WASHINGTON _ As Congress sprints toward the Memorial Dayrecess (May 30 to June 3), Congressional committees with authorityover health care reform are scrambling to produce legislation. Theleader of the pack at this point is the Senate Labor and HumanResources Committee, the first to consider a bill at the full committeelevel.Five committees _ two in the Senate and three in the House _ willultimately write bills. After the bills pass out of each committee, theleadership in each chamber will reconcile them and send them to thefloors for debate and voting.What follows is an update of the status of price control measures(where it's known) and health care bill progress in each of the fivecommittees:y Senate Labor and Human Resources: Chairman and Sen. Edward M.Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to his bill on the firstday of mark-up sessions, May 18. The amendment replaced thebreakthrough drug committee with a plan to study the impact ofmedical technologies on patients, society and the health care system.As a result, the breakthrough drug council is essentially dead in thiscommittee. This committee does not have jurisdiction over theMedicare drug benefit or "blacklisting" provisions so these do notappear in Kennedy's bill.Although the biotechnology industry has scored an important victoryhere, the liberal composition of this committee makes any legislationthat originates here unlikely to be acceptable to the whole Senate.y Senate Finance: This committee has yet to produce even a draftversion of health care reform legislation but it is generally regarded asconservative in temperament and Chairman and Sen. Daniel Moynihan(D-N.Y.) has opposed price controls for other industries. However, onemember, Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) has been an outspoken critic ofdrug companies and price gouging. No one has an estimate on whenthey may produce a draft bill.y House Energy and Commerce: As part of a compromise to win thevotes of two members, Chairman and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) hasagreed that a breakthrough drug council will not be a part of anylegislation coming from Energy and Commerce. However, memberRep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told the National Association of RetailDruggists last week that "it would be very unfortunate if [Congresspasses] health care without any control on the price of breakthroughdrugs."Although this committee does not have direct jurisdiction overMedicare issues, Dingell has indicated he might be willing to revise theMedicare blacklisting provision. Seven democratic members havewritten to Dingell saying they will definitely oppose the provision.y House Ways and Means: Although Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.)managed to pass a bill out of this committee's subcommittee on health,Chairman and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) has stated that the Starkbill will have to be modified substantially. A copy of a draft chairman'smark is circulating on Capitol Hill and sources said it includes pricecontrols almost identical to those in Stark's bill. As Lisa Raines,Genzyme Corp.'s vice president for government relations, puts it,"Stark's subcommittee bill had price controls with a vengeance."The fate of price control measures in this committee remains unclearuntil the debate begins with an outline on the table. Raines said she ishopeful that price control provisions could be deleted from the Waysand Means draft bill before the committee begins public debate.Reports indicate that Ways and Means is still waiting for theCongressional Budget Office (CBO) to score its draft.y House Education and Labor: Their health care reform bill is still atthe subcommittee stage, but this group does not have direct jurisdictionover issues relating to price controls or Medicare. n
-- Lisa Piercey Washington Editor
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