HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Gun Bill Helps Fulfill Mental Health Push

Two senators have been trying for nearly a decade to get support for spending billions on clinics specially designed to help those struggling with mental health problems and addiction. Now, their efforts are bearing fruit as the Senate voted 65-33 to approve bipartisan gun-safety legislation.

The House is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature before leaving for a two-week recess.

Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) say such clinics would fill the gap in care left when psychiatric hospitals were shuttered in the 1950s and 1960s.

That came breakthrough this year as a bipartisan group of senators discussed how to stem gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting of children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas. The group wanted to pair gun purchase restrictions with major spending for mental health.

One of the most significant components of the package would expand the federal Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, currently in a limited number of states, to nationwide. Under the gun measure, 10 new states can opt into the program every two years, according to an outline of the legislation provided by the group that negotiated the agreement. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Happening on the Hill

USDA, FDA Get Boosts Amid Food Safety, Opioid Concerns: Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration programs are in line for an 8% increase in the year starting Oct. 1 under legislation House appropriators approved Thursday. The Appropriations Committee House voted 31-26 to advance the fiscal 2023 spending billwhich would provide $27.2 billion for the program, an increase of $2.075 billion over the current year.

The commission adopted an amendment from Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) to dedicate $15 million of FDA money to help the agency coordinate with two other federal agencies—the Drug Enforcement Administration and US Customs and Border Protection—to “combat the illicit importation of opioids, including fentanyl, through international mail facilities and land ports of entry.” Read more from Celine Castronuovo, Maeve Sheehey and Jack Fitzpatrick.

Labor-HHS-Education Bill Advance With Earmarks: House appropriators also advanced their Labor-HHS-Education spending bill through a subcommittee markup yesterday by voice vote.

The spending bill includes 1,310 earmarks totaling $1.4 billion, according to a list published by the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) stands to bring home the most money in the bill, with 13 projects totaling $14.2 million.

Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Labor-HHS subcommittee, both said they’ll ultimately oppose the legislation because it doesn’t include long-standing prohibitions on federal spending for abortion services. Cole also opposed the overall spending in the bill, saying it would exacerbate inflation, Alex Ruoff reports.

Industry & Regulation

FDA Bans Juul’s E-Cigarettes: The Food and Drug Administration rejected authorization to Juul for all of its products currently marketed in the US, dealing a substantial blow to a company that was briefly a darling among both tobacco giants and Silicon Valley investors. The regulator said in a statement Thursday that the company must stop selling and distributing the products, and that those that are on the market must be removed or risk enforcement action. Read more from Fiona Rutherford.

FDA Outlines When It’ll Pull Breakthrough Status: Promising drugs to fulfill unmet medical needs could lose an FDA special status if emerging data show they won’t offer a substantial benefit or if another treatment comes to market, under an agency proposal published Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration released draft guidance on rescinding a drug’s breakthrough therapy status. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

CDC Panel OKs Moderna Shots for Kids, Teens: Moderna’s Covid vaccines for children and teens won’t support from a key panel of US health advisors, a crucial step toward providing yet another tool for protecting young people from the most serious effects of the virus. The 15-member Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel supported the shots for children 6 to 11 years old and teens 12 to 17 years old in two unanimous votes. Read more from Fiona Rutherford.

  • In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams hasn’t been enforcing the rule mandating that private businesses require employees to be vaccinated against Covid, and a spokesman for Adams said the administration has no plans to start doing so. Read more from Marie-Rose Sheinerman.

Health Plans’ ACA Pay Claims to Proceed as Class Action: Self-administered, self-insured employee health and welfare benefit plans can proceed as a class in a suit to recover millions paid into an Obamacare program that arguably didn’t apply to them, a federal claims court said. Over 600 such plans contributed to the Affordable Care Act’s transitional reinsurance program during the 2014 benefit year, the US Court of Federal Claims said in certifying the class. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

CDC Eyes Bavarian Monkeypox Vaccine for Kids as Outbreak Spreads: US health officials are looking to expand use of the monkeypox vaccine for children as the outbreak continues to spread across the US and in countries around the world, with more than 3,300 cases reported globally. The CDC is developing a protocol aimed at allowing use of Bavarian Nordic A/S’s Jynneos vaccine in children, if needed. Read more from Madison Muller and Riley Griffin.

US Seeks Stronger Title IX Protections for Transgender Students: The Biden administration marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX by proposing sweeping changes to the landmark law that aims to strengthen discrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary students, boost protections for pregnant students, and undo Trump-era rules governing sexual misconduct schools at schools and universities. Read more from Ella Ceron and Akayla Gardner.

  • Meanwhile, as the generation of LGBTQ+ people Forged by the AIDS epidemic and drastic cultural shifts of the 1980s and ’90s enters its retirement years, demands that nursing homes take additional steps to ensure security and compassionate care increase. Read more from Ayanna Alexander.

Employers Hope FTC Probe of Pharmacy Benefits Eases Drug Prices: Large companies that spend billions of dollar a year on prescription drugs for their employees are hoping that the Federal Trade Commission’s inquiry into pharmaceutical benefit manager business practices will yield information that spurs major policy changes to reduce drug prices. Read more from Sara Hansard.

More Headlines:

With assistance from Alex Ruoff

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com