By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Director of Health Policy

Nursing Workforce Faces Looming Shortage

With an increasing number of baby boomers—both leaving the nursing profession and finding themselves in need of care—a workforce shortage is continuing to challenge the nursing industry. Recent reports have also indicated that educators in nursing programs have dropped off, leading to fewer nursing graduates. Some educational institutions are seeking accelerated programs to meet the demands of the growing healthcare market.

Retirement is one factor, along with increasing survival rates for patients with cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects that more than 18 million Americans will be living with or beyond their cancer diagnoses by 2020, and the need for dedicated oncology nurses will persist. ONS works on a national level with government agencies to encourage increased funding for nursing workforce issues and education.

Budget Proposal Cuts $636 Billion From HHS Agencies

The Trump administration last week released a budget proposal outlining expenses and reductions for the 2018 fiscal year and beyond. In the $4 trillion plan, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, namely the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), would face harsh budget cuts. CMS’s budget would be cut by $636 billion during the next 10 years. Overall, HHS would face a 17.9% decrease for the 2018 fiscal year alone.

Included in the budget proposal are cuts to the National Institutes of Health by nearly 18% of its existing budget. This would include a $1 billion reduction in the National Cancer Institute in 2018. ONS continues to work with congressional representatives on Capitol Hill by educating lawmakers about the importance of access and affordability to quality cancer care.

CBO Issues Evaluation on AHCA

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has release its evaluation of the Republican healthcare bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). According to the CBO’s report, the AHCA—which aims to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—would potentially leave 23 million Americans without health insurance by 2026. The proposed healthcare bill would also increase costs substantially for older Americans making less than $30,000 per year.

Per the CBO’s data, out-of-pocket costs for older, lower-income Americans could increase eight to nine times what those individuals would pay under the ACA’s current system. Many oncology professionals are acutely aware that cancer affects aging populations, with reports noting that cancer incidences are nearly 10 times higher in patients 65 and older than they are in patients under 65. With an aging population and increasing cancer survival rates, the current form of the AHCA could increase the prevalence of financial toxicities for patients with cancer. ONS continues to work alongside elected officials to outline the importance of affordable care for patients and their families.