Senate HELP Committee Reviews Federal Agencies’ COVID-19 Response
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “committed to continuing to advance the science around COVID-19, moving more vaccines into more communities—especially those communities most at risk for COVID-19 infection—and working to improve health equity,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said during a March 2021 U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing. She joined Anthony Fauci, MD, David Kessler, MD, and Peter Marks, MD, PhD, in sharing witness testimonies about their agencies’ response to the pandemic and how to better prepare for future threats.
Biden-Harris Administration Issues Actions to Prevent Surprise Billing
In July 2021, the Biden-Harris administration, through the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Treasury and the Office of Personnel Management, issued the Requirements Related to Surprise Billing. The rule applies to billing for patients in job-based and individual health plans who obtain emergency care, nonemergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers.
CMS Extends Enrollment Period Access for Marketplace Coverage
Those without healthcare coverage can now purchase annual policies through state exchanges until August 15, 2021, under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS’s) extended Special Enrollment Period (SEP), ensuring continued access to affordable coverage for Americans during a time of healthcare uncertainty.
As Usage Increases, U.S. Senators Reintroduce Telehealth Access Bill
In a bipartisan effort that recognizes patients' concerns about telehealth’s accessibility, the U.S. Senate promoted legislation to reduce barriers to care. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), along with 50 colleagues, introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. The bill would “expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.”
Conflict Engagement Helps Providers Focus on Care
Nurses have an innate drive to improve healthcare delivery. When I was a unit director, I focused on nursing unit turnarounds to improve quality of care. I used mediation as the model for resolving long-time conflicts and provided training to effectively engage and communicate. I started my mediation practice in 2003 to help physicians, nurses, and administrators resolve the complex issues that get in the way of patient care and create stressful work environments.
U.S. Rep. Underwood Pushes for Increased Access to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
In May 2021, U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, RN (D-IL), introduced the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Access Act that, if passed, would require private health insurance plans to cover three primary care visits and three behavioral health or substance abuse disorder visits per year without cost sharing. Underwood’s goal was to promote legislation that would make health care more accessible and affordable.
Oncology Nurses Are Making a Difference in Policy and Advocacy
A shining light to guide a burgeoning field—often referred to as “the lady with the lamp”—Florence Nightingale was a revolutionary figure in nursing, transforming care by simple but radical actions. Through scientific research she showed that sanitation and healthy diets improved patient outcomes, and through advocacy she fought for access to those conditions for all of her patients. She modeled the way for nurse advocates throughout history and into today.
Executive Orders Put a Stamp on Administration’s Policy Priorities
Although not expressly written as part of the U.S. Constitution, from the earliest days of the republic, strong presidents have issued proclamations, instructions, and statements that eventually evolved into executive orders carrying the weight of the federal government on new directives meant to change policy. George Washington issued his first presidential edicts to have his Cabinet report on departmental activities.
A Free Lunch Doesn’t Exist: How I Became an ONS Health Policy Advocate
For a long time, like so many other nurses, I thought of myself as the “regular kind” of advocate for my patients, speaking out for their needs on an individual basis at the institutional level while supporting them as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. But I’ve more recently discovered an even more empowering role: I’m now a health policy advocate.
Protecting Nurses and Patients and Advancing Practice Drive ONS Advocacy
The ONS Board of Directors had a full agenda for its longer quarterly meeting on February 18–19, 2021. Among other work, it evaluated the results of the annual member satisfaction survey, discussed the fiscal health of the organization based on year-end financials, and continued the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion in nursing and cancer care. Details on the Board’s decisions in key areas follow, and ONS members can review the full meeting minutes at ons.org/board-minutes.
U.S. Reps Introduce Bill to Support Frontline Workers and Families
More nurses are diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus than healthcare providers in any other discipline. Despite that sober statistic, very few congressional committees’ COVID-19 legislation proposals support essential workers like nurses. U.S. Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced a bill to address those concerns.
Did the Cancer Moonshot Initiative Make 10 Years of Cancer Research Progress in 5 Years?
When the Obama administration announced the National Cancer Moonshot in January 2016, its goal was to invest $1 billion in cancer research to make a decade’s worth of discoveries in just five years. The funding was distributed across the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs to propel the Moonshot forward.
First Lady Jill Biden Celebrates World Cancer Day
In honor of World Cancer Day on February 4, 2021, First Lady Jill Biden, EdD, took a virtual tour of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH's) National Cancer Institute (NCI) and met with NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and NCI Director Ned Sharpless, MD, to discuss advancements in cancer research, the steady decline in cancer mortality, and cancer-related legislation, among other topics.
Biden Transition Team Appoints Health Experts to Lead Various Agencies
President Joe Biden made several campaign promises to improve or safeguard health care for all Americans with a focus on scientific and medical evidence. Shortly after the transfer of power, the Biden administration appointed and nominated public health experts to lead the various federal agencies dedicated to safety and biomedical research.
Lawmakers Push for Permanent Telehealth Services
In a rare moment of bicameral success, 49 U.S. House of Representatives and Senate members introduced legislation to make permanent the Medicare telehealth coverage that had been introduced as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Biden's First 100 Days Provide Opportunities to Prioritize Health Care
“The first 100 days,” a phrase coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, is an opportunity for a new administration to outline its early accomplishments and set a tone of reassurance. Under that philosophy, the Biden-Harrison transition team issued a series of announcements and nominations beginning in November 2020 to set a tenor and provide insight on the first phase of the new presidency.
Biden Appoints Nurse to COVID-19 Advisory Board
Shortly after declaring victory in the 2020 president election, the Biden-Harris transition team created a bipartisan COVID-19 advisory board. Staffed by experts, the board was hailed as a science-driven committee eager to flatten the curve. However, it had one downfall: it lacked a nurse. In response to a viral petition for nurse representation, the transition team appointed Seattle, WA, nurse Jane Hopkins, RNMH, to the advisory board on November 28, 2020.
Health Care Reunites a Divided Nation
The November 2020 presidential election saw a historic turnout at the polls. Before election day, more than 99 million of the 240 million registered American voters had already cast their ballots, and some predicted that as many as 155 million voters would exercise their constitutional franchise to make their voices heard, a record 65% of the electorate. The distinct differences between the two major presidential candidates indicated that people were engaged and took to heart the grand idea of participatory democracy.
ONS Supports Bipartisan Resolution to Recognize November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Lung cancer knows no state boundary or political ideology. But it can bring the two sides together, like it did when U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), member of the Senate Health Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a resolution to recognize November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The resolution, which ONS supports, promotes the importance of and need to improve lung cancer early detection.
Kansas ONS Chapters Advocate for Health Policy With Federal and State Leaders
Over the summer, I coordinated a now all-too-familiar exercise: a Zoom call with multiple ONS Kansas-area chapter members, nurse experts, patient advocates, and elected officials. Spearheaded by the ONS National Office, we hosted an incredibly personal and informative conversation to discuss the COVID-19 coronavirus, how it affects patients with cancer, and the legislative and regulatory environment throughout our state. Our bipartisan, multitiered event brought together oncology nurses from across the state, and, although some political views were different, we united in our commitment to nurses and public health.
Nurse Legislator’s Healthcare Affordability Act Included in Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act
Legislation aimed at reducing health care insurance premiums, introduced by U.S. Representative Lauren A. Underwood (D-IL), is included as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.
Cures 2.0 Act Would Expand on the Successes of 21st Century Cures Legislation
Building on the success of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2016, U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) have begun work on the follow-up Cures 2.0 Act, intended to “safely and efficiently modernize the delivery of health care in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” the representatives said in a press release.
ONS Calls for Action to Support the Nurse’s Role in Reducing the Global Burden of Cancer
Nurses serve a critical and proven role in reducing the burden of cancer and improving the lives of patients with cancer. Yet, for millions of people across the globe, access to health care is not a given, and nurses don’t have the educational and occupational support to perform to their full abilities.
100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage Reminds Us of the Power of Our Vote
The revolutionary declaration written 244 years ago, proclaiming that “all men are created equal,” maintains that a true democracy must be based on an individual’s right to vote and the freedom to exercise that power at the ballot box. Since 1998, women voters have embodied that concept, achieving a majority vote with higher rates than men. Of registered women voters, 55% went to the polls in 2018, compared to only 51% of registered men. Yet today women account for only 23.2% of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 26% of the U.S. Senate.
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.
Be a Catalyst for Change Like Justice Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for being a fighter—for women’s rights and equality, social justice, and even her own health, battling five bouts of cancer diagnoses. On Friday, September 18, 2020, the 87-year-old passed away from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
The Public Trusts Nurses’ Voices During Health Emergencies
The cacophony that echoes through the 24-hour news cycle can be heavy on an average day but overwhelming during a global health pandemic. That is why relying on a trusted voice is essential when attempting to understand how to deal with the voluminous information that bombards us through radio, television, emails, social media, and any other channels that deem themselves news outlets these days.
NCI-Partnered Global Research Initiative Confronts Tough Barriers to Cancer Progress
Since its inception in 2015, Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) Cancer Grand Challenges initiative has led an international research effort to address the toughest barriers to progress in oncology, investing more than $130 million into seven international, multidisciplinary teams—total of 73 researcher groups in nine countries.
Pandemic Advocacy; PPE Shortage List; Nurse Uncovers Data Error
Nurses are experts in advocating for their patients’ care. Taking those skills to Washington, DC, and speaking out for changes in federal health policy can have just as much impact. Even in an era of social distancing and travel restrictions, oncology nurses can bring their message to the local, state, and federal leaders to bring about change.
Did COVID-19 Transform Traditional American Politics?
Mastering the rules and regulations of democracy has been a capital city—both federal and state—game of power for more than 200 years. Those written, and too often presumed, procedures govern the process and provide a roadmap for legislators to strategize on how best to advance their agendas and campaign promises.
House of Representatives; Nurse Scientists; Women in Congress
Cori Bush, a nurse and Black Lives Matter activist, beat U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO), a sitting 20-year incumbent, to win the Democratic nomination in St. Louis, MO. Bush will be the newest nurse to U.S. Congress, should she win her seat in November, which is highly likely. She’d join the ranks of U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) to bring a critical nursing perspective directly to the United States’ legislative branch.
President Trump Issues Executive Orders on Prescription Drug Pricing
In July 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump issued four executive orders to provide solutions to the ever-increasing price of prescription medications. One of the top domestic issues in healthcare is the price of prescription medication, particularly those deemed lifesaving, such as insulin for diabetics and drugs for patients with cancer.
Trump Uses Executive Orders to Lower Drug Pricing
As one of the only not-entirely-pandemic-related health policy topics currently in policymakers’ discussions, lawmakers are again revisiting the high cost of prescription drugs. Voters have voiced concerns in the current economic climate, and, eager to appease in the months before the November presidential election, the Trump administration responded.
Nurse-Turned-Policymaker; Prescription Drug Reform; Safer Working Conditions
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.
FDA Launches Pilot Program on Patient-Reported Outcomes
Facilitating the provision of patient-centered care is an ONS priority. But until recently, quality information from the patient’s perspective was limited. This kind of information is often unavailable, limited in its breadth, or solicited from patients too late in the healthcare process, making their experience less understandable than necessary. In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Oncology Center of Excellence created a pilot program, called Project Patient Voice, that will make patient-reported symptoms from cancer trials available to the public.
NIH Appoints New NINR Director
Beginning this fall, the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) will have a nurse in a permanent position to lead the agency. On July 1, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) named Shannon N. Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, as its new director. Zenk is currently a nursing collegiate professor in the Department of Population Health Nursing Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, and a fellow at the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy.
NINR Addresses Racism and Reinforces Mission on Positive Health Outcomes
More research funding is needed to learn about and address health disparities in African Americans in the United States, Tara Schwetz, PhD, National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) acting director, said in an open letter to the research community. In the bold announcement, NINR recognized the unequal treatment of minorities and the need for enhanced dedication to promote equality in nursing research.
All Politics Is Local, and That’s Why You Should Get Involved in ONS Advocacy
One of the ways ONS celebrated Oncology Nursing Month in May was with CEO Brenda Nevidjon, MSN, RN, FAAN, interviewing U.S. Representative Donna Shalala (D-FL) about advocacy and nursing. Miami ONS Chapter Board Member Lissette Gomez-Rios, MSN, OCN®, ONS Director-at-Large Anne Ireland, MSN, RN, AOCN®, CENP, and I also had the opportunity to ask Shalala some questions.
Nurses Obliged to End Racism; Tobacco Industry's Manipulative Marketing
Along with many other healthcare organizations, including ONS, last week the American Nurses Association (ANA) took a bold stand against racism, calling it a public health crisis. On June 12, 2020, ANA President Earnest Grant shared how racism is embedded in health care and what nurses should do to end it.
How the CARES Act and Other COVID-19 Laws Affect Nursing and Health Care
Like cancer, viruses know no political parties, no country boundaries, and no personal attributes. As the COVID-19 coronavirus spread in an infectious wave across the earth in record time, it decimated economies and devastated populations. To defend their countries against an invisible enemy, governments around the world stepped in with unprecedented command.
NCC Sends Letter to U.S. Congress Outlining COVID-19 Priorities
Fifty-seven organizations representing the Nursing Community Coalition (NCC), including ONS, sent a letter to the U.S. Congress acknowledging the federal government’s extraordinary attempts to bolster the economy and promote public health during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In the April 28, 2020, letter, NCC provided recommendations that could be used to further combat the coronavirus, adding that the 57 national nursing organizations are available as expert resources.
Proposed Bill Would Expand Health Workforce in Underserved Communities
The global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has forced elected officials and political leaders to reevaluate the provision of health care in the United States. To address inequal access to care and representation among health professionals, on April 24, 2020, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Democratic Whip and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Health Heroes 2020 Act, a bicameral piece of legislation.
NIH Partners With Johnson and Johnson to Combat COVID-19
Long hailed as the “crown jewel” of the U.S. government’s biomedical research division, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is partnering with Johnson and Johnson for a coordinated, team-based effort to find measures with meaningful impact on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Healthcare for All Is a Competing Idea in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election
When standing up for patients, championing treatments, or stopping an unfair process, nurses speak truth to power. Being on the front lines is part of every nurse’s routine, but many shy away from engaging in the policy world under similar circumstances that affect the profession, patients, and peers. It doesn’t have to be that way. Nurses can educate themselves on the candidates and policy issues and lend their voice to the political conversation.
Federal Agencies Collaborate; Nurse Proposes Healthcare Bill; NCI Shifts Research to COVID-19
It’s all hands on deck to combat a pandemic from an unknown virus, and researchers everywhere—even from seemingly unrelated disciplines like oncology—are jumping in to study tests, vaccines, and treatments. Effective May 5, 2020, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is partnering with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal agencies to research antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
A Perspective on COVID-19 for New and Student Nurses
COVID-19 coronavirus’s ripple effects extend so far beyond health and health care. Life in the United States doesn’t look the same as it did a few months ago. We’re all affected in some way, but senior nursing students have a distinct set of circumstances related to the pandemic.