Given the current political dynamic within Congress, the chances of the Biden Administration enacting significant, substantive health care legislation appear slim in the short-term. Thus, the Biden Administration has sought alternative routes to advance its policy priorities, mainly through budget reconciliation (see here for a comprehensive explainer from the Congressional Research Service) and agency regulation. For example, we have previously written here and here about the “No Surprises Act”, enacted through the legislative short-cut of budget reconciliation as part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and the Biden Administration’s new regulations implementing consumer protections against surprise medical bills. In this mold, President Biden’s July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (the “Order”) appears to lay out an aspirational, yet somewhat more practical agenda to implementing reforms in the health care sector, as compared to relying on new legislation coming through Congress.
The Order tasks federal agencies across the “whole-of-government” to “protect competition in the American economy” by acting on 72 regulatory initiatives, to be coordinated by a newly established “White House Competition Council” with representatives from key federal agencies. While the “whole-of-government” is involved and the entirety of the U.S. economy is targeted, there is a distinct focus among these initiatives on “improving health care” by addressing “overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition” in the sector. The Order specifically cites four areas in the health care sector ripe for renewed enforcement and regulatory attention with the goal of lowering prices, promoting competition, and benefiting consumers.