ALLIANCE CONTINUES TO PRESS CONGRESS ON SGR REFORM: NASS joined the Alliance of Specialty Medicine (the Alliance) in sending a letter urging congressional leaders to pass meaningful legislation to repeal capitol webMedicare’s flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula this year. A copy of the letter can be found here. As for the prospects of passing a bill this year, some members of Congress are more optimistic than others, while many say that the outcome of this November’s elections makes it a toss up. NASS continues to work with its partners in Congress to enact SGR reform and will continue to report on any developments as they become available. 
 
SENATORS PRAISE PRESIDENT’S NOMINATION FOR SECRETARY OF HHS: Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee, held a confirmation hearing for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was nominated by the White House to replace Kathleen Sebelius as the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Though she faced tough questions about how she would oversee the continued roll out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Burwell has earned the support of some prominent Republican Senators and is expected to be confirmed. When asked about the ACA’s controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), Burwell said that she neither wanted nor expected the board to be realized during her tenure. Burwell attended another confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance committee earlier this week.
 
SENATORS PROBE FDA ON DRAFT GUIDIANCE: Four Republican members of the Senate HELP committee sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently expressing their concern with the agency’s apparent practice of using draft guidance to make substantive policy changes. The letter, addressed to FDA Commission Margaret Hamburg, made references to several instances in which the FDA was using draft guidance as actual “guidance” rather than as a way to solicit stakeholder feedback. The Senators included a request for feedback on a number of issues and are currently awaiting a response from the FDA.
 
HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES SECOND WHITE PAPER ON HEALTH INNOVATION: On May 12, the House Energy and Commerce committee announced the release of a second white paper in its 21st Century Cures initiative. The committee’s paper takes a look at the recommendations made within the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology 2012 Report on Propelling Innovation, and requests stakeholder feedback on accomplishing these goals. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will also be conducting a hearing on the Council’s report on May 20. Details about the 21st Century Cure initiative and the upcoming hearing can be found here.