Future of Nursing; Adults Ration Medication; Drug Parity Act

March 25, 2019 by Chris Pirschel ONS Staff Writer/Producer, and Alec Stone MA, MPA, Former ONS Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Has the Profession Changed Since the Future of Nursing Report?

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 (https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/nursing/future-nursing-report-where-are-we-now), 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 (https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/18133-support-grows-for-bill-seeking-osha-standard-on-preventing-workplace-violence-in-health-care-facilities)—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 (https://www.ons.org/make-difference/ons-center-advocacy-and-health-policy/position-statements).

As more elected officials become nurse champions, we have hope for future change, but plenty of work still must be done. Former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and current U.S. Representative Donna Shalala (D-FL) has spoken to numerous nursing groups about taking up the mantle for nurses. ONS is working with Shalala’s staff about how to review and expand elements of the 2010 NAM report, and many healthcare advocates are certain that nursing’s time is now. Lend your voice to the advocacy effort (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/get-involved) and help advance the nursing profession.  

One in Ten U.S. Adults Ration High-Cost Medication

Nurses know full well that adherence to protocol is crucial to success cancer care—and is sometimes only as reliable as a patient’s wallet. A recent survey uncovered that more than 10% of U.S. adults have reported rationing their prescription medication (https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/434778-survey-about-1-in-10-us-adults-rationing-medicine-in-effort-to-lower-costs) because of high costs and financial burdens. If insurance won’t cover a medication and if the out-of-pocket price is simply too much to bear, patients attempt to find alternative mechanisms to treat their own disease.

The survey results simply confirm what too many providers suspect: patients often cannot afford the cost of their full treatment (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/dems-budget-fight-pharma-ceos-face-congress-patient-financial-struggles) and believe that smaller doses will be enough to get them through. It’s stories like these that nurses must continue to share (https://voice.ons.org/stories/oncology-nurses-make-impact-during-onss-hill-days) on Capitol Hill in meetings with legislators to educate them about the real-world issues that patients with cancer face. This kind of evidence is what elected officials need to see to inform policy change.

Guthrie Introduces Bipartisan Cancer Drug Parity Act

ONS has championed the Cancer Drug Parity Act (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/bipartisan-cancer-parity-drug-legislation-introduced-in-us-congress) as part of its policy work for some time now, and on March 14, 2019, Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY), along with three other bipartisan House members, reintroduced the legislation for the 116th session of Congress (https://guthrie.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=386078). Oral cancer agents have become a popular, effective, convenient option in treatment, and the parity bill would require insurance companies to pay for oral agents in the same way IV drugs are covered.

Patients whose only options are oral medications—whether for access or other circumstances—currently face higher costs than those who receive IV agents (https://www.lls.org/lls-us-hq/news/congress-introduces-cancer-drug-parity-act). Many hope the bill will level the playing field and ensure that patients can access the best medications for their circumstances and diagnoses. ONS advocates will continue to educate their elected officials about the importance of drug parity (https://voice.ons.org/stories/oncology-nurses-must-share-experiences-perspectives-to-advocate-for-change) and its impact on patients with cancer.

Copyright © 2019 by the Oncology Nursing Society. User has permission to print one copy for personal or unit-based educational use. Contact pubpermissions@ons.org for quantity reprints.