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

Trump Aims to Cut NIH, NCI Budgets

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.

ONS joined coalition partners in the Nursing Community Coalition and One Voice Against Cancer in writing to Congress and reminding elected officials of the importance of fully funding NIH, along with safety net programs, to ensure quality health care in the United States. House Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) tweeted that it “would be a cold day in hell” before she passed the proposed budget out of her healthcare subcommittee on Appropriations, so the White House should expect negotiations. Although the president’s agenda is unlikely to pass, he might get more cuts than some groups want or expect. Real advocacy has to happen, so join with ONS in advocating for your patients and your profession.

Sharpless Named FDA Acting Commissioner

On March 5, 2019, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb shocked the health policy community when he announced his resignation. Equally shocking was the Department of Health and Human Services’ quick turnaround to appoint current National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless as the acting FDA commissioner.

Gottlieb was a refreshingly strong advocate at FDA, especially on smoking cessation and tobacco regulation. Sharpless’s appointment was hailed in all sectors as a strong selection to continue the great work at FDA. Although comparable in budgets, NCI doesn’t have the same high profile as FDA, considering the agency makes nightly news. This will likely raise Sharpless’s visibility and that has the cancer community eager to continue partnerships with him on public health and safety issues in his new role.

NP Numbers on the Rise

For nearly two decades, the Health Resources and Services Administration pointed to a declining number of nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States. However, as more states actively recognize NPs’ full scope of practice as part of the primary care team and the Affordable Care Act-funded NP-focused care, the numbers of NPs are starting to bounce back. A new report details the change in nursing workforce issues and educational support from the federal government that led to a rising number of NPs.

As nurses already know, NPs fill roles in many areas of care and see patients that might otherwise not receive the attention of any healthcare provider. The provision of health care in the United States is changing, and NPs are helping. The number of NPs doubled in the past decade, and it says a great deal about the profession and the nature of quality care. ONS advocates for support in federal programs to ensure the workforce trend continues.