By Samantha Karam, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director

Nurse-Turned-Policymaker Advocates for Healthcare Reform

As one of the youngest members of the 2018 freshman congressional class, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) has already made quite a name for herself. Eschewing, for the most part in this heightened environment, partisanship and instead concentrating on health and economic issues, the representative champions access and affordability for all Americans.

“My clinical background certainly informs how I approach problem solving,” Underwood said in a July 9, 2020, video. “Healthcare is this common thread that connects every community. There is a tremendous role for government here.”

Underwood prioritizes affordable health care and childcare, among improvements to other infrastructure like public education, workplace equality, and paid-leave reform.

“Prior to her election to Congress, Underwood worked with a Medicaid plan in Chicago to ensure that it provided high-quality, cost-efficient care. She served as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), helping communities across the country prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, bioterror threats and public health emergencies,” her website reported. “As a career public servant at HHS, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act—broadening access for those on Medicare, improving healthcare quality, and reforming private insurance. Underwood also taught future nurse practitioners through Georgetown University’s online master’s program.”

To learn more about how to raise your voice like Underwood as a nurse in health policy, visit the ONS advocacy page.   

Trump Administration Revisits Prescription Drug Pricing Reform

The White House is considering multiple options to lower prescription drug prices amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, such as linking some U.S. drug prices to lower prices paid overseas or banning drug rebates to simplify a convoluted drug pricing system.

The U.S. Senate has indicated that it would not take the topic up for discussion, but it’s a popular agenda for the U.S. House of Representatives. In an effort to build momentum during an election year, President Trump floated the idea of an executive order to lower pricing. However, not all fellow Republicans were not in support.

“Trump signed legislation last year to ease the introduction of cheaper generic drugs. While he has floated a range of larger ideas on drug prices in office, including importing drugs from abroad, no high-profile initiatives have taken effect so far,” a reporter for the Hill wrote. “And even once any executive orders are issued, as soon as the end of this week, it will take time for the regulatory process to unfold, meaning it is unclear what can go into effect before the election.”

Legislators from both sides of the aisle and pharmaceutical industry leaders are pushing back against the changes to prescription drug prices, although nothing is finalized yet. Almost every other political issue was pushed aside since declaring the coronavirus a global pandemic. But making out-of-pocket costs for drugs more affordable, particularly life-saving ones for patients with cancer, still top the list for some elected officials.

COVID-19 has changed everything, including the political and policy priority environment. Stay current on policy news with ONS’s updates from Capitol Hill.  

Nurses Advocate for Safer Working Conditions

The National Nurses United union placed 164 pairs of shoes on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to represent their colleagues who have died from the COVID-19 coronavirus. During the July 21, 2020, demonstration the group urged Congress to enact workplace protections in hospitals and provide more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act on May 15, 2020, and Stephanie Simms, of National Nurses United, urged the Senate to follow suit.

"Senator Mitch McConnell can use his immense power to do the right thing and shepherd the passage of the Heroes Act,” Simms said. “The question is, will he act to save lives or will he continue to turn a deaf ear to the pain and suffering of the American people. Including the nation's nurses?"

Advocacy is one of ONS’s core values. As nurses raise awareness for their colleagues, they demonstrate the continued need to step up and make their collective voices heard. From the pandemic to the pending presidential election, the summer of 2020 has become an activist’s era in which nurses are important to the process and have a message. Join in on the conversation by getting involved in ONS advocacy.