A New Administration
Top of our news – which is hard to miss – was the 2020 Presidential Election. The popular vote for the presidential election is technically over with Joseph Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States. This was a close election, triggering some states’ election laws requiring recounts. In addition, President Trump has raised concerns about potential voter fraud, which were coupled with a number of lawsuits in key states. Attorney General William Barr announced that there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the election and the General Services Administrator Emily Murphy has given President-Elect Biden’s Transition team approval to begin the formal transition process. The electoral college met on December 14th and cast their ballots for President-elect Joe Biden. To learn more about this process, click here.
Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine
With news of three potential vaccines making their way to market, the transition of the new administration is critical. They will need to be up-to-speed on vaccine distribution plans pronto. The logistics of getting hundreds of millions of doses into the hands of health care providers will be challenging, to say the least, and the Biden administration needs to be ready to go on day one.
And speaking of the Administration...
...there’s been some action on drug pricing. On November 20th, President Trump unveiled two new “interim” rules intended to reduce drug prices. One enacts a ‘most-favored nation’ price that would have Medicare pay the same price as other developed nations pay for the most expensive drugs. The other rule would require drug manufacturers to give Medicare enrollees drug rebates that now go to insurers and middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers. That said, these are only “interim” rules that would take effect on January 1st. The Biden administration would need to take further action to make these rules permanent, which is unlikely.
Are things any less chaotic with Congress?
Kind of. Congress is working on a deal to fund the government past December 11th. As we said before, we’re fortunate that all of HA's funding priorities, which center around research at the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health, look to be in good shape. Leaders in both the House and Senate say they are close to a deal, but the White House’s position remains unclear.
What about the COVID-relief bill?
Unfortunately, many current COVID programs, such as extended unemployment assistance and renter protections, expire on December 31st. Because the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-led House are so far apart on funding levels, reaching an agreement has been tough. However, there is bipartisan movement on a $908 billion Covid-19 relief bill. Fingers crossed and stay tuned.
Meanwhile there’s interesting news about the ACA from the Supreme Court.
On November 10th, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, with a decision likely in 2021. Prior to the hearing, supporters of the ACA were concerned that the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, would vote to strike the law down. Things took a turn during the arguments, though, when conservatives on the Court sent signals they might be open to upholding the law. It’s important to note that none of the Justices have made any public statements. This is just speculation on the part of legal experts. But good news, nonetheless.
Turning our attention to 2021.