Senate HELP and House Energy and Commerce pass PAHPA reauthorizations out of committee with amendments

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Key Takeaways

The week of July 17, both the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and U.S. Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committees passed their versions of a Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) reauthorization bill (H.R. 4421 and S. 2333). PAHPA is currently set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 on September 30, 2023, and needs to be reauthorized to extend support for essential public health preparedness efforts at a national level.  

PAHPA was first signed into law in December 2006 and has since been reauthorized twice, with the most recent reauthorization in 2019. The intent of the original and subsequent reauthorizations of this legislation is to “to improve the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response capabilities for emergencies, whether they were deliberate, accidental or natural.” More specifically, the law amends the Public Health Service Act to create within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR), as well as establishes the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS), and advances authority for many federal programs related to preparedness, biodefense, medical countermeasures and more.  

Highlights from the two reauthorizations include:

  • H.R. 4421 passed with an amendment to maintain existing authorization levels for programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
  • S. 2333 passed with the following amendments: 
    • Implements Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)   
    • Creates an emerging pathogen preparedness program under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which would prioritize medical countermeasure development 
    • Directs HHS to partner with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on new solutions to incentivize drug development and innovation  
    • Directs drug manufacturers to notify FDA when they may not be able to meet increased demands 

Both the House and Senate bills renew funding for essential public health preparedness programs, such as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which promotes innovation of medical countermeasures for potential pandemic viruses; the Strategic National Stockpile, which is integral for swift responses to outbreaks and the delivery of PPE and immunizations; as well as the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) and Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreements, all of which assist local and state health departments in their preparedness and responses capacity. 

Counties are crucial intergovernmental partners in preventing and responding to public health emergencies throughout the nation, and the federal programs authorized under PAHPA are essential for maintaining and bolstering the capacity of our local health departments, hospitals, emergency departments, operation centers and more. Counties are not only conveners of many key local sectors and partners during a response, but also facilitate the administration of emergency planning and response strategies, immunizations and testing, disease surveillance and other fundamental public health functions. These programs ensure counties can effectively prepare and respond to emerging threats. 

To learn more about the critical role counties play in public health and emergency preparedness, read here.  

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