COMMITTEE SPOTLIGHT – House Energy & Commerce

MARCH 5, 2021

The late Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), a former Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, reportedly once described the jurisdiction of the Committee by pointing to a map of the earth, and saying “if it moves, its energy, and if it doesn’t, its commerce.”

While Dingell’s hyperbole was obvious, the sentiment rings true to many: the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues in the health care, commerce, and technology spaces. It also covers issues related to environmental protections, energy policy, and broadcast. 

The Committee is currently chaired by Representative Pallone (D-NJ), who has led the Democrats on that Committee since 2015.  Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is the newly ascended Ranking Member.

The Committee’s jurisdiction includes: mental health and substance abuse, health insurance, including Medicaid and most of Medicare, biomedical research, public health, food, drug, medical device and cosmetic regulation, environmental protection, clean air and climate change, safe drinking water, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste, national energy policy, renewable energy and conservation, nuclear facilities, electronic communications and the internet, broadcast and cable television, privacy, cybersecurity and data security, consumer protection and product safety, motor vehicle safety, travel, tourism and sports, and interstate and foreign commerce.

The Committee will be at the center of many upcoming debates including the upcoming infrastructure package, healthcare reforms and the expansion of 5G and broadband. 

The Subcommittee on Health is particularly active. The Subcommittee is chaired by Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), with Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) the ranking member for the minority. The Subcommittee has an expansive jurisdiction including public health, 340B, mental health, substance abuse, biomedical research, health information technology, privacy, and security, public and private health insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare (except for PART A), medical malpractice, as well as key Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies including the Food and Drug Administration), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and  the Indian Health Service.

Earlier this week, we say the Committee take on an issue at the intersection of several parts of its jurisdiction: telehealth  On March 2nd, the Health Subcommittee held a hearing entitled: “The Future of Telehealth: How COVID-19 is Changing the Delivery of Virtual Care.” Over the course of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the federal government has implemented a number of temporary policy changes intended to broaden coverage and access to services offered via telehealth, particularly for Medicare beneficiaries. Many of those changes are tied to emergency authorities provided to HHS during the PHE. The hearing focused on which of those changes should be made permanent.

Some of the key issues discussed included:

  • State licensure – Generally speaking, practitioners must be licensed by the state to practice medicine in the state where the patient receives care. For in-person visits, that equation is straightforward – except for specific circumstances (like emergency waivers), practitioners must be licensed in the state they deliver care. However, the same rules apply to virtual care – practitioners must be licensed in the state where the patient receiving care is. In the hearing, witnesses (namely, Mehrotra) and Members of Congress both raised the possibility of reforms that would address the barriers to virtual care presented by state licensure, including discussion specifically about the TREAT Act – introduced by E&C Member Bob Latta (R-OH). 
  • Audio-only visits – Several Members of Congress raised issues about the benefits and potential drawbacks of audio-only telehealth visits, including Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY). Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) discussed the role of audio-only visits specifically for behavioral health with the witness from the Medicare Rights Center, Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) engaged with the AMA’s representative on the appropriate payment rate, and Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Nanette Barragan (D-CA) also asked the AMA representative about the importance of preserving audio-only visits.
  • Broadband access– Several members raised concerns with lack of broadband access, an issue that impact those living in both rural and urban areas. Ranking Member Guthrie said this lack of access is one of the most limiting factors to telehealth for many beneficiaries.  The AMA stressed this is an issue for many Native Americans living on reservations and many communities of color.  

 

BGR’S ENERGY & COMMERCE TEAM

Health & Life Sciences Practice

Commerce Practice