Congress Passes Sickle Cell Bill, House Combats Medicaid Fraud, and more

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed several bills that may help lower drug prices, improve care for patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), and increase access to certain medications.

The Improve Act gives the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services authority to penalize manufacturers that misclassify drugs in order to pay lower rebates or overcharge Medicaid.

Th legislation allows the agency to recoup rebates and reclassify drugs and provides short-term funding for two Medicaid programs, including one that transitions older adults and people with chronic illnesses back into their communities. The Improve Act awaits Senate approval.

Congress also passed the bipartisan Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018. The legislation does the following:

  • authorizes public health initiatives in SCD
  • authorizes a SCD surveillance and data collection program at the Centers for Disease Control
  • reauthorizes the existing SCD Treatment Demonstration Program at the Health Resources and Services Administration

“Individuals with SCD not only suffer from chronic, debilitating pain and are at risk for other serious complications, but many of them also lack access to the medical care they need,” said Alexis A. Thompson, MD, MPH, 2018 president of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). “Expanding efforts to better understand the prevalence and treatment needs of people with this disease, the bi-partisan SCD and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018 is the first step toward understanding where gaps exist so groups like ASH, policymakers, and health care providers can address the need where it is greatest.”

Sources: Politico, December 12, 2018; The Hill, December 11, 2018; ASH press release, December 11, 2018.