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

Democrats Demand Answers on Trump Short-Term Insurance Plans

Short-term insurance plans were developed as an attempt to circumvent the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the rising costs for its health plans after deep funding cuts to the law. But, in doing so, the Trump administration has allowed new, seemingly unregulated temporary insurance plans to emerge that appear to prey on vulnerable policyholders, offering limited coverage at high prices. On January 8, Democrats pressed the president for further answers on short-term insurance plans.

Because insurance coverage is a top concern among Americans, the House had already asked for clarification, but now that Democrats control oversight committees, the administration will be compelled to answer in some form. Previously, the administration cited different economic experts, but few have found the value in offering short-term plans and some have even called the temporary plans harmful. Congressional leaders and elected officials aren’t always aware of the impact that legislation can have on patients in the healthcare system. It’s vital for nurses—especially oncology nurses—to share their voices and experiences to advocate for their patients, their colleagues, and their profession.

FDA Accuses Juul and Altria of Backing Off Plan to Stop Youth Vaping

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accused e-cigarette manufacturer Juul of foregoing earlier promises to limit marketing and sales of nicotine products to minors. Big tobacco companies like Juul—which became a multibillion-dollar company in a very short period of time—are attempting to skirt earlier FDA regulations that restricted marketing materials and products that were targeted to younger audiences.

In a meeting with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids early this week, ONS restated its support for FDA’s restrictions on e-cigarettes and vaping. Details from past government meetings with the tobacco industry have shown that although many companies are willing to adhere to warnings on menthol- and mint-flavored products, they are less inclined to do so for fruit- and candy-flavored ones—the products found in growing markets for younger users. The industry still has congressional supporters from states producing tobacco products, which puts FDA in a limited position to extend oversite through congressional power. It might take time and a different political landscape to see real restrictions.

Lawmakers Challenge Trump With Drug Cost Legislation

Health care was the preeminent issue in the November 2018 midterm elections. Alongside issues like coverage for pre-existing conditions, the price of prescription medications has exponentially increased over the past 15 years—outpacing most economic indicators. President Trump previously focused on rising medication costs as a key issue for his administration, and now Democrat House members are putting forward legislation to lower prescription medication costs and keep them in line with that of other countries.  

High-priced medications are putting a real strain on those with chronic diseases, like cancer, causing patients to balance their household income budgets with rising medical costs. Financial toxicity is becoming a huge burden for patients throughout the healthcare system, and ONS recently brought together advocacy experts to dissect the problem. In the political rhetoric, drug pricing might be the only issue that the president, GOP, and Democrats all agree on. It could be the next great accomplishment, but many other issues are clouding the opportunity. Tying U.S. pricing to other industrial countries’ payment plans is a step toward equalizing the system, but the pharmaceutical industry will have to cooperate with that strategy.