Key Federal Health Policy Legislation Updates for 2018
’Tis the season. Well, at least in DC, it’s an exciting time. A political year. A long summer recess. A host of bills that are on the verge of passing. We are all aflutter with anticipation of the possibilities. But legislators need to remember who sent them to Washington and for what reason. Advocacy begins at home, and elected officials are heartened by what their constituents request, especially when that legislation is bipartisan and emotional and can affect people’s lives.
U.S. House Passes Two ONS Priority Bills to Advance Palliative Care and Strengthen Nursing Workforce
On July 23, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote two ONS priority bills that would provide palliative care training, awareness, and research and funding to build the nursing workforce.
House Overwhelmingly Passes Final Opioid Package; Texas v. the United States Could Impact Patients With Preexisting Conditions; Lawmakers Who Forged ACA Look Back
Through tremendous bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive opioid legislation to address the national abuse epidemic in the United States on June 22, 2018. For many healthcare advocates, an opioid legislation package has been a long time coming. The opioid crisis has been in the news since before the 2016 presidential election but was brought to the forefront during that campaign.
Two ONS Priority Health Bills Make Progress Out of House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health
On June 27, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed by voice vote two health bills that have been among ONS’s top legislative priorities: the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act ([PCHETA], H.R. 1676) and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R. 959). The bills are now poised for consideration by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Cancer Prevention and Awareness Starts With Oncology Nurses
April is designated as National Cancer Control Month in the United States. It’s a federally endorsed observation, annually encouraged by a proclamation from the president. April is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer prevention and treatment throughout the country. Approved through a joint resolution by Congress in 1938, the yearly presidential announcement serves as a reminder to all Americans that awareness of the factors that cause or prevent cancer are crucial to the public health.
Medicare Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
At the center of the President Lyndon B. Johnson’s great society was Medicare, a federal program designed as a partial safety net primarily for America’s older adults. It was signed into law on July 30, 1965. Controversial at the time, it is now sacrosanct and often referred to as the “third rail of politics”: touch it and die.
ONS Member Advocates for Patient Involvement in Clinical Pathways
I was selected to represent ONS as a panelist at the Cancer Innovation Coalition meeting held in Washington, DC in February 2018. The meeting, “Integrating Patient Perspective into Clinical Pathways: A Dialogue Between Stakeholders,” brought together patient advocates, healthcare professionals, and technology stakeholders to address and identify the importance of patient-centered care and involving patients in clinical pathways. The National Patient Advocate Foundation released an article outlining the topics covered in our discussion.
CDC Has New Director Designee
Presidential appointees come, and presidential appointees go. Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) director resigned for financial conflicts of interest. The new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, Alex Azar, sought to fill the important public health role as soon as possible. With opioids, the flu, vaccine shortages, and cancer prevention under the purview of the CDC, finding a new director was crucial to continuing the agency’s work. Since many of the CDC’s top officials are often reported on in the news, replacing the director was also essential for public trust in public health.
Right-to-Try Bill Fails to Pass House; Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Help Patients Navigate Cancer Care; President’s Cancer Panel Urges Action to Lower Drug Costs
Legislation ushering experimental drugs and treatments to patients without U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval hit a snag on March 13, 2018, after it failed to garner enough votes in the House of Representatives. The right-to-try bill, a priority for the Trump administration, didn’t accrue the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass it along to the Senate. Lawmakers opposed to the bill had lingering questions about the safety concerns connected to bypassing FDA regulations for patients searching for new treatments. Patient advocacy groups have been speaking out against tenets of the bill, expressing concern for removing the FDA from the process.
National Agencies Recognize Oncology Nursing’s Role in Coordinated Patient Care
We live in the greatest age of scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs. Advances in the innovation and understanding of diseases are providing more insight into how we treat, and often cure, people with life-threatening illnesses. What was once deemed a death sentence diagnosis is now described as a chronic disorder, that can be handled with the help of the patient and a team of healthcare providers.
CDC Offers Insight on Common Cancer Questions
To ensure more Americans understand the public health implications of cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking an active role in creating awareness activities. By posting commonly asked questions, the CDC hopes to demystify cancer and its treatment to the uninitiated, while also helping survivors and caregivers better comprehend the cancer journey.
Cancer Prevention Is Political Pillow Talk
On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, I had the honor of representing the ONS at the Congressional Families Caucus with Alec Stone, ONS director for public affairs, who made the connection between Congressional Families and ONS. The Congressional Families Caucus is made up of spouses of congressional members serving in the House of Representatives and Senate.
President’s Budget Proposal Recommends Severe Cuts to HHS
Putting together the federal budget is an arduous task. Department by department, suggestions for program funding increases and decreases are reviewed, discussed, analyzed, and submitted. Budget officials are trying to match the administration’s priorities and review the fiscal environment, not to mention craft spending items to gain support from congress, who ultimately votes on the budget.
2018 U.S. Budget Agreement Contains Key Wins for ONS—Plus an Area of Concern
The U.S. Congress continued its budget pattern in February, enacting another extension of the 2017 budget agreement into law on February 8, 2018. The current iteration of the budget law will raise caps on defense and non-defense spending over two years and keep the federal government running through March 23, but more importantly, it includes the following provisions of special interest to ONS.
States Have a Role in Creating Public Health Policies
The federal government structure in Washington, DC, is hard to ignore. U.S. children are taught about it in schools, and we hear about it regularly as elections, legislation, appointments, and the like are discussed in the news. Less recognized, though, is that each state has a similar legislative structure.
NIH: A Look Back at 2017 in Research
To plan for a strong future, one must understand the past. Reviewing the previous year’s accomplishments is always a good policy for reflection and improvement. It can help remind us of the accomplishments achieved in 12 short months. Such was the case at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as director Francis Collins addressed the research achievements for 2017 in his opening blog.
National Roundtable Will Work to Increase HPV Vaccination
The American Cancer Society has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote public awareness and adoption for the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. The joint initiative, dubbed the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, brings together public, private, and voluntary experts to raise awareness of the benefits of the vaccine in an effort to decrease incidence and mortality rates associated with HPV cancers.
National Academies Explain the Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released its latest report on the consequences of smoking, specifically related to electronic cigarettes. The report discusses the new effects of e-cigarettes as a public health hazard. According to the report, the effects of long-term e-cigarette use are still unknown, especially related to morbidity and mortality.
First Session of the 115th U.S. Congress Will See Three Oncology-Related Acts
Thousands of pieces of legislation are introduced in each Congress, but only a small percentage make it through the entire process, especially in that first year. Bills that are not voted into law and signed by the president during that two-year period “die” when the second session is completed and Congress adjourns. According to congressional rules, “A bill may be introduced at any point during a two-year Congress. It will remain eligible for consideration throughout the duration of that Congress until the Congress ends or adjourns sine die.”
PCORI Helps Patients Choose the Right Breast Cancer Treatment
Many women face a lack of information and understanding after their breast cancer diagnoses. Currently, women have more treatment options than ever before, and patients have the ability to review the latest findings to identify the option that fits best for their lives.
Cancer Moonshot Offers Funding Opportunities
Since its initial announcement, the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative—dubbed the Biden Cancer Initiative—has captivated the scientific, patient advocacy, and provider communities with possibilities for advancements in cancer treatments and cures. The cancer moonshot continues to maintain bipartisan support, as all involved are committed to making a decade’s worth of progress in just half the time.
NCI Advancements Are Pushing Research Forward for Patients
Former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) put partisanship aside to support federal funding for biomedical research. And, while battling cancer himself, he spoke about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its crucial role in finding treatments and cures. “Health is our nation’s number one asset. Without your health, you can’t do anything. I believe medical research should be pursued with all possible haste to cure the diseases and maladies affecting Americans. I have said many times that the NIH is the crown jewel of the federal government—perhaps the only jewel of the federal government.”
New Director Sworn in at NCI
For the past two years, an acting director has served at the head of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). However, President Trump recently selected Norman E. Sharpless, MD, as the 15th director of the NCI. Sharpless, an oncologist with research and clinical experience, said he was humbled by the selection and is looking forward to carrying on NCI’s great mission.
Lancet Oncology Commission Releases Cancer Research Priorities
The future of oncology care hinges on the implementation of new sciences, the collaboration of researchers, and timeliness with which healthcare professionals can integrate change into practice, according to a new report released by Lancet Oncology.
CDC Releases Latest Cancer Report
Breakthroughs and advancements in research and management have significantly changed the ways we understand how cancer works and how best to treat it. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its Annual Report to the Nation on the State of Cancer.
House Passes CHIP Reauthorization Bill, Helps Insure Children With Cancer
On November 3, 2017, the House of Representatives passed HR 3922, the Championing Healthy Kids Act, which reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program for an additional five years. The act also reauthorizes public health programs. Previous funding for the CHIP program had expired September 30, 2017.
What the Next Phase of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative Means for Oncology Nurses
In one bold declaration during his final State of the Union Address in 2016, President Barack Obama raised our hopes to a singular goal—ending cancer as we know it—as he announced the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, now called the Biden Cancer Initiative. Grounded in real research with tangible results, the intent was not even that daring: it was more realistic. Eradicating cancer, now understood to be many different aspects of the same disease, in five years was unlikely, but rather the goal was to achieve in five years what previously would take a decade.
Sanders Gains Support for Single-Payer Health Care Push; GOP Senators Put Forth Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill; New Toolkit Helps Nurses Integrate Genomics in Cancer Care
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently gave an interview for The Nation to discuss his announcement and subsequent push for a single-payer healthcare system in the United States. During his 2016 presidential bid, Sanders campaigned for universal health care and gained significant support from the public. However, many on Capitol Hill were still unsure of a “Medicare-for-all” plan. Despite the initially tepid response, Sanders recently outlined a new single-payer healthcare bill he plans to introduce, and he’s gaining surprising support from several senators in Washington, DC.
All Politics, Even Health Policy, Is Local
Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill was fond of saying, “All politics is local.” What he meant was, if an elected official took care of the constituents back home, then whatever happened in Washington, DC, wouldn’t matter as much. Whatever issues most affected voters in the legislative district, then that is where members of Congress should spend their time.
Oncology Nurses Need to Advocate for Access to Quality Care
Specialized Knowledge: Quality Care. This is my ONS presidential platform. In several columns, I have discussed how ONS resources can provide you with the specialized knowledge and expertise to provide quality care. This issue, I’d like to focus on quality care.
ONS Supports Medicare Coverage of Lymphedema Compression Supplies
On August 25, 2017, ONS submitted comments to the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee in response to its Medicare Red Tape Relief Project. The initiative, sponsored by subcommittee chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH), asked providers for input on ways to improve health care for seniors and reduce Medicare regulations and mandates.
ONS Opposes CMS Adjustment Payments for Part B Drugs
On August 21, 2017, ONS submitted comments to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, opposing the agency’s proposed policy to include Medicare Part B drugs in the calculation of Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) payment adjustments.
ONS Shares Views on Advance Care Planning, Patient Access to Opioids in Comment Letter to CMS
ONS joined the Patient Quality of Life Coalition (PQLC) in signing a final comment letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator, Seema Verma, on the agency’s proposed 2018 updates to the Quality Payment Program, CMS-5522-P. PQLC, which represents patients, health professionals, and healthcare systems, advocates for palliative care for patients and families facing serious illness.
Former HHS Secretaries Urge Trump to Support ACA; Every U.S. County Will Have ACA Marketplace Option; Government May Look to Continuing Resolution to Prevent Shutdown
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, is likely here to stay. After previous attempts to repeal and replace the nation’s healthcare legislation, the Senate has finally moved on to other issues. However, this hasn’t stopped President Trump from attempting to undercut some of the financial components of the ACA. Recently, former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretaries from both the Democrats and Republicans urged Trump to support ACA subsidies that could affect the cost of more than 10 million American’s healthcare plans.
“Light” Cigarettes to Blame for Rise in Lung Adenocarcinoma
High-ventilation (light) cigarettes have no health benefits to smokers and have likely contributed to increased incidence of adenocarcinoma deep in the lungs, according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Republicans May Aim to Repeal ACA Without a Replacement Plan; Majority of Americans Support Government Health Care; Q&A With New Jersey State Nurses Association CEO
After failing to garner support for the GOP’s healthcare bill in the Senate—known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted that the next strategy for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be to repeal the legislation without any concrete healthcare bill to replace it. In 2015, the Senate already successful voted to repeal the ACA, but it was vetoed by former President Obama. According to McConnell, the 2017 repeal effort would provide a two-year window to ensure a stable transition.
21st Century Cures Is a Broad Law That Impacts Narrow Categories
“Congress is working together on a nonpartisan issue that will have a profound effect on the lives of all Americans. H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, will bring our health care innovation infrastructure into the 21st Century, delivering hope for patients and loved ones and providing necessary resources to researchers to continue their efforts to uncover the next generation of cures and treatments,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) discussed their vision for the 21st Century Cures initiative in April 2014.
UNC’s Norman Sharpless Named NCI Director; Senators Back to Work on Healthcare Bill; National Institutes of Health Director to Remain
On June 12, 2017, President Trump named Norman Sharpless, MD, as director of National Cancer Institute (NCI). Sharpless, formerly the director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, is a practicing oncologist and cancer researcher. He will take over as for Doug Lowry, MD, who has been the NCI’s acting director since 2015.
Bipartisan Cancer Parity Drug Legislation Introduced in U.S. Congress
Two members of the House of Representatives have put political party differences aside and introduced bipartisan legislation that requires health insurers to cover traditional chemotherapy, along with oral medications associated with cancer treatment. U.S. Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Brian Higgins (D-NY) have proposed the Cancer Drug Parity Act (H.R. 1409). The intent of the bill is to ensure appropriate oncologic treatments are affordable and covered for patients with cancer.
Presidential Personnel Appointments That Affect Healthcare Policy
There is a difference between campaigning and governing. Running for office is about putting out bold ideas and galvanizing a base of supporters who are energized by the opportunity for real change. It’s exhilarating and fluid. The momentum can be like a rock concert, and people are carried away with excitement about the future.
Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Healthcare Spending, Research; GOP’s Healthcare Bill Faces Stiff Resistance
On March 15, 2017, the Trump administration released its first budget proposal, slashing federal spending in many areas of health care, education, environmental protection, and the sciences while increasing funding for defense and homeland security. The proposed budget would decrease spending for the Department of Health and Human Services by nearly 18%, which includes a 20% budget cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—a decrease of nearly $6 billion. This stands to impact a number of cancer-related research programs developing new treatments and drugs through NIH funding.
Biden Foundation to Continue Cancer Moonshot Work
To a crowd of more than 1,300 attendees at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, TX, on March 12, 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Biden Foundation, his new nonprofit organization, would be continuing the work of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which he led during his final year as vice president.
Opportunities Exist for Health Policy Compromise in 2017
The 115th U.S. Congress was sworn into office on January 3, 2017. Capitol Hill was abuzz with congratulatory smiles, wide-eyed optimism, and not a small amount of relief for those who survived last November’s election.
Honoring the Legacy of Retiring Congresswoman Lois Capps, RN
Here’s What Oncology Nurses Need to Know About Health Policy Areas of Focus for 2017
As 2017 begins, ONS is hard at work supporting several new policies that could shape health care in the coming months and years. Although the election season has ended, ONS’s ongoing advocacy for oncology nurses and patients with cancer continues.