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Week Ahead: Senate, House committees set sights on Big Pharma

Jan. 29: Buckle up, Big Pharma, it’s going to be a bumpy ride in Congress this year. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley will gavel in the first of a series of hearings on soaring drug prices. “We already know what the problem is. It’s time to look at bipartisan solutions and work to turn them into law,” Grassley said in a statement. The Iowa Republican, who is retiring in two years, plans to re-introduce legislation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to stymie so-called pay-for-delay tactics drugmakers use to slow the introduction of generics. The two also will introduce a bill to allow importation from approved Canadian pharmacies. About 45 minutes after the Finance Committee hearing starts, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will have its crack at Big Pharma in a hearing dubbed “Examining the Actions of Drug Companies in Raising Prescription Drug Prices.”

Jan. 29: In another rare showing of bipartisanship, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders are slated to hold a hearing on funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, the teaching health center GME program, and diabetes programs at the National Institutes of Health and the Indian Health Service. Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have a bill that would fund the programs for five years.

Jan. 30: The Trump administration last year kicked off a listening tour asking the healthcare industry for input on how Stark/anti-kickback policies should be tweaked. HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan will talk about the effort during an event sponsored by the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. If Hargan breaks news, we’ll have it here.

Jan. 31 (or earlier?): Might we finally be able to take the wraps off of the CommonSpirit Health brand? The initial closure—slated for the end of 2018—got pushed back to the end of January. Assuming the deal gets done, CommonSpirit will be based in Chicago. The system would have 140 hospitals, 150,000 employees, nearly $30 billion in revenue and more than 700 care sites across 21 states, including 30 hospitals in California.