Youth Tobacco Bills; GOP Pre-Existing Conditions Act; Patient Protections
In a bold move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Thursday that he would put forward a bill to raise the national age for tobacco product purchases to age 21. It’s a remarkable move on many levels, not the least of which is that McConnell is from Kentucky—a region of the country that produces tobacco products. More importantly though, McConnell made a public statement about the rise in youth consumption through vaping.
As Drug Pricing Tops Capitol Hill Interest, ONS Advocates for Patient Access to Care
Reducing the high cost of prescription drugs continues to be a priority focus for both the U.S. Congress and Trump administration, and ONS is closely monitoring and providing input on how key proposals could affect patient access to oncology care.
NCI’s Sharpless Appointed Acting FDA Commissioner
In March 2019, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, surprised the healthcare community by announcing his resignation, set to take effect in June 2019. With 18 months still remaining in the commissioner’s term, speculation arose throughout the healthcare advocacy community as to who might fill the position. Not long after Gottlieb’s announcement, the Trump administration named National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless, MD, as the acting commissioner of the FDA.
PCHETA Is Reintroduced to Congress With Fast Tracked Status
For more than five years, the cancer advocacy community—along with the larger healthcare environment—has presented and promoted a comprehensive piece of legislation focusing on patient-centered care, palliative care training, and hospice education. Advocates are familiar with the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA)—an initiative that contains many of ONS’s policy priorities and one that ONS members have lobbied for on Capitol Hill.
Senators Investigate Juul; Dems Drug Pricing Woes; New Medicare for All
On April 8, 2018, nearly a dozen Democratic senators announced they would investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette giant Juul along with a new deal to sell a minority stake of the company to Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes. Not long ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Juul—along with others in the smoking cessation community—supported efforts to use electronic tobacco mechanisms to help 60 million Americans quit smoking. However, along the way, the U.S. surgeon general and FDA discovered that youth smoking and vaping have seen a dramatic increase from the advertising, marketing, and distribution of e-cigarettes.
Trump Releases 2020 Draft Presidential Budget—and Here’s What it Means for Health-Related Funding
Each spring marks a new budget season in Washington, DC. It’s a time of year that provides a glimpse into policy priorities for the fiscal year. In March 2019, the Office of Management and Budget released its 2020 funding allocations for the entire federal government. The budget was comprised after each federal department spent the preceding months looking at their previous year’s budget and outlined programmatic priorities that align with the president’s agenda.
$88 Billion for Health Care; Raising the Tobacco Age; 2020 Healthcare Push
According to a Gallup Poll released on April 2, 2019, Americans borrowed approximately $88 billion to pay for health care in 2018. At a National Academies of Science healthcare conference on April 4, the main takeaway was that many Americans surveyed reported that they could not afford to have a serious illness like cancer. The cost of care, even with insurance, is more than many can financially withstand. Oncology nurses know how patients must maneuver through the system to defer costs, sometimes resulting in delayed or alternative approaches to care.
Health Policy Begins With You: Educate Your Representatives in Cancer Care
As an oncology advanced practice nurse and administrator for cancer services, every day I care for patients and caregivers coping with cancer. I mentor nursing staff in best practices to deliver care, and I create a work environment conducive to advancing quality cancer care. However, my commitment to supporting people with cancer does not end at the walls of my workplace. Oncology nurses are called to be a visible change agent in our communities—and beyond—to continue the worthy work of championing quality care for people diagnosed with cancer, along with spreading prevention and early detection information.
Drug Pricing Discussions Make Headway in Congress
The 116th congressional session is well underway. Committee meetings are being held and policy discussions are taking shape all over Capitol Hill. In January 2019, the U.S. House and Senate held separate public hearings on the biggest healthcare issue from the 2018 midterm election: drug pricing.
Future of Nursing; Adults Ration Medication; Drug Parity Act
It’s been almost a decade since the Institute of Medicine—now the National Academies of Medicine (NAM)—released The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report. Although many aspects of the nursing profession have been enhanced, still others are woefully lacking in change. Healthcare workplace safety incidents are still too high—up to 12 times higher than in the overall workforce—educational opportunities are still too expensive, and scope-of-practice authority is still too limiting in many states—all of which are ONS policy priorities.
Possible NIH Cuts; Sharpless FDA Commissioner; NPs on the Rise
The day the administration releases the president’s budget, outlining funding levels for federal departments and their respective programs, has become an annual event around the Beltway. When that document was unveiled on March 11, 2019, it arrived on Capitol Hill like a lead zeppelin. Under the proposed budget, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) budget would see a 13% cut, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) would have its budget reduced by 15%. The dramatic cuts in domestic spending on health, education, and welfare programs were so stark that patient advocacy and provider groups released statements individually and through coalitions to respectfully—or less so—inform decision makers that efforts will begin immediately to advocate for maintained funding levels.
Providing Expert Testimony in the Virginia State Senate
In early January 2019, I had the opportunity to represent ONS before the Virginia State Senate Finance Committee on the growing epidemic of electronic cigarettes and vaping device use among youth. In Richmond, VA, I delivered testimony about the dangerous health ramifications of this newer trend of tobacco use.
CMS Projects Health Expenditures to Reach $6 Trillion by 2027
Health care remains a top domestic policy issue for Americans. Across the board—regardless of political ideology—Americans are concerned about the quality of health care, access to providers, and rising costs associated with medications and treatment. In February 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Office of the Actuary released a report outlining the projected growth in national health spending from 2018–2027.
Giroir Reflects on Public Health Programs After First Year at HHS
Washington, DC, and the larger federal government are filled with dedicated professionals who toil quietly, often anonymously, in support of programs, initiatives, and agency work in service of the American public. Such is true for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) lesser-known leaders like Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health, who reflected on his time at HHS as he helped guide the department’s efforts in public health.
More Nurses Are Obtaining BSN Degrees
After the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 report on the “Future of Nursing,” the nursing field made a concerted effort to encourage current and incoming nurses to achieve higher education through a Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) degree or higher. As lifelong learners, nurses are committed to providing the best care possible and consistently furthering their education is part of that commitment. According to a report from AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 56% of U.S. nurses hold a BSN or higher, an all-time high for the profession.
Nursing Workplace Violence; Aggressive Drug Pricing Legislation; Gottlieb Steps Down
Although nurses are the number one trusted profession in the United States for the past 18 years in a row, they’re not necessarily the most protected sector. Hostile workforce environments and exposure to hazardous chemicals are still a part of too many nurses’ daily lives. Recently, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on workforce safety to better understand the what nurses and other healthcare workers endure.
Trump Administration Proposes Lower Drug Costs
For the past year, President Trump has championed efforts to lower drug prices for Americans to more accessible and affordable medications. Lowering soaring prescription costs is an issue with wide bipartisan support in Congress. To date, several Congressional committees have held hearings in early 2019 with pharmaceutical executives.
Ending HIV Epidemic a Priority for Trump Administration
In a statement during the 2019 State of the Union address, President Trump proposed ending the HIV epidemic by reducing new infections by 75% in the next five years and 90% in the next decade. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar hailed Trump’s statement as an important public health initiative.
Dems' Budget Fight; Pharma CEOs Face Congress; Patient Financial Struggles
Democrats control the majority of the House of Representatives, and it’s their responsibility to provide and pass a U.S. budget. As with any Congress, it’s always easier said than done. With a larger, more progressive freshman class interested in pushing more environmental, health, and welfare policy issues forward, costs will be a concern.
Federal Furlough Forlorn: Cancer Care’s Constraints
On January 25, 2019, President Trump announced a deal to end the longest U.S. government partial shutdown in history—35 days of closed public places and programs, furloughed or unpaid federal employees, and an apprehensive American nation. What was its impact on health policy and, more specifically, cancer care?
Drug Pricing Talks; Clinical Trial Barriers; Survivorship Challenges
Rising prescription medication costs has been a major focus area for both the Trump administration and the 116th Congress. In January 2019, both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction held public hearings on soaring drug costs. Despite constant media attention and mounting pressure from government officials, no pharmaceutical company executives chose to testify. Congress threatened to subpoena the industry if it happened again.
CMS Proposes Medicare Coverage for CAR T-Cell Therapy
To improve access to new cancer therapies and provide national consistency in coverage, on February 15, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed plan of coverage with evidence development for CAR T-cell therapy. The public is invited to share comments for the next 30 days.
FDA Commissioner Advocates Against Smoking, New Vaping Devices
When heads of federal regulatory agencies are health and medical professionals with years of research experience, their background helps guide the mission and vision of the department along with the direction of thousands of staff and employees engaged in implementing health policy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, is a clinician and activist, and he acts as a staunch advocate for public health issues—namely the dangers of tobacco use, especially among young Americans.
NIH Office of Disease Prevention Raises Profile
In an open letter to the research and advocacy community, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, announced the Office of Disease Prevention’s (ODP) new strategic plan to “strengthen research through increased coordination and facilitation among NIH institutes, centers, and offices, including leveraging the power of new portfolio analysis tools, ensuring ongoing communications with stakeholders, and building trans-NIH partnerships to address gaps in prevention research.”
Opioid Access; Smoking Age Increase; House Medicare for All
Efforts to curb the national opioid epidemic have taken shape in several ways, including redefined prescription guidelines. However, many insurers are now like the ones commonly prescribed to patients with cancer. For years, ONS has been meeting with congressional offices to advocate that access to prescription opioids for cancer survivors should be exempt from the strict limits assigned to other diagnoses. It’s always been a successful strategy, because related to severe pain management, quality of life, and end-of-life care.
HRSA Awards $293 Million to Clinicians, Students to Enhance Workforce
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $293 million in new funding through programs at the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Nurse Corps for the healthcare community to expand the clinician workforce. Strengthening care and support can help address gaps in care and limit growing socioeconomic disparities.
CDC Announces National Screen Out Cancer Health Campaign
Targeted to healthcare providers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new public service health campaign to call attention to the importance of regular screenings for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. The Screen Out Cancer campaign is designed to raise awareness to ensure that patients and providers know that prevention begins with knowledge.
HHS Awards $1 Billion to Fight Opioid Crisis
Recognizing the continuing impact of the national opioid epidemic, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has dedicated $1 billion in funding through a new awards program called the Five-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis. The program will empower communities to implement strategies to curb opioid abuse and addiction.
Nurses in Congress; Defending the ACA; Biden's Moonshot Mission
The new 116th Congress has settled in, and a clearer picture of the diverse freshman class has come to light. In this case, . Lauren Underwood (D-IL) is an RN who ran on her , specifically to protect those with pre-existing conditions. She’s already a co-chair of the Congressional Nursing Caucus and has signed on to Title VIII nursing reauthorization legislation— . Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)—the first nurse ever elected to Congress—is entering her 13th term in the chamber and continues to offer a veteran nursing presence on the hill.
Experience the Power of Patient-Centered Research Through PCORI
How often have you gone to the mailbox, pulled out your latest issue of the or , and excitedly read about some innovative study with game-changing outcomes that’ll revolutionize the delivery of health care—only to find that it never moves off the pages of the journal? What does it take to move research from the proverbial bench to the community? That was the focus of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), “ ” held from October 31–November 2, 2018, in Washington DC.
President’s Cancer Panel Calls for Renewed Commitment to Vaccinate for HPV
For years, the human papillomavirus vaccination (HPV) has been recommended to young adult patients to help prevent certain forms of cancer. In a November 2018 report, the President’s Cancer Panel recommended to further the United States’ goal to prevent cancer associated with HPV.
HHS Proposes Policy Changes for Medicare Advantage, Part D Drug Pricing
U.S. drug pricing systems are difficult for patients to understand, cumbersome to maneuver, and limited in access and affordability. In Medicare’s current structure, certain medications are designated as a protected class of drug, and Medicare Part D plans are obligated to cover them.
Bipartisan Drug Debates; Youth Vaping Epidemic; Socioeconomic Disparities and Cancer
Congress has settled in after the shutdown, and new members have taken their place on committees to begin the real work in Washington, DC. This week, the House and Senate convened similar panels to discuss the bipartisan goal to lower soaring drug costs for all Americans. Patients and families provided emotional testimony about lost loved ones because of pricey prescription medications that were out of reach.
Surgeon General Declares Youth Vaping an Epidemic
Since their inception, e-cigarettes have made the public health sector uneasy. Initial reports suggested that e-cigarettes could be an opportunity for long-time adult smokers to step down their usage, acting as a bridge to smoking cessation. However, recent reports indicate that youth vaping and e-cigarette use has risen sharply in the past two years—creating an entirely new generation of smokers. U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, .
Government Shutdown Ends; FDA Threatens E-Cigarettes; New Medicare Part D; Uninsured Rates Rise
After a contentious 35-day-long shutdown, President Trump announced on January 25, 2019, plans for a while talks continue on border security and immigration. Neither party seems optimistic that compromise can happen by the February 15 deadline, and the future is still uncertain.
Government Shutdown; ACA Ruled Invalid; Medicare for All Push
On January 3, 2019, the newly elected, Democrat-controlled House of Representatives introduced legislation to reopen the federal government and end the current shutdown. It’s not about the money, which is usually the case; it’s about the blame. The border wall funding—in whatever capacity—is politically driving the shutdown. But Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that he knows the president will veto. Democrats want that to happen to force the president to either accept the blame for the shutdown or to cave without funding for the wall and reopen the government.
What the Midterm Election Results Mean for Health Policy in 2019
Election results may appear to be seismic shifts, jarring the foundations of the American political system to its core as voters stare in disbelief, attempting to translate the meaning of the public’s intent. But is that really the case?
Capitol Hill Days Brings Nurses’ Voices to Policymakers
Since 2016, ONS has gathered hundreds of nurse advocates in the nation’s capital to speak truth to power during its annual Hill Days conference. This two-day meeting brings more than 100 oncology nurses to Washington, DC, to learn about the Society’s health policy legislative agenda and to be trained in how to educate elected officials on the priority issues most important to ONS members.
Pre-Existing Conditions; Overcharging Prescription Drugs; Opposing Medicare for All
Although the Democrats have yet not formally taken control of the House of Representatives, many are primed and passionate about holding the Trump administration accountable after the November midterm elections. Through involvement in committees and as incoming chairs of powerful oversight panels, lawmakers are .
Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bill; Freshman Democrats; Medical Cannabis Concerns
As efforts continue to drive down the soaring costs of prescription medications, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed a bipartisan bill looking to close loopholes used by pharmaceutical companies to drive up profits. The bill would give the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to address companies that misclassify products to pay lower rebates.
Experts Hold Conversations About Access and Affordability at ONS Policy Summit
Nurses should initiate financial conversations with patients early and offer resources to improve access to cancer care, speakers at the on November 13, 2018, concluded. The event, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, brought together nurses and industry and government experts to address the issue of financial toxicity in today’s cancer care.
Former President Bush’s Legacy Holds Strong Commitment to Advancing Cancer Care
As a staunch advocate for the advancement of cancer treatments, research, and patient care, President George H.W. Bush left an enduring legacy through contributions to the field of oncology and health care in the wake of his death on November 30, 2018. His continued support of healthcare professionals—including oncology nurses—spoke to his administration’s focus before, during, and after his tenure in Washington, DC.
Medicare for All; New Congressional Priorities; Health Finance Committee
With more than 70% of Americans supporting expanded Medicare, the single-payer Medicare for All rallying cry has gained significant support among progressives and moderates alike. A recent editorial report makes the case for its adoption with strong evidence from an economic point of view. During the November 2018 midterm election campaign, many incumbent Republicans—some of whom previously voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—now promised to uphold sections of the law, including protections for pre-existing conditions as their most important campaign commitment.
Advocacy Community Supports NCI Fiscal Year 2020 Proposal
A billion dollars was once an astronomical amount of money to spend on one federal agency. But since the 1950s when Senator Dirksen (R-IL) was a leading voice for fiscal conservatives, the federal government’s budget has ballooned, with both political parties equally responsible for increases. During this time, great achievements have been made, and much of it in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as what former Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) often referred to as the crown jewel of the federal government.
Lame Duck Session; Health Care to the States; Nurses in Congress
Washington insiders weren’t surprised by the election’s outcome, and the next session of Congress will be something to watch in 2019. However, the current work of politics in a lame duck session can be interesting at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Members of Congress who lost their seats are now under no obligation to their districts, leadership, or party and often vote their conscience on late-session bills.
Proposed Medicare Payment Model Based on International Drug Prices Would Lower Patient Costs
On October 25, 2018, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) calling for a demonstration project to more closely align Medicare payment for certain Medicare Part B drugs and biologics with international prices, which an HHS analysis showed to be 1.8 times lower on average than in the United States. The proposal is a follow-up to the president’s prescription drug blueprint and HHS request for information to reduce patient out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. HHS estimates a savings of $17.2 billion over five years.
Dems Take House; GOP Expands Senate; Science in Midterms
After an arduous campaign season, the midterm election results are mostly as anticipated. The Democrats gained seats in the House of Representatives, giving the party the majority in the lower chamber starting in January 2019. The Dems say their focus for the next congressional session will focus on health policy and high drug prices. Although the jury is still out over what the midterm elections meant, most experts agree that health care was the driving political issue for voters, regardless of party.
How I Celebrated NCC and Advocated for the Nursing Workforce
On September 12, 2018, I had the honor of attending the Nursing Community Coalition’s (NCC’s) 10th Anniversary Celebration as an ONS representative, joining members of ONS’s health policy staff. NCC is a 61-member coalition, working to further nursing education, training, and support through united advocacy efforts.