By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director

NCI Budget Boost Increases Research Funding

The push and pull of budget negotiations makes for great headlines, but more important is the outcome when lawmakers finally arrive at a consensus. Earlier in December, the National Institutes of Health announced a $2.6 billion overall increase in funding, including a $297 million increase to the National Cancer Institutes (NCI), for fiscal year 2020.

With the additional resources, NCI says it will provide more grants and awards to researchers. As key stakeholders in oncology research, nurse scientists rely on agencies like NCI to fund studies to help address important issues that patients with cancer face. With more funding comes more opportunity for oncology nurse researchers to move the needle on patient-centered care.

Congress Needs to End Surprise Medical Billing

It’s becoming the norm for many patients: they undergo a necessary medical procedure they thought was covered only to find an exorbitant and unexpected bill in their mailbox. It’s been termed surprise medical billing, and a recent Washington Post editorial—the newspaper of note among congressional representatives—attempts to address the issue. Although the author may overestimate the level of collaboration among lawmakers, the point stands: healthcare issues, like surprise billing, remain top domestic policy for most Americans.

Efforts to eradicate surprise billing have bicameral, bipartisan support, and leaders sympathize with their constituents who pay for health insurance but still get slapped with a bill for a provider, service, or amenity of which they were unaware. The arcane rules of committee structure and usual power plays have prevented any laws from passing. ONS supports legislation that would make access and affordability stronger for patients everywhere. Hear more about surprise billing and the other health policy issues crucial to oncology nursing in 2020 on the Oncology Nursing Podcast.

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Delay Obamacare Hearing

Shortly after inauguration, the Trump administration started efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The GOP saw little success for its efforts in Congress, so the White House pursued a different route: repeal by challenging the law’s constitutionality through the U.S. court system. Unfortunately, that effort hasn’t worked well either. The latest move from the solicitor general, the government’s lawyer, suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court shouldn’t hear a case until it has been decided by a lower court.

However, others in the healthcare community are urging that the process be expedited to the Supreme Court so the matter can be settled. With state attorneys general from both parties grouped together on either side of ACA, most believe that the law will be upheld, but the court may even refuse to hear the case. ACA passed more than a decade ago, but democracy works slowly as interested parties interpret legislative intent.