Biden-Harris Administration Invests in Health Care for Rural Communities, Provides $19 Million for Telehealth Opportunities
Despite its now-widespread use, telehealth still poses barriers for many patients, such as limited access in rural areas and privacy concerns. In August 2021, the Biden-Harris administration announced the investment of billions of dollars to meet immediate COVID-19 needs and help improve hospital care to rural communities. The funding includes more than $19 million in telehealth to improve the initiative in rural and underserved communities.
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds ACA Again
After a decade and three legal challenges that culminated in another U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ([ACA], commonly known as Obamacare) is currently established canon. On June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of the defendants in the case of California et al. v. Texas et al., maintaining ACA’s constitutionality. It was a firm 7-2 decision.
What It’s Like to Compete in the ONS Hackathon™
When ONS reached out and asked me to participate in the inaugural ONS Hackathon, I wasted no time in confirming my interest. I had heard of hackathons before but never a nursing-specific one. It was an exciting experience full of growth for me and the other oncology nurses who participated.
CMS Innovation Center Uses Past Achievements to Build Future Goals
Innovative, affordable, and accountable care are the key to transforming the healthcare system to achieve health equity, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center’s 10-year plan, which the center announced on August 12, 2021.
6.8 Million Individuals Enroll in CHIP Prior to Program’s 24th Anniversary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra celebrated the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP’s) 24th anniversary on August 4, 2021, a program that “for more than two decades, has been a lifeline for millions of children and families across America,” with an incredible announcement: in 2020 and 2021, CHIP provided more than 6.8 million enrolled individuals with coverage during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Program Helps Communities to Bridge the Digital Divide in Clinical Care
Nurses and other members of the healthcare community have both the power and responsibility to reduce disparities in access to telehealth services, Mark Rastetter, MD, Cynthia J. Sieck, PhD, MPH, and Rose Grady, FNP, said during a session held at the ONS BridgeTM virtual conference on September 14, 2021. They shared their experience creating digital equity among patients using telehealth at Ohio State University’s (OSU’s) Wexner Medical Center.
Hope in Rare Cancers: Care Is Complex, but Oncology Nurses Are Making a Difference
As individual diseases, cancer diagnoses like pheochromocytoma (cancer of the adrenal gland), neuroendocrine cancers, and malignant mixed Mullerian tumors (also called carcinosarcomas) are rare, but collectively they’re more common than breast, colon, lung, or prostate cancer.
Study Ranks U.S. Healthcare Industry Dead Last Among Other High-Income Countries
The United States is worst among 11 high-income countries in delivery of and access to health care, according to an August 2021 study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, despite spending the most, by far, of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care than other countries surveyed. The survey used indicators across domains on access to care, care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and healthcare outcomes to compare healthcare system performance. Overall, the top-performing countries were Norway, the Netherlands, and Australia.
American Rescue Plan Lowers Costs for More Than 1.5 Million Americans During Special Enrollment Period
When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law in March 2021, the administration began working to make improvements in areas such as access and affordability by increasing eligibility for financial assistance. The new law lowered premiums for most people who currently had a Marketplace health plan and expanded access to financial assistance for more consumers, and data published in July 2021 showed that from February 15–June 30, 2021, more than 1.5 million Americans signed up for new health insurance coverage using the 2021 Marketplace Special Enrollment Period (SEP).
CMS Final Rule Improves Health Equity, Access to Treatment, Hospital Readiness, and More
To achieve value-based, person-centered care, the U.S. healthcare system must promote sustainability and readiness to prepare for future public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) said. In August 2021, CMS announced that the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System and Long Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System final rule will take effect on October 1, 2021, in support of that work.
Bipartisan Senate Legislation Could Boost U.S. Public Health Preparedness
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shed light on the U.S. healthcare system’s wide range of issues, from accessibility to barriers and social determinants of health. The country must respond with strategies to address future public health emergencies, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee said in an April 2021 letter.
Telehealth Is a Rare Bipartisan Advocacy Priority
Nursing has long been associated with healing hands. Laying hands on patients’ bodies is personal and intimate, providing comfort, soothing reassurance, strength, and hope. It builds a sacred trust that engenders care. When that foundational element of nursing was removed to follow social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, nurses found a new avenue to connect with their patients—through the use of telehealth.
Nurses, Researchers Create Innovative Solutions to Ambulatory Care Challenges in ONS Hackathon
Efficiently running an ambulatory infusion clinic is a complex process that requires evolving strategies to equip staff to provide high-quality cancer care. During the June 2021 ONS HackathonTM, oncology nurse innovators created solutions to address ineffective nursing resources in infusion centers across the United States.
AHRQ Envisions Plan to Address Historical Racism and Inequality in Health Care
Historical and structural racism is a huge barrier to quality health care that has created two tiers of access to care and a lack of understanding of the healthcare system. Government health agencies and leaders, such as the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), are tackling racial disparities in health care directly to change the dynamic to equality for all Americans. AHRQ says it is assessing its own agency and examining how professionals can make the health services research field more diverse and inclusive by building on a foundation that includes producing and promoting the annual National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and AHRQ’s social determinants of health database. By recognizing disparities related to race and ethnicity, income, and other social determinants, the organization plans to further address historical racism in health care.
ACA Provides Healthcare Coverage to 31 Million Americans
Approximately 31 million Americans now have healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a June 2021 issue brief from the office of the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation (ASPE). Of those, 11.3 million consumers were enrolled in Marketplace plans, 14.8 million people were newly enrolled in Medicaid, 1 million individuals were enrolled in ACA’s Basic Health Program option, and nearly 4 million previously eligible adults gained coverage under the Medicaid expansion due to enhanced outreach and increased federal funding. Additionally, insurance rates have fallen across the country since the law’s implementation 11 years ago.
New HHS Secretary Becerra Says Increased Access and Reduced Disparities Are Agency Priorities
On March 22, 2021, Xavier Becerra, BA, JD, became the first Latino appointed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and announced the agency’s focus on ensuring affordable and accessible health care for every American.
Patient Advocate Groups Challenge Medicaid Engagement Requirements
The American Cancer Society, along with 14 other healthcare groups advocating for increased access to care, filed an amicus curiae—Latin for “friend of the court”—urging the U.S. Supreme Court to deny state imposition of engagement requirements, like monthly community service, for Medicaid beneficiaries. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to spend spring deliberating and convey a judgment before the end of summer.
ACA Medicaid Expansion Improves Health and Increases Access to Care for Young Adults
The rate of uninsured young adults (aged 19–25) fell by more than one third between 2009 and the first quarter of 2014 following the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Medicaid expansion, according to a February 2021 report from the Urban Institute. With the expansion, young adults also reported improved overall health, increased access to care, and fewer high out-of-pocket costs.
What Oncology Nurses Need to Know About Telehealth
Thrust into the mainstream in 2020, telehealth has transformed how patients with cancer receive some of their care, substituting certain traditional in-person office or clinic visits for phones, videos, and apps and devices that monitor patients’ health. It’s improved access to care in areas previously considered at risk for disparities: for example, patients in remote locations can be managed in an acute-care setting using television monitors, cameras, and call buttons to contact specialists.
Biden Establishes Gender Council to Advance Equity and Equality for Women
Although society has tried to take steps to confront gender disparities, women remain underrepresented across various sectors. Title IX in 1972 granted every American student the right to education without gender discrimination. However, female students still bear the brunt of sex-segregated programs and gender-based violence, two major obstacles to educational equality. Women consistently earn less than their male counterparts. The wage gap is larger for most women of color, and gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace perpetuate economic divides. More women work today than ever before, but they face barriers to leadership roles, such as stereotypes about their performance abilities, uneven demands of motherhood compared to male partners, and the reality that many workplaces prefer and reward masculine leadership styles. Health needs are substantially greater for older women compared to older men, but women reported fewer visits with a physician and lesser likelihood to stay in a hospital.
All Patients, Regardless of Insurance, Must Have Access to Cancer Screening
To increase access to breast and cervical cancer screening, U.S. Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, which led to the creation of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). Because of NBCCEDP, eligible women who are low-income, underserved, and underinsured receive free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic testing.
U.S. Rep. Underwood, RN, Introduces Climate and Health Protection Act
Climate change was a core issue throughout the Biden-Harris campaign trail, and many advocacy groups are clamoring for the new administration to keep its promises. Recognizing the link between environmental concerns and health care, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) introduced a bill that addresses both topics.
ONS Supports Palliative Care, Access to Care in Latest Health Policy Agenda
For its advocacy approach to the 117th U.S. Congress that convened in January, ONS increased its emphasis on palliative care and patient access, developing its 2021 health policy agenda to reflect the evolving healthcare legislation landscape.
CMS Changes to Medicare Prescription Coverage Could Affect Patient Care
From Teddy Roosevelt to JFK, presidents throughout history have sent legislation to Capitol Hill with the intent to expand healthcare coverage to more Americans. Finally, when Lyndon B. Johnson drafted a bill and pushed it through Congress by expanding sections of the Social Security Act, Medicare become an entitlement and is now implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). During the past 50 years, federal health coverage has grown to include Medicaid, maternal and childcare assistance, public health programs, and prescription medication pricing.
How COVID-19 May Increase Access to and Reduce Disparities in Cancer Clinical Trials
To improve clinical trial availability, effectiveness, and diversity in the era of the COVID-19 coronavirus, National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded clinical trials should adjust their design to increase use of telemedicine and remote informed consent, among other strategies, several NCI department leaders wrote in a commentary in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Nursing Innovation Links Rural Facilities to Resources and Experts to Provide High-Quality Care Across the Country
When a patient comes to the doctor’s office with a generalized symptom such as an ongoing cough or chest heaviness, they are bound to have anxiety. In Wayne’s case, a patient with a lung mass that was identified unexpectedly, his anxiety was further compounded by feeling alone: his wife has dementia and his grown children live out of state. He also lives in a rural area and must drive a significant distance to get to a center for testing and diagnosis.
Research Shows That Telehealth Has the Power to Meet the Needs of Vulnerable Communities
Telehealth resources have been present in the United States for several decades. Traditionally, clinicians used telehealth to help rural populations with limited access to care. However, telehealth innovations expand beyond home care coordination. We can use technology to reach even the most remote and vulnerable patients.
Technology in Cancer Care
Technology is synonymous with modern-day health care, and the experiences of 2020 have shown that telehealth allows clinicians to provide care along every inch of the cancer continuum. Although we’ve seen it used most recently to provide continuity of care from the safety of patients’ homes, one of telehealth's bigger purposes is overcoming geographic and practical disparities to enable more patients to access quality cancer care.
FCC and USDA Partner for Rural Telehealth Initiative
Rural Americans are more likely to have a fatal cancer diagnosis and face additional concerns like fewer hospitals and physicians in a “one-size-fits-all” healthcare system. To address the disparities, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form the Rural Telehealth Initiative.
Mylan Patient Specialists Help Support Patients Through Biosimilar Cancer Treatments
Mylan understands that you care about your patients and that this may be a difficult time for them. Now more than ever, additional treatment options, such as biosimilars offerings may play an important role in providing patients access to medications they need.
Nurses Present Patient-Centered Research on Survivorship and Health Disparities
Distress, uncertainty, and barriers to care are common experiences for patients with cancer and survivors. Yingzi Zhang, PhD, RN, of the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester in New York, and Jin Young Seo, PhD, WHNP-BC, RN, of Hunter College in New York, NY, reported on their research on quality of life and access to care in vulnerable patient populations.
Innovative Clinics Help Patients Safely Access Cancer Care During COVID-19
No longer just a convenience, drive-throughs are an essential part of social distancing during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Retailers and healthcare providers alike have taken it beyond the typical food, prescriptions, and banking, offering everything from merchandise to virus testing—and now, thanks to the innovation of two oncology nurses, cancer care.
Nurses Address Barriers to Care Through CoC’s Revised Standards
Many factors can affect the way patients access their care. But one thing is certain: if patients don’t get the care they need, their chances for success decline. To address barriers to cancer care, the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer (CoC) outlined specific, measurable actions that institutions must take.
Patients Struggle to Access BMT During COVID-19
Cancer does not stop progressing because of a pandemic. Although the COVID-19 coronavirus does not recognize that someone with leukemia has been fighting for months, even years, for remission to receive a lifesaving blood and marrow transplantation (BMT), a new program is ensuring that marrow products are available when patients need them.
Advanced Cancer Screening Coverage; ACA Remains Strong; Medicare for All Cost
Precision medicine has a been a hot topic in health care for years now, but costs and coverage issues have created challenges to get patients the genetic testing they need at an affordable cost. In a memo from October 29, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed extending Medicare coverage to pay for genetic sequencing tests for certain hereditary types of ovarian and breast cancer.
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.
FDA Calls Out Juul; Opioid Crackdown; States Tackle Drug Pricing
With more deaths reported from vaping and a forceful U.S. Senate declaration to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting commissioner to either enact stronger federal provisions restricting e-cigarettes, flavored tobacco, and inhalants or resign, the Trump administration moved quickly to demonstrate a recognition that cessation is a national, bipartisan concern. FDA sent a warning letter to Juul about its marketing and labeling, and the president, Health and Human Services secretary, and FDA commissioner issued very public statements on the matter, making it clear that federal oversight will be enforced on youth tobacco issues.
Access to Care and Nondiscrimination Are Two Key Ways to Address Cancer Disparities, According to ONS and ANA Position Statements
Cancer knows no race, color, nationality, or ethnicity. But although any person may one day develop cancer, incidence and mortality rates for some cancers are disproportionately higher in certain racial, ethnic, geographic, or socioeconomic groups. Here are just a few of the many identified cancer disparities, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Durbin Calls Out FDA; Medicare for All Support; Cancer Mortality Drops
In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) shared harsh criticism for the agency’s lack of attention to the youth smoking epidemic. His letter from May 29, 2019, detailed efforts that the agency could be taking to curb the rise in youth tobacco use. The smoking cessation community, of which ONS is a palpable member, has sided with Durbin on the importance of continued FDA oversight on e-cigarettes and the vaping industry’s kid-friendly, fun-flavored tobacco products. Groups like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids have been forceful in comments to the agency about the need for stricter regulations on products.
CMS’s Final Medicare Part D Ruling Preserves Patient Access to Certain Cancer Drugs
Medicare Part D will continue to give patients access to certain cancer drugs, according Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) final ruling issued May 16, 2019. The final rule does not allow for utilization controls like step therapy and prior authorizations for patients who are already in an established treatment regimen; does not restrict drugs that have had certain price increases over a specified time period; and does not restrict new formulations of an existing protected class drug.
Oncology Urgent Care Clinics Are an Emerging Setting for Cancer Care Delivery
Patients with cancer are living longer, embarking on complex treatment regimens, and experiencing more complications associated with care. As a result, a large volume of patients with cancer require urgent or emergency visits throughout their disease trajectory. Although the need remains constant, what has evolved over time are the chief complaints that bring patients in, the care associated with complications, and new options to lower the burden and cost of care.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
Dems on Health Care; Obamacare Enrollment; Pricey Precision Medicine
To Rally Voters, Democrats Focus on Health Care as Their Closing Argument
Although many states are already collecting early votes, Tuesday, November 6, 2018, will tell the full tale of the midterm elections. Many Democrats are emphasizing their focus on health care in the final days and hours before the election. By most measurable public opinion poll, health care remains the most important domestic issue for voters.
Lower Drug Prices; Democrat Dealmakers; Republicans Support Medicare Expansion
Fighting the cost of soaring prescription medications is a winning issue with tremendous bipartisan support. And reigning in exorbitant drug prices means patients will be the real winners. Recently, President Trump lauded his administration’s work to fight against high prescription drug costs, citing new efforts to reduce other countries from taking advantage of drug pricing.
Drug Pricing in Ads; Cancer Fertility Preservation; American Healthcare Panic
Addressing the high cost of prescription medications has been an ongoing focus for the Trump administration. Its latest move, requiring drug companies to list their product’s market price on consumer ads, is an added level of transparency that didn’t exist before. Whether the decree will have an impact remains to be seen, but it may add some trust to the process.