The House Energy and Commerce Committee June 27 held a mark-up of five public health bills; the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 959), the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 1676), the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency Readiness Act of 2017 (EMPOWER Act, H.R. 3728); the Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5385), and a discussion draft of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2018. The committee previously held hearings on the draft legislation to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) for five years [see Washington Highlights, June 8]. Additionally, the EMPOWER Act and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act were both the subject of a Sept. 14, 2017, hearing [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 15, 2017]. Finally, the CHGME Reauthorization bill was the subject of a May 23 Subcommittee on Health hearing [see Washington Highlights, May 25].
All five bills were amended and passed by the committee by voice vote. By a vote of 29 – 0, the committee passed an amendment to the PAHPA legislation offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), which requires weekly updates on the status of children currently in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after being detained at the border. That amendment also requires the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) of HHS to develop a formal strategy to reunite children with their parent or guardian and to address deficiencies identified by the committee regarding HHS oversight of unaccompanied children.
The majority of the mark-up focused on the status of children separated from their parents at the border, with several members speaking to the oversight role of the committee and the need to conduct a hearing as soon as possible. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) stated, “This amendment that calls for reports – written reports – really is an abdication of the responsibility of this committee. There is no substitute for having oversight hearings.” Rep. Blackburn, the author of the amendment, stated, “Let’s do this job, let’s gather this information…and make certain there is transparency and accountability in these facilities.”
AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD similarly issued a statement on the separation of families at the border, saying “The human toll of this trauma is tragic and avoidable. This practice must stop – period.”
A vote has not yet been scheduled on the five bills passed by committee.