Week ahead: Dems, GOP work together on health policy

Democrats and Republicans will work hand in hand this week to make sure the American people have access to medicines and medical devices.

No, it's not a dream — just FDA user fees.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to reauthorize the user fees that fund the Food and Drug Administration regulators who approve new drugs and medical devices. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will mark up its bill on Wednesday. The House Energy and Commerce's Health subcommittee is also expected to hold its markup soon.

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Both parties want to renew the user fee agreements, but unresolved issues remain concerning the right balance between getting new drugs and devices approved quickly versus making sure they're safe.

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, which is close to Democrats, wrote to lawmakers recently expressing its opposition to the House draft bill because of provisions that would “weaken the oversight of these products, endangering the health and lives of patients.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Energy and Commerce Committee marks up legislation to achieve the $97 billion in deficit savings required under Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget.

On Wednesday, two subpanels of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hold a twin hearing on whether the government is adequately protecting taxpayers from Medicaid fraud. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) will testify.

Also on Wednesday, Ryan holds a hearing on “replacing the sequester.”

On Friday, the Ways and Means subcommittee on Health holds a hearing on Medicare premium support models, such as Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposal in the budget the House adopted last month.

Finally, Friday is also the deadline for the Obama administration to respond to House Republicans' questions about the money the IRS is spending to implement Obama's healthcare reform law.

Off Capitol Hill, the Medicare trustees release their report on Medicare's finances on Monday.

The conservative American Enterprise Institute holds a forum on “The Future of Medicare: A Reality Check” Tuesday morning. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will participate.

Starting Wednesday, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America — aka the Big “I” — holds its annual Legislative Conference and Convention.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) of the House Ways and Means Committee will address the group at noon on Wednesday. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, follow suit on Thursday starting at 7:45 a.m.