U.S. House of Representatives Passes Two ONS Priority Bills
ONS is a critical voice in the advocacy arena, helping to steward bills that are important to the future of oncology nursing practice and successful patient-centered care. On October 28, 2019, two ONS priority bills—the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (H.R. 647) and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 728)—passed the U.S. House of Representatives with unanimous bipartisan support.
Texas Nurses Show Advocacy in Action by Bringing the Message Home to Policymakers
As the largest ONS chapter in the United States with more than 2,000 members, the Houston ONS Chapter is primed to make an impact with the state’s lawmakers. In August 2019, chapter members did just that, combining forces with other local chapters for a pilot event featuring ONS policy education and advocacy training deep in the heart of Texas. Almost 100 ONS members participated to get support and education to speak with decision makers about the needs of the profession as well as the patients oncology nurses serve.
Majority Favors Lowering Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes
The evidence is clear: Nicotine is an addictive substance. Even current smokers acknowledge its power, and addiction information is required in advertisements and product promotions. Despite tobacco’s known issues, people still smoke at alarming rates. With vaping, e-cigarettes, and flavored tobacco being introduced to younger and younger consumers, youth smoking is on the rise for the first time in decades.
Teen E-Cigarette Use Doubles as Federal Agencies Publicly Address Epidemic
The youth vaping epidemic has dominated headlines since the U.S. surgeon general elevated the issue to the nation’s spotlight. In a 2019 survey of junior high and high school students, the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA)—an arm of National Institutes of Health—found that the rate of e-cigarette use had doubled since 2017.
Bold Drug Pricing Plan; Limiting Nicotine Levels; Representative Lowey Retires
With the 2020 presidential election cycle in full swing, some Democratic candidates are pushing an aggressive proposal to combat the rising costs of prescription drugs by potentially ending patents for high-cost medications. Breaking the patent of an existing drug to allow competitors to make a cheaper version is a bold step to combat the drug pricing issue, but the potential proposal doesn't seem to be getting much negative push back from either side of the aisle. Many see it as a way to keep the industry in check, and the provision makes for great political fodder on the campaign trail.
HHS Secretary Azar Addresses American Cancer Society on Healthcare Delivery System
Reaching a broad audience, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar spoke to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in early September 2019 about the state of healthcare delivery in the United States and outlined the Trump administration’s priorities. Azar praised advocates for being leaders in promoting more investments for education, prevention, and research, and he noted the laudable achievements thus far.
NIH HEAL Initiative Commits $945 Million to Opioid Research
Designated as a national epidemic, opioid addiction and abuse are front and center at the federal level as lawmakers work to support the discovery of new treatments and resources to curb the growing problem. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), with support from the White House, Congress, and the Department of Health and Human Services, awarded $945 million in funding for grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements across 41 states for the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative. Targeting novel chronic pain interventions, opioid abuse, and the addiction crisis, the HEAL Initiative will funnel funding and resources into efforts that can make an impact immediately and in the future for healthcare providers and their patients.
Shalala's Vaping Fight; Pre-Existing Conditions; Trump Nominates Hahn
Vaping has been associated with significant public health effects during the past several months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congress is making e-cigarette regulation a top priority—especially in the wake of the youth smoking epidemic. Now, several members of Congress have developed their own legislative efforts to address the national issue.
CDC Vaping Illnesses; ONS Capitol Hill Days; CA Calls to End Vaping
Vaping has become a national health issue on Capitol Hill. With more teens than ever using the devices, along with reports connecting lung injury and respiratory illness with vaping, policymakers are eager to understand the problem and act swiftly. Part of the problem includes the high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol and nicotine in vaping products. Congress is working to address the problem through several legislative bills, but few are moving as fast as the public health impact seen in news reports.
Nurses Impact Health Policy; State Vaping Legislation; Pelosi's Drug Plan
As ONS advocates participate in the 2019 ONS Capitol Hill Days training and advocacy event in Washington, DC, from September 22–24, 2019, a recent Journal of Nursing Administration post about nursing influence in health policy is timely. It serves as a reminder that a nurse’s work in patient-centered care goes beyond the bedside or chairside. Nurses are educators, influencers, innovators, and sage guides for patients, policymakers, and the greater healthcare industry.
Health Care in Campaigns; Respiratory Illness From Vaping; Drug Importation Politics
Chicago ONS Chapter member Janice Phillips, RN, CENP, PhD, FAAN, said it all in her op-ed published on Morning Consult. The entire Democratic field of presidential candidates has declared some form of healthcare overhaul, albeit to varying degrees of change. With expanded access and reduced costs for patients and families as a priority, the centerpiece to most presidential hopefuls’ domestic policy program is redesigning a struggling system.
Azar Remarks on Trump Administration’s Healthcare Vision
Health care is a top domestic issue for U.S. voters, and the president is speaking more and more about his administration’s plans to find accessible, affordable healthcare options for millions of Americans. Speaking this summer at the Better Medicare Alliance in Washington, DC, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar outlined three key points where the Trump administration plans to improve health care.
Cancer Prevention Starts in Childhood
The cancer prevention conversation is tricky for providers to navigate. Not surprisingly, people want to do everything it their power to prevent cancer. But sometimes conversations involve uncomfortable elements of health care—like sex or sexually transmitted diseases—that can quickly derail the discussion. Despite this, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is one case where prevention efforts have a led to huge increases in participation, especially among children. Following that thread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have committed to spearheading the cancer prevention conversation by encouraging people to discuss cancer prevention early in their children’s lives.
HHS Awards Nearly $400 Million to Combat Opioid Crisis
From New Hampshire to Arizona, millions of American families are confronted by the impact of opioid addiction. It’s one of the few remaining bipartisan issues on which the U.S. Congress continues to agree. Its reach is pervasive, it’s an international and domestic issue, and it has led politicians to cross the aisle and work together. Finding initiatives and funding programs to enact real solutions has become a national priority, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is earmarking nearly $400 million to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.
FDA Takes Stronger Oversight Role of Tobacco Products
As the youth smoking epidemic persists and illnesses related to vaping make the headlines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is searching for solutions to combat the growing impact of new tobacco and nicotine products. After weeks of public outcry, FDA has doubled down on its regulatory stance, issuing several statements—including new warning letters to large tobacco companies—to reinforce its commitment to aggressive oversight and regulation of new tobacco products.
Congress Tackles Surprise Billing for Patient Access to Affordable Care
A patient is rushed to the emergency room, diagnosed, and taken to surgery immediately. The patient recovers, but weeks later a bill arrives beyond any expectation, and too often ability, to be paid. This practice has become so routine that it has its own name: balance billing or, more commonly, surprise medical billing. It strikes many Americans with the burden of their ailment once again.
Senators Create Bipartisan Comprehensive Care Caucus
After years of confusion, discussion, debate, and dedicated advocacy work, lawmakers are finally understanding what palliative care is—symptom management, not hospice—and how it’s employed in care. The benefits of early palliative interventions for many diseases, including cancer, can improve quality of life for patients as they navigate their diagnoses. To increase awareness and availability of palliative care in practice, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV), John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) launched the bipartisan Senate Comprehensive Care Caucus on July 31, 2019.
AMA Medicare Expansion; Vaping Respiratory Disease; Nursing Shortage
With the 2020 election cycle kicking into high gear, upcoming presidential debates will continue to highlight health care as a major domestic issue. Downstream contests for House and Senate seats are also in play, and health care will serve a huge role in those campaigns, too. Candidates are offering a slew of different options like a new single-payer system, Medicare expansion, Medicare for All, Medicare for All with an additional buy-in program, and many other iterations.
Nurses Advocate for Palliative Care, Drug Parity by Sharing Patient Experiences
With our heads held high, Michelle Santizo, RN, PHN, MSN, and I walked right into Capitol Hill, ready to tackle meetings with important members of the U.S. Congress. On that day in July 2019, we spoke with staff members working for the offices of both Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
HHS Announces Safe Importation Action Plan for High Medication Costs
The high cost of prescription medications—often lifesaving drugs—has become an unsustainable burden for many American patients. It’s a central topic in the healthcare conversation and a complex issue with countless moving parts. National opinion polling finds that a majority of people want to see changes in drug pricing.
Medicare Covers CAR T; HPV Vaccine Confusion; Officials Target Drug Makers
The decision to allow Medicare to cover the cost of CAR T-cell therapy—a new and expensive form of immunotherapy—is an important one for patients seeking the treatment, especially after rounds of failed tradition therapies. Educating federal agencies and government representatives about the importance of new treatments like CAR T cells have helped drive coverage decisions, and the patient advocacy community—like ONS’s very own advocates—are to thank.
Wasserman Schultz, Brooks Introduce EARLY Act for Breast Cancer Awareness
Health care is the top domestic policy issue for Americans, but with so many different ideas to make the healthcare system more accessible and affordable, the issue is becoming increasingly complex. Because of its far-reaching impact, health care is often a politically charged topic and little change has yet been seen on a legislative level.
House Committee Examines Juul’s Role in the Youth Smoking Epidemic
For nearly two decades, smoking rates among all ages were on the decline. Restrictions on marketing, sales, and distribution made it difficult for underage smokers to get their hands on traditional cigarettes, and adults were seeing the benefits of smoking cessation campaigns and education.
Bipartisan Reps Reintroduce Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act
In divisive times, fewer congressional bills find their way to the president’s desk without considerable bipartisan support. The dance of legislation is complex. Maneuvering through the legislative terrain and avoiding political landmines requires partnerships, expert data, and—at times—a little bit of luck. In the case of the Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 3835), that’s the story so far.
CMS Makes CAR T-Cell Cancer Therapy Available to Medicare Beneficiaries
It’s an extraordinary time for biomedical research. Advancements in science, investments in research studies, and an increased access to patients through clinical trials have continued to transform the medical community’s understanding of cancer care and the best ways to treat and cure tumors. Achieving successful outcomes requires specific and dedicated therapies, tailored to each individual.
ONS Holds Fourth Annual Capitol Hill Days
On September 22–24, 2019, Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) will hold its Fourth Annual Capitol Hill Days in Washington, DC. The three-day education and advocacy event will prepare more than 100 oncology nurses to work with elected officials on health policy issues important to their patients and profession. Capitol Hill Days encourages nurses to be advocates and leaders in their communities and in their practice by helping ONS make a real difference in the national healthcare conversation.
The Battle Against Drug Pricing Wages On
Few know the power that prescription medications have on the quality of life for patients more than nurses. In more than just physical ways, access to affordable drugs is essential to patient-centered care and emotional, psychological, familial, and even financial stability. For too long, the cost and availability of medicines have been barriers to health care, rather than opportunities for survivorship.
CDC Offers Insight to Mental Health and Cancer
As health care advances, so too does our understanding about the numerous conditions affecting patients, including their mental health and well-being. Messaging from federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about mental health is taking an inclusive, wholistic approach to the many aspects of mental health. CDC presented new educational applications for providers to consider when talking to their patients about mental well-being and their continued success in treatment.
Nurse Researchers Receive Presidential Award
The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor early-career professional researchers can receive from the federal government. On July 15, 2019, two nurse researchers were included among this year’s recipients. National Institute of Nursing Research-supported scientists, Sarah Rossetti, RN, PhD, and Tracey L. Yap, PhD, RN, WCC, CNE, FGSA, FAAN, were acknowledged for their promise and leadership in nursing science and patient-centered research.
ONS Signature Legislation, PCHETA, Reintroduced in U.S. Senate
The Palliative Care and Hospice Education Training Act (PCHETA) is a key ONS policy priority. After unsuccessfully navigating both chambers of the 115th Congress prior to the 2018 midterm elections, the bill had to begin its legislative journey once again in the new 116th congressional session.
FDA Takes More Steps Toward Regulating E-Cigarettes
After the U.S. surgeon general’s announcement that youth smoking epidemic was in part a result of vaping and tobacco companies’ marketing and advertising of flavored products, federal agencies began looking for ways to address the growing problem. The ease at which elementary and high school students can access vaping mechanisms was a battle cry for former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who was an outspoken advocate for regulating and penalizing companies that targeted marketing efforts at young Americans.
No Health Cost Vote; FDA Youth Tobacco Campaign; Senate Committee Drug Bill
From soaring prescription medication costs to surprise medical bills, the issue of high healthcare costs has dominated headlines for months. Both sides of the aisle have been outspoken about the issue in a rare showing of bipartisanship. But despite the attention paid to the issue, little has been done legislatively to corral rising healthcare costs for patients and consumers. The recent announcement that the Senate wouldn’t vote on its healthcare cost bill prior to the August recess has left many wondering if the issue would be addressed at all.
Nurses Offer Wellness Checks to Congressional Staffers
In June 2019, in honor of Men’s Health Month, a group of Georgetown nurses, oncology specialists, and professionals from other concentrations volunteered for ONS at the annual Men’s Health Network Congressional Health Screening on Capitol Hill. It was an experience that I will never forget. To be in the offices of the U.S. Congress and to meet elected officials and their staff was incredible, but being able to do what nurses do best—act as the most trusted healthcare professional for patients—was wonderful.
Nurse Meets With New Hampshire Lawmakers to Connect Them to ONS Health Policy
While representing ONS in June 2019 at the National Institute for Nursing Research in Bethesda, MD, I met with my state’s congressional delegation to introduce ONS’s health policy legislative agenda to their offices on Capitol Hill. Despite it being one of the hottest days on record for the nation’s capital, the congressional offices offered a cool place for health policy discussions.
Surprise Billing Legislation; Drug Pricing Reform Stalls; GOP's ACA Repeal
Surprise medical bills—a long-time problem for patients and consumers—was not on the legislative radar until recently. In short order, the issue has quickly moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, to offer some hope for consumers. Part of the committee’s mark up added an amendment allowing for arbitration to address specific medical charges if hospitals disagreed with the agreed-upon rate. Some committee members felt that without it, providers would have limited recourse in special circumstances.
Tobacco 21 Gets Federal Boost
In February 2019, the U.S. Surgeon General declared the rise of youth vaping was the latest epidemic facing the American public. Reversing a two-decades-long trend of declining smoking rates among underage smokers, e-cigarette use and vaping have become commonplace among children younger than 18.
America’s Old Tobacco Business Reignites as a New Industry
America’s love affair with tobacco has a long and sordid history. As automated machines ushered in a new age of modernization in the early 20th century, cigarettes were readily available as never before. Although some in the temperance movement believed tobacco products were the gateway to alcohol and drug abuse, by the 1930s and 1940s, physicians were touting cigarettes as almost a healing treatment that calmed the nerves and desensitized the body with positive effects.
PCHETA in the Senate; Armed Forces Tobacco Use; Drug Pricing Executive Order
An ONS priority bill, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) emphasizes how providers are educated and trained in palliative care, enabling them to provide a higher level of care to their patients. PCHETA legislation—and its reception on Capitol Hill—has evolved from being misinterpreted as training providers to hasten death to a true understanding that palliative care is patient-centered care, and it provides patients and their family members with further treatment options, symptom management resources, and quality of life. In a display of bipartisanship, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced PCHETA legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.
Chapters Advocate for Patients and Nurses at Statewide Event in Annapolis
On March 26, 2019, more than 40 nurses came together at the Maryland General Assembly’s Senate President’s Conference Center for the Oncology Nurses Night in Annapolis. This was the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ONS’s (GBCONS’s) third advocacy trip to the statehouse, but it was the first statewide ONS event. All four Maryland chapters were active in planning the night, and many new advocates were inspired to speak out.
ONS Capitol Hill Days Preps Nurses for Advocacy
Oncology nurses advocate for their patients every day, and it’s easy to see firsthand the difference it can have in those patients’ and families’ lives. But there’s a way to make an even larger impact by using those same advocacy skills at the local, state, or even national level—potentially changing thousands or even millions of lives of patients, survivors, and families across the United States.
NIH All of Us Campaign Celebrates First Anniversary
As part of the rising wave of precision medicine initiatives, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the All of Us campaign in 2018. This one-of-a-kind research program aimed to collect data from more than one million Americans, including factors about lifestyle, environment, and biology, to understand impacts on health and well being. The information would help researchers to better understand the individual nature of health to ultimately inform decisions about delivering precision medicine.
Supreme Court to Hear Case on ACA Back Payments
When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was first implemented, the government encouraged private insurance companies to participate in the health insurance marketplace to increase competition and keep prices low for patients. According to several private insurers, the government committed to reimbursing companies if the cost of their healthcare claims exceeded premiums charged in the first three years. To date, no payments have been made between the government and private insurance companies, and a new lawsuit is making its way through the judicial system.
President Releases Executive Order on Healthcare Transparency
As challenges mount to find new and innovative ways to provide quality health care at affordable prices for patients, a battle is brewing over what patients can and cannot know about their healthcare costs. On June 24, President Trump released an executive order directing his administration to take steps to improve healthcare prices and transparency to address the pricing woes patients face.
Eliminating Private Insurance; Raising the Smoking Age; HPV Vaccine Recommendation
Candidates in the first Democratic presidential debate spent some time addressing issues related to healthcare access. In point-blank questions, they were asked what they might do in support of Medicare for All, especially whether they’d be in favor of eliminating private insurance companies. Many were supportive of the overarching legislation, some were wary of eliminating insurance companies outright, and others flat out opposed it.
Healthcare Price Transparency; Cancer Survivor Caucus; Insurers Sue for ACA Backpay
Since 2016, then-candidate Trump promised he was going to bring healthcare costs under control. In a White House announcement on June 24, 2019, the president took steps to add transparency to the process by requiring insurance companies, hospitals, and physicians to identify fees and costs in public and simple ways for patients to see in advance and to understand.
Personalized Combination Therapies Yield Better Cancer Outcomes
In a perpetual search to refine research and scientific advancements in the pursuit of fighting cancer, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is investing in research that will help practitioners further understand how treatments and combinations of treatments can benefit patients. Through a focus on precision oncology, researchers are examining which combinations of therapies would work best for each individual patient based on a number of factors, including genetics and genomics.
CDC Highlights E-Cigarettes’ Dangers
The advent of e-cigarettes and vaping mechanisms has shifted the dynamic of underage tobacco use for the first time in more than a decade. In fact, the U.S. surgeon general declared the situation a national epidemic. Known as e-cigs, vapes, e-hookah, vape pens, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), the mechanisms look similar to USB flash drives, pens, and other items not typically associated with tobacco consumption.
House Appropriations Committee Releases 2020 Draft Budget Allocations
The House Appropriations Committee recently released its draft outline for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education 2020 funding bill, allocating more than $189 billion in discretionary funding for education and training, medical research, and health care. The legislation includes funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For 2020, the House Appropriations Committee increased funding by $11.7 billion over 2019 levels.
Pain Management Task Force Issues First Report on Pain Control Best Practices
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million Americans experience acute and chronic pain daily. Managing the pain is debilitating and costly, and the impact on the economy is felt through employment issues along with a heightened burden on the healthcare system.