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

Senate Obamacare Working Group Expands

As legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act works its way into the Senate, a new working group is attempting tackle the issue through tax breaks that would potentially ease healthcare costs. However, when the working group was formed, some Republican Senators were left out of the discussion—namely women senators in the GOP. After receiving flack for the decision, the working group officially opened its doors to anyone in the Republican convention.

Unfortunately, it’s not called an “old boys” network for nothing. This is just another example of how Washington does business. It took several very public confrontations before the Senate majority leadership reversed its stance and opened the locked backrooms to allow more of its own members—women senators—to be part of the discussion on healthcare reform. With fresh voices added to the discussion, many are still wondering what the Senate version of the healthcare bill will look like. By most accounts, it will be very different from the House version passed earlier this month. It’s incumbent on oncology nurses to be part of this discussion. Learn more about ONS’s stance, and reach out to your elected officials to share your expertise.

Gottlieb, MD, Named FDA Commissioner

On May 11, 2017, Scott Gottlieb, MD, was named as the next U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner. He’s previously served as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs. Previously, Gottlieb has worked as a physician at New York University School of Medicine in Manhattan and is a graduate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Gottlieb is familiar with the agency and lauds the FDA’s work as it protects Americans from faulty claims, treatments, and devices. This is an excellent message to federal employees who have dedicated their careers to the FDA as an oversight guardian. It also reassures members of Congress that Gottlieb is ready to act in the best interests of the American people. Moreover, members of Congress understand that he’s a professional healthcare expert at the helm of a very public, as-seen-on-TV-nightly agency and will not rock the boat in the coming months. From tobacco to cancer drugs, the FDA—with its relatively small $5 billion budget—has great authority over the oncology environment. ONS has a strong relationship with the FDA, and oncology nurses must continue to educate federal regulators on cancer issues under the new administration.

Bipartisan Commitment to Healthcare Delivery System Reform

Bipartisanship is the only way to accomplish realistic legislation. Unfortunately, it feels like it’s hardly done anymore. In an interesting blog series, the authors—a Republican and a Democrat—argue that real change is made together by sharing the burden and making tough choices. In this instance, they discuss working together to develop new payment models for the healthcare system. Their current goals are to shift healthcare payments to a value-based system, similar to the Oncology Care Model that’s being piloted throughout the country.

By citing their own experiences on Capitol Hill, they demonstrate the success of working together to achieve mutual goals. By sharing the risk, burden, and blame, both parties accomplished change and minimized negative political hits from voters. Some may say it’s an interesting strategy for public policy, but compromise and working together are core tenets of our congressional system. In this instance, bipartisanship is working. It’s unusual for both parties to work together, but let’s hope cooler heads continue to prevail.