of their testimony submission. To view the questions, click HERE.
The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.Read More
WASHINGTON, DC – The House of Representatives today approved bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the nation’s satellite television law to ensure that millions of satellite subscribers continue to receive broadcast programming. H.R. 4572, the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014, which was approved by voice vote, reauthorizes the communications and copyright provisions of existing law for five years and makes a number of narrow reforms to better meet the needs of today’s video marketplace. The legislation is a joint product of the House Energy and Commerce and Judiciary Committees.
“This bill is good policy, and we hope the Senate will take quick action to enact this must-pass law for the millions depending on satellite television,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
“This helps ensure that consumers in rural areas, like my congressional district, have the same access to news and entertainment options that consumers in urban areas enjoy,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
“I am proud to say that the STELA Reauthorization Act is yet another example of true bipartisanship with support from all sectors of the communications industry. This type of collaboration has long been the hallmark of our committee, and I’m pleased to see this legislative result. I can only urge the Senate to act swiftly and pass this bill into law before the year’s end,” said Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR).
Judiciary Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-NC) added, “I strongly support the STELA Reauthorization Act because I want to make sure our satellite-subscribing constituents have access to network channels. While we work to protect intellectual property rights on the digital platform, it’s critical that we do not limit consumers’ access to content in a reasonable and legal manner. With that in mind, I’d also like to thank everyone in the intellectual property community for the friendship that has been extended to me throughout my career while working on these important issues.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 4572 on May 8, and the Judiciary Committee approved, H.R. 5036, on July 10. The House today approved H.R. 4572 as passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee, with the language of H.R. 5036 added as a second title to the bill.
Authored by Upton, Walden, full committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), H.R. 4572 makes the following targeted reforms to the video marketplace:
H.R. 4572 has received the support of groups including 21st Century Fox, ABC / Disney, the American Cable Association, the American Television Alliance, CBS, DIRECTV & Dish Network, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and US Telecom.
July 21, 2014
Rural America: The Forefront of Innovation
By Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH)
The productivity and growth of rural America are essential to the overall economic well-being and prosperity of our country. These regions are critical to our sustainability and should not be neglected when considering policies that promote job creation, investment and innovation. While Ohio’s 5th District boasts more than 60,000 manufacturing jobs, it is also the largest agricultural district in the state. Ensuring our rural areas are accounted for, especially when examining ways to tap our country’s technological potential, must be a top priority.
Maintaining an open, free and accessible Internet is currently at the forefront of policy discussions facing Congress. Over the past 20 years, the Internet has become a platform for job creation, education, job skills training, business development and health care. It has also enabled us to achieve efficiencies in agriculture, energy, transportation, manufacturing and many other sectors of the economy. Expanding access to the Internet, not deterring it, is critical to this continued advancement and growth.
Unfortunately, there are efforts to do just the opposite. The Federal Communications Commission’s proposed regulations on broadband Internet access would impose costly government mandates that were designed for the monopoly telephone system of the 1930s — long before the Internet ever existed. If adopted, these regulations will obstruct ongoing efforts to spread broadband access to rural communities and deepen the economic divide between rural and non-rural areas.
To guard against this potential bureaucratic interference and preserve the critical technological gains we’ve made in rural America, I recently introduced legislation to keep the Internet open to consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs, and free from government regulation. By doing so, broadband service providers will continue to be incentivized to invest in rural America and deploy infrastructure to these hard-to-reach areas that support the innovative applications and services that make so many efficiencies and conveniences possible today.
Since its infancy, broadband service has remained relatively free from government control and Americans, rural and non-rural, have enjoyed open access to the Internet. As a result, Internet providers have made more than $1 trillion in investments in broadband infrastructure since 1996, helping to support almost 11 million jobs.
While broadband availability in rural areas still lags behind non-rural areas, gains continue to be made, as more than three-fourths of all rural areas in America have access to robust broadband service and more than 80 percent of rural residents have access to some of the nation’s fastest broadband download speeds. The number of Americans without any access to broadband service also continues to decline. In the past 13 years, home broadband adoption has grown from 3 percent of all American adults age 18 and older to 70 percent. It took the telephone 76 years to reach this level of penetration, and we can only expect these unprecedented trends to continue as long as the Internet remains unfettered by government regulation.
Rep. Bob Latta is a Republican from Ohio.
To read the column online, click here.Read More
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision in Halbig v. Burwell.
“The court offered a clear rebuke of the administration’s effort to extend subsidies where the law did not provide them. The ruling also dramatically limits the IRS’ legal authority to enforce the individual and employer mandates. From the way the president’s health care law was forced through Congress to its reckless implementation, time and again the administration has acted outside the law, creating confusion, uncertainty, and ultimately harm for the American people.”
NOTE: Former HHS Secretary Sebelius recently declared that ‘it really doesn’t matter’ if states create their own exchanges, but today’s ruling makes clear that the law’s implementation has very real consequences for Americans. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on failed state exchanges that now require more money to change their systems. Today’s decision underscores yet another concern surrounding the failed state exchanges, and raises new questions about those states transitioning to the federal exchanges.
Implementation of President Obama’s signature health care law has been underway for months, and for some provisions even years, yet for many Americans, the news isn’t getting better with time. In selling the law, the president made promises he knew he could not keep, pledging to lower health care premiums and that Americans could keep their health care plans and trusted doctors. Now ten months since the launch of the law’s insurance exchanges, many Americans are still learning the harsh and expensive realities of the president’s broken promises.
Nebraska Radio Network reports on some of the rate shock families in Nebraska will experience in the coming months, because of the administration’s many delays throughout implementation. “Paul Utemark, CEO of the Fillmore County Hospital, says premiums in Nebraska could increase an average of about 30%. … ‘I’d like to hope that it would be a smooth transition but there’s definitely a possibility people are going to be shocked.’ Utemark says some states may see even higher percentage increases in premiums.”
In North Carolina, the law has created headaches for schools struggling to deal with the new mandates and substitute teacher schedules. The Fayetteville Observer reports, “The Cumberland County school system has told about 1,800 substitute teachers they can work no more than 115 hours each month. The rule is an effort to avoid costs and penalties that could result because of requirement in the Affordable Care Act. It also applies to coaches who receive stipends from the school system.”
The Tampa Bay Times notes that customers in Florida are struggling to find access to doctors. Charlene Lake was left with “no choice but to use the community health centers left in her plan’s network, rather than the traditional physician practice she had planned on.” Politico adds that this issue is not confined to Florida. “Anger over limited choice of doctors and hospitals in Obamacare plans is prompting some states to require broader networks… Another complication: Even if a patient goes to an in-network hospital, not all the doctors are necessarily part of the plan. For instance patients can get stuck with thousands of dollars in bills for the anesthesia, even if surgery is covered.”
The Washington Post adds, “Nine months after Americans began signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a challenging new phase is emerging as confused enrollees clamor for help in understanding their coverage. … Beyond that, continuing technical problems with the federal health insurance exchange and state exchanges mean some enrollees still have not gotten insurance cards or are not getting billed properly.”
Of course these issues are not confined to the federal exchange and its still-incomplete back end. KSTP 5 News, a local ABC affiliate in Minnesota reports, “The Minnesota Department of Human Services sent 3,000 letters to homes of MinnesotaCare recipients who may have received incorrect monthly billing statements after they applied for health coverage through MNsure, the state’s new health care exchange. The letter tells those recipients the bills may have been wrong for several months, but they encouraged those clients to keep paying the bills anyway.”
Washington Free Beacon adds, “The Obamacare woes continue as an Oklahoma man spent three agonizing months trying to cancel his health insurance plan. … He phoned HealthCare.gov, but no one answered. Emanuel showed KJRH-OK the call logs displaying how long he waited to speak to a representative from the health care exchange. The call logs show that Emanuel waited 131 minutes one time and 126 minutes another time.”
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Months after the sign-up deadline, thousands of Americans who purchased health insurance through the Affordable Care Act still don’t have coverage due to problems in enrollment systems. In states including California, Nevada and Massachusetts, which are running their own online insurance exchanges, some consumers picked a private health plan and paid their premiums only to learn recently that they aren’t insured.”
Instead of acknowledging Americans’ very real struggles with the law, the White House may simply offer more delays and unilateral changes. The Hill reports, “The White House needs to make a decision soon on whether Obamacare’s controversial employer mandate will take effect in 2015. … Federal officials are late in delivering the final forms and technical guidance necessary for firms to comply, raising suspicions the mandate could once again be delayed. The mandate has been pushed back twice before, the first time in late summer.”
House Expected to Vote Tuesday on Bilirakis Bill to Reauthorize Brand USA
House Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) was featured this week on WashingtonTimes.com discussing H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act, a bill he coauthored with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).
H.R. 4450 sailed through the full committee by voice vote last week and is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives tomorrow. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes funding for Brand USA, a public-private partnership that helps promote U.S. destinations to international travelers at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. The bill also makes important reforms to bring increased transparency and accountability to the program. “Last year there were 1.1 million visitors as a result of this program, and they spent over $3.4 billion,” said Bilirakis. “We are not using taxpayer dollars. It is a win-win for all of us. It will create thousands of jobs, and there is proof of that.” This job-creating bill has generated a wide range of support from major business and consumer groups nationwide. Click here to view the letters of support.
July 21, 2014
Watch the video online HERE.
The Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), has scheduled a hearing for Monday, July 28, 2014, at 3 p.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled “Protecting Americans from Illegal Bailouts and Plan Cancellations Under the President’s Health Care Law.” Witnesses to be announced.
“Broken promises and executive overreach have become synonymous with the president’s health care law. As the White House continues to ignore the harsh realities of this law, we remain committed to solutions that protect the American people,” said Pitts.
The Subcommittee will review proposals to address the potential of unlawful payments to insurance companies under the health care law’s risk corridor program. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has questioned the ability of the administration to issue payments through the health care law’s risk corridor program. The administration has recently argued that the risk corridor program would function as a user fee, but risk corridors were not listed as a user fee in the president’s own FY 2015 budget, released earlier this year.
Subcommittee members will also review H.R. 3522, the Employee Health Care Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). This bill would help protect employees from President Obama’s broken promise that, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period.” H.R. 3522 would allow health insurance currently available on the group market to continue to be offered, providing the opportunity for Americans who purchase health plans on the group market to keep the health care plans they currently have and like.
The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
2125 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515