Framing the Week

By: | March 10, 2020

President Trump continues to face scrutiny over his administration’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak. As expected, congressional Democrats are wielding their oversight authority aggressively. They have pressed the administration on a number of issues, including the availability of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, nursing home safety, and the impact of the administration’s expansion and promotion of non-ACA compliant plans (e.g., short-term limited duration insurance plans).

On the regulatory front, today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) issued the highly anticipated parallel interoperability final rules.

FY 2021 Budget

This week, House Appropriation subcommittee hearings on the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget will provide members with an opportunity to grill senior health officials on the federal response to the outbreak. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn will be in the hot seat on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Members will likely demand details on how the two agencies will implement the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 6074), signed into law last Friday.

The funding package includes $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness and response – largely via the CDC. Of this funding, $950 million is earmarked in CDC grants to states and localities for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications and other preparedness and response activities. The package also provides $61 million to the FDA to support the development and review (pre-market and post-market) of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies and vaccines to combat the coronavirus.

2020 Election

With the Democratic primary essentially a two-man race between former Vice President Joe Biden (664 delegates) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (573 delegates), tomorrow will be another critical day of voting. Six states (Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington) will go to the polls. Biden and Sanders will go head-to-head at the 11th Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN and Univision in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday – two days before primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.

At the end of the week, Congress will adjourn for a weeklong recess before returning for a relatively short work period. Looking ahead, a two-week recess (April 6-17) will be book-ended by House Democrats’ and Republicans’ annual retreats on April 1-3 and April 22-24, respectively.

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Alyssa Llamas