The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

10/29/2019 | News release | Archived content

U.S. House Takes Action to Promote Health Care Workforce, Transparency on Pharmacy Benefit Managers

October 29, 2019

Yesterday, the U.S. House unanimously approved a series of bills poised to improve and strengthen our nation's health care system by investing in health care workforce development and training programs; and authorizing new tools to improve the availability of information regarding drug prices.

The House passed three bills targeting resources to invest in the health care workforce. Specifically, the House acted to reauthorize the health profession workforce, education, and training programs, and the federal nursing workforce development grant programs, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). H.R. 2781, the 'EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019,' and H.R. 728, the 'Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019,' strive to increase diversity, improve geriatrics education and training, grow the pediatric health care workforce, and support nurses in attaining advanced practice status and becoming nursing faculty.

Additionally, the House passed H.R. 647, the 'Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act,' aimed at improving education, health care professional training, and research into palliative and hospice care.

HAP applauds the House for prioritizing investments in the nationwide health care workforce to ensure a strong and resilient health care system. HAP's Health Care Workforce Task Force has focused on the need to develop long-term strategies to address the strain Pennsylvania's hospital community is experiencing in recruiting and retaining a diverse and equipped workforce, particularly in smaller communities and rural areas.

HAP has strongly advocated across both the state General Assembly and federal Congressional Delegation for lawmakers to advance policies that support workforce development, training programs, grants, increasing workforce diversity, and scholarships for health care practitioners.

Additionally, as part of ongoing efforts to tackle high drug prices and improve drug pricing transparency, the House approved two bills that will create new tools and resources to help consumers navigate the complexities of health care:

  • H.R. 1781, the Payment Commission Data Act of 2019, which would provide the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) with access to drug pricing and rebate data under Medicare Parts B and D, as well as under Medicaid
  • H.R. 2115, which would require pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) to report to the Department of Health and Human Services their aggregate rebates, discounts, and other price concessions received on drugs from manufacturers. The department would then be required to publicly post aggregate rebate data and generic dispensing rates online

H.R. 2115 would require information on rebates be posted on the drug class level, as long as there are at least three drugs in the class and the information does not display confidential information for rebates received for an individual drug. The bill also would make public some information available on the compensation PBMs receive from pharmacies.

Both bills promote the implementation of a greater, more formal effort to gather data, which would provide consumers and agencies alike the opportunity to make informed decisions, while holding PBMs accountable. H.R. 1781 would provide MedPAC and MACPAC access to valuable data, which would inform Congress about how the drug market is operating.

HAP has supported efforts at the state and federal levels to make it easier for patients to get the lowest price on prescription drugs at the pharmacy counter. During the last legislative session, state and federal policymakers targeted 'gag clauses' that prevent pharmacists from telling customers whether they could save money by buying prescription drugs by paying out-of-pocket rather than using their health insurance.

HAP supports federal action ensuring that strategic funding and training investments remain intact to aid and develop the health care workforce, and efforts to streamline important information about drug prices for consumers.

Please contact Jeff Bechtel, HAP's senior vice president of health economics and policy, or Laura Stevens Kent, HAP's vice president, federal legislative advocacy, with questions.