Week ahead: House panel begins work on opioid bills

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee is launching legislative work on bills aimed at curbing the nation’s opioid epidemic, which resulted in more deaths last year than car accidents.

Combating the opioid epidemic has been a bright spot of bipartisanship in the past, particularly when Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in 2016. Lawmakers are hoping it can be a bipartisan effort again this year.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wants to see the House pass opioid legislation by Memorial Day weekend. The panel plans to hold three legislative hearings. Wednesday marks the first hearing, where lawmakers will examine eight bills on enforcement and patient safety. The next two hearings will focus on prevention and insurance coverage, respectively.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are working on a bill Whitehouse referred to as “CARA 2.0.”

Congress approved $6 billion for the opioid and mental health crises in a two-year budget deal passed earlier this month.

The proposed merger between health care giants CVS and Aetna will receive lawmakers’ scrutiny in the coming week in a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing. Regulators don’t appear ready to sign off on the $69 billion deal for CVS Health to acquire Aetna. Department of Justice staff asked the companies to provide them with more information earlier this month.
Negotiations are also likely to continue on legislation aimed at stabilizing the ObamaCare insurance markets. Several lawmakers are working to tack it onto a broader government spending package that must be passed by March 23 to avoid a shutdown.

Before the Presidents Day recess, top Republican negotiators met to discuss a way to bridge the gap between the House and Senate proposals.

GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Susan Collins (Maine) met with Walden to discuss two main differences between the chambers’ bills. The Senate version provides $5 billion per year to help insurance companies offset the costs of covering the chronically ill, whereas the House version would provide $10 billion.

Additionally, House Republicans want the measure to include the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortions, while Democrats oppose this provision.



Tuesday, a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee will examine the proposed CVS and Aetna merger

Tuesday, Senate Health Committee on the role of technology in preventing addiction

Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on combating the opioid crisis


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Tags Aetna CVS Health Greg Walden Lamar Alexander Opioid crisis Rob Portman Sheldon Whitehouse Susan Collins Susan Collins Week ahead
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