By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Director of Health Policy
GOP to Potentially Revisit Healthcare Legislation
As the first 100 days of the Trump administration ends, the White House is still pressing Congress to revisit healthcare legislation—one of Trump’s main campaign promises. In March, House Speaker Paul Ryan was unable to secure enough support for the Republican replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as the American Health Care Act. However, that hasn’t deterred President Trump from expecting changes to the American healthcare system, namely revisions to the existing ACA. The talks of a new healthcare proposal come at a turbulent time, as Democrats and Republicans are still working out ways to fund the government through the end of April.
Although many details are still uncertain, Republicans plan to continue their work in health care. With previous repeal attempts, ONS submitted a letter to congressional leaders about the importance of better access to health care for patients with cancer. No matter the position, ONS will continue to work with lawmakers and legislators to ensure important criteria are included in any healthcare bill.
New State Funding Will Combat Opioid Epidemic
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it will provide a total of $485 million across all 50 states to help fight the national opioid epidemic. Funds were awarded to states and territories based on each state's rate of overdose and substance abuse. According to HHS Secretary Tom Price, “Opioids were responsible for over 33,000 deaths in 2015; this alarming statistic is unacceptable to me. We cannot continue to lose our nation’s citizens to addiction. Through a sustained focus on people, patients, and partnerships, I am confident that together we can turn the tide on this public health crisis.”
This is a great initial step and provides public recognition of both the opioid epidemic and the treatment of this public health issue. Congress’s bipartisan support of the 21st Century Cures Act—which includes funding for addiction—has received plenty of fanfare, but more needs to be done to combat the epidemic. ONS believes it’s important not to gloss over the issue of access to pain management medication for patients with cancer. The Society continues to champion patient-centered care, and its oncology nurse members fight for access to the appropriate levels of care for patients with cancer.
FDA Reaches Reauthorization Fee Deal for New Drugs, Devices
Democrats and Republicans came together to reach a preliminary deal that would extend funding to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) programs that approve new drugs and medical devices. The bipartisan deal reauthorizes four user fees that would’ve otherwise expired in September 2017. Without this deal, the FDA would have potentially been forced to let nearly 5,000 employees go.
It’s rare that any congressional committee finds bipartisan support these days, but the FDA’s user fee reauthorization seems to have achieved just that. Everything is contentious in Washington. Whether it’s between political parties, the Senate and the House, or between Congress and the president, lines are often drawn and common ground is difficult to find. That’s why this is such an extraordinary achievement. Republicans and Democrats have realized that safety and adequate approval of drugs and devices needs to transcend party lines. With very limited rancor, that is exactly what happened.