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Sunday, May 9th, 2021

House E&C Committee introduces COVID-19 legislative package

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U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) introduced the Commitment to Defeat the Virus and Keep America Healthy Act, a package of over 50 bills from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The act includes bills related to pandemic preparedness and response, domestic manufacturing and the supply chain, strategic national stockpile improvements, public health infrastructure improvements, COVID-19 health disparities, the impacts on mental health and substance abuse disorders, tax incentives to improve healthcare, Medicare provisions, and appropriations.

“I’m honored to lead this effort to pass targeted solutions to combat COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics. This bill makes important reforms to our telehealth and mental health services. These vital improvements will help our seniors and those stuck at home. It also builds on our efforts to strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile, our testing systems, and our drug supply. With this legislation, we can fulfill our commitment to America and defeat COVID-19,” Hudson said.

There are several bills within this package dealing with the strategic national stockpile (SNS), including:

• Stockpiling for America’s Future Endeavors Act (H.R. 6516), introduced by Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Kim Schrier (D-WA), which would allow the SNS to accept certain gifts and donations from companies and individuals;

• Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Inventory Modernization Act (H.R. 6517), introduced Brooks and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), which authorizes the SNS to transfer to any Federal department or agency, on a reimbursable basis, any drugs, vaccines or other biological products, medical devices, and other supplies in the stockpile if the supplies are less than one year from expiry so the stockpile can be replenished. Currently, the SNS keeps products until expiry, and then they are destroyed;

• Equipment maintenance (H.R. 6876), introduced by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Jeff van Drew (R-NJ), which requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that contents of the SNS remain in good working order and are maintained;

• Medical Supplies for Pandemics (H.R. 6531). introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN), which calls for a supply chain flexibility manufacturing pilot to enhance medical supply chain elasticity and maintain domestic reserves of critical medical supplies;

• State Stockpile Readiness (H.R. 7507), introduced by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), which establishes a pilot program that awards grants to states to expand or maintain a strategic stockpile of commercially available drugs, medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and other products deemed by the state to be essential for a public health emergency;

• Process Improvements and Reports (H.R. 6875, H.R. 6877, and H.R. 6878), introduced by Reps. Slotkin, Van Drew, and David McKinley (R-WV), which requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to investigate the feasibility of establishing user fees to offset certain Federal costs attributable to the procurement of single-source materials for the SNS; and
• Strategic National Stockpile Funding (H.R. 7574), which increases the annual authorization of appropriations for the SNS from $610 million to $705 million for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2023.

“Innovation paired with strategic deployment of resources are critical to helping us defeat COVID-19. This bill contains strong, bipartisan, and — most importantly — realistic measures we could pass today to help improve long-term preparedness, as well as assist with ongoing efforts to ramp up testing capacity and prepare for vaccine distribution. This bill takes the steps needed to begin improving the Strategic National Stockpile and strengthen our health care supply chains. Additionally, this measure further ensures Americans, especially seniors, can more easily access the care they need — from mental health to telehealth,” Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) said.