HHS Launches Network of Leaders and Organizations to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccinations
As of July 2021, more than 159 million individuals in the United States have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus, totaling about 48.1% of the U.S. population. However, approximately 173 million others have not, or suggested they will not, receive the vaccination. President Biden’s goal of having 70% of Americans receive at least one vaccine dose and 160 million adults to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, 2021, fell short.
National Cancer Act Turns 50
Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon delivered his third State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress, boldly outlining audacious goals with major federal funding attached. Seeking $100 million for what he deemed “the war on cancer,” Nixon pledged his commitment to invest federal resources in the fight against cancer.
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.”
Challenging Times Require Bold Policy Actions
On April 28, 2021, in his first congressional address to the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden proposed another major piece of legislation to put the country back on a path to enhance public health and promote economic growth. It was the latest in a series of bills from the new administration that have implications for oncology nurses and patients with cancer.
Research Between Structural Racism and Health Disparities Calls for Changes in Healthcare Delivery
Structural racism is repeatedly linked to health disparities, but a new agency report outlines plans to address discrimination and improve patient outcomes. In a special 2021 supplement to the journal Ethnicity and Disease, “Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities,” the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities published a series of reports exploring the relationships between policies, practices, and health. It also included recommended solutions, including outcomes from interventions in a school district and a local health department and future research directions (e.g., examining ways racism embedded in online systems can contribute to health disparities).
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.
The Future of Nursing Charts a Path to Achieve Health Equity
Society in 2021 has been challenged by an economic crisis and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Today, nurses must have an arsenal of tools and knowledge—and the ability to adapt in unpredictable circumstances—to assist patients seeking health care.
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.
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.
Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program Receives $200 Million Funding Increase
With the aging population of clinicians and patients, nursing is in desperate need of a stronger workforce. To advance nurses at all levels of practice, on February 9, 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced its plan to increase funding for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program by $200 million through its section of the American Rescue Plan.
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.
Nurse Appointed as Acting U.S. Surgeon General
Three nurses serve in the U.S. Congress, and the profession briefly added one more federal representation at the agency level as well. President Joe Biden appointed Rear Admiral Susan Orsega, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, a nurse practitioner, as acting surgeon general while Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBH, who served as former president Barack Obama’s surgeon general, was waiting for Senate confirmation. The position is often referred to as the “nation’s doctor,” although Orsega was the third nurse to hold the title before Murthy assumed his current post.
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.
How Public Health Can Stop the Pandemic (Hint: It’s COVID-19 Vaccination)
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The mortality rate is devasting, the economic impact is jarring, and no one can pinpoint any date for its end. But new vaccines offer a glimmer of hope—but only if the country can settle discussions about achieving adequate vaccination coverage and strategies to distribute and inoculate hundreds of millions of people.
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.
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.
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.
Coalitions Cement Nursing’s—and ONS’s—Position in Health Policy
Through two letters—one to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and another to U.S. Senate and House leaders—the Nursing Community Coalition, on whose steering committee ONS sits, congratulated policymakers while outlining the need for continued support of nurses in health care.
Senate Bill Addresses PPE Shortage
As the country sees dramatic spikes in COVID-19 coronavirus cases in fall 2020, political leaders are seeking to find solutions to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers on the front lines. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 to increase the production of PPE and spur oversight into the supply and distribution of these necessary medical supplies.
AMA, AHA, ANA Send Trump Administration Letter Encouraging Transition
The Biden transition team needs full cooperation and all critical information regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus, he American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA) and American Nurses Association (ANA) said in a November 2020 letter to the Trump administration.
Annual Survey Shows Youth Vaping Is Still a National Epidemic
In 2020, the number of middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes decreased by 1.8 million compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported in the results of the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey. However, the results also showed that youth tobacco use is still an epidemic in the United States.
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.
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.
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.
House Tells FDA to Ban E-Cigarettes During COVID-19
On April 1, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clear the market of e-cigarettes because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It was responding to FDA’s request to give e-cigarette manufacturers four additional months to submit applications to stay on the market before enforcing a ban.
Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Flavored Tobacco Are Reversing 20 Years of Decreasing Smoking Rates
The public push for a transformation in tobacco policy began with a persistent legislator seeking real change. Opening his historic congressional hearing in 1994, U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, “The truth is that cigarettes are the single most dangerous consumer product ever sold. Nearly a half million Americans die every year as a result of tobacco. This is an astounding, almost incomprehensible statistic. Imagine our nation’s outrage if two fully loaded jumbo jets crashed each day, killing all aboard. Yet that is the same number of Americans that cigarettes kill every 24 hours. Sadly, this deadly habit begins with our kids. Each day 3,000 children will begin smoking. In many cases they become hooked quickly and develop a life-long addiction that is nearly impossible to break.”
Healthcare Leaders Release Open Letter on Coronavirus; Nurses Share Realities of COVID; Hospitals Use Telemedicine Amid Pandemic
A day after President Donald Trump was considering lifting some of the quarantine mandates, healthcare leaders from the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association (ANA) released an open letter urging Americans to stay home.
FDA Requires New Health Warnings for Cigarette Packages, Advertisements
Change at the federal level takes time and perseverance. Thanks to great effort from the smoking cessation community—including ONS—the federal government is updating package and advertising warning for tobacco products for the first time since 1984. Advocates have been calling on agencies to exercise authority over tobacco products along with their marketing and distribution, and on March 17, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule requiring new health warning labels for cigarette packages and advertisements.
HHS Changes Regulatory Action During COVID-19 Pandemic
The alarmingly quick spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has put a strain on the U.S. healthcare system, including the availability of personal protective equipment and other safety resources. The speed at which the virus spreads requires an even swifter response from federal agencies, government officials, and public health experts to combat the disease. To cut the red tape and accelerate data collection, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used statutory authority under the Paperwork Reduction Act to survey Health Resources and Services Administration healthcare institutions to understand the current COVID-19 response, challenges institutions are facing, and ways to help.
Prescription Drug Proposal; COVID-19 Safety Legislation; Drug Costs Outpace Inflation
Drug pricing is a top legislative issue for Congress, and amid rising COVID-19 concerns, health policy topics are more pressing than ever. On March 5, Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced the Lowering Prescription Drug Prices for America’s Seniors and Families Act of 2020, which would allow Medicare to negotiate prices after a drug’s patent expires as well as cap out-of-pocket prescription spending for seniors at $3,100 per year.
NIDA Calls for Further Cannabis Research in Congress Testimony
Medical cannabis has been approved for use in more than 33 states, many of which have decriminalized its use as well, and a health policy wave has spread across the country through state referendums to ease the burden for legalizing cannabis for health purposes. It’s a different world than it was 30 years ago, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is frequently called to testify before Congress to address concerns and questions from lawmakers.
Genomic Data Changes Care for Cancer Survivors
Further understanding of the human genome and the proliferation of genetic data has spurred significant advancement in the understanding of the way cancer impacts individuals. To share the crucial work in genetics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), led by the National Institute for Cancer (NCI), has compiled survivor stories from patients who have benefited from cutting-edge genomic technology. Their stories illustrate and contribute to the ongoing successes brought on by NIH’s genomic efforts.
PCORI Reauthorization Funds Program Through 2029
Patient-centered research is vital in the effort to move the needle in cancer care, and nurse researchers rely on funding from organizations like the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to support new and ongoing studies. In December 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Further Consolidation Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 1865), extending funding for PCORI through fiscal year 2029.
Community Support Makes a Difference in HIV/AIDS Treatment
Since 1981, more than 700,000 Americans have died from HIV/AIDS. Nearly 32 million people have died worldwide, and experts suggest that almost 38 million are currently infected with the virus. In the decades since the disease was first discovered, HIV/AIDS treatments have advanced, providing patients with a chance to manage a once-deadly diagnosis. With an active and outspoken community of advocates, patients with HIV/AIDS have seen a swell of support.
Healthcare Coverage Linked to Racial and Ethnic Cancer Disparities
Uninsured women or women on Medicaid are at a greater risk to develop advanced stage III breast cancer compared to women with health insurance, according to the results of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study reported in JAMA Oncology. Naomi Ko, MD, and Gregory Calip, PhD, noted that up to 47% of racial and ethnic disparities in advanced stage breast cancer could be mitigated by health insurance coverage.
Supreme Court ACA Case; Cancer Moonshot; COVID-19 Outbreak
As part of its focus to dismantle the 2010 healthcare law, the GOP repealed the Affordable Care Act individual mandate in 2017. Republican state attorneys general then challenged the law’s constitutionality in a series of lower court cases, and the most recent has been lingering in federal courts for more than a year. On March 2, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue, marking the third time the law will be heard at the highest court in the country.
Title VIII Support; Trump's 2021 Federal Budget; Ineffective E-Cigarette Ban
When oncology nurses speak, people listen. An op-ed column published February 24, 2020, written by ONS member Janice Phillips, PhD, RN, FAAN, outlined the potential harm to the future of health care and the nursing profession if the Trump administration’s budget cuts are approved. As an oncology nurse, Phillips’ insights have made a difference in Washington before, and she explained that the budget cuts could target key funding for items like nursing development and workforce programs.
FDA Revamps Anti-Smoking, Vaping Initiative
The growing rates of teen vaping and e-cigarette use have been a focal point at the national legislative level for the past several years. From the U.S. surgeon general’s youth vaping epidemic announcement to the investigation of vaping industry leader Juul, congressional representatives have been busy addressing the issue.
AACN Initiative Gives Nurses a Voice Through Voting
During the Year of the Nurse, many organizations are finding ways to promote and champion the expertise and experiences that make up the most trusted profession in the United States. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is focusing on ways nurses will affect the upcoming presidential election, ensuring nursing professionals are registered, educated, and ready to vote in 2020.
World Gets Closer to Identifying Cancer’s Genomic Drivers
Although most cancers contain four to five driver mutations, those drivers remain unknown for about 5% of cancers, according to results of a series of studies examining genomes from 38 different cancer types. The international Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Consortium reported the findings in a collection of 23 articles published in Nature and other affiliated journals.
Nurses Lead Charge for HPV Prevention
Only 65% of all U.S. teens have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine—and only 48.6% of those teens are up to date with the series of HPV vaccinations. Studies have shown the HPV vaccination is effective at reducing the rates of cervix, vaginal, anal, and penile cancers. HPV vaccination rates have become a national health prevention priority, and oncology nurses can help lead the discussion about ways to prevent more than 90% of all HPV-related cancers.
Vaping Ban; Bipartisan Drug Plan; Tobacco Regulation Agency
Despite restrictive legislation raising the age of purchase for tobacco products to 21, vaping remains a top legislative concern, and some believe that vaping restrictions are already out of date. For nearly two decades, youth smoking rates were on the decline. After e-cigarette companies like Juul brought their products to market, those rates have seen a sharp uptick and led the U.S. surgeon general to declare a youth smoking epidemic. Although some progress has been made, the issue remains a top priority for organizations like ONS and its members.
Today, More Than Ever, Nurses Are Imperative to the World of Healthcare Advocacy
By all accounts, the 2020 political environment is one of the most contentious in American history. The two parties that dominate the political system, liberal and conservative, are even more entrenched in their separate ideals and doubling down during the presidential election cycle. The federal budget, immigration, and health care are the top issues discussed around the watercooler, kitchen table, and coffee shops—and of course the president’s impeachment is looming large.
Health Care at Iowa Caucus; FDA Biologic Market; Flavored E-Cigarette Pod Ban
The Iowa Democratic Caucus did not go as smoothly as the political prognosticators expected. Most news outlets are only reporting the level of dysfunction with a voting app that delayed the final numbers significantly, but beneath that is one truth that still rings true: Americans want solutions to their healthcare problems. Health care remained the number one policy issue for 41% of caucus attendees, an astoundingly high rate that beat every other issue handedly.
Medicaid Block Grants; Technology Addresses Nursing Shortage; Surprise Billing Deal
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been trying to find new avenues to implement a conservative approach to Medicaid spending at the state level. At the end of January 2020, the agency introduced a program that enables states to convert funding into block grants and determine how best to allocate health funding in their own jurisdictions.
Trump's Pre-Existing Condition Record; Geography Affects Insurance Status; State Vaping Regulations
The pre-existing condition coverageAffordable Care Act is a bipartisan plank that connects every policy conversation about health care. Public opinion overwhelmingly supports maintaining clauses to protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions—like cancer—through treatment and survivorship, particularly as people change jobs and insurance companies.
Legislation Raises Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21
Smoking cessation efforts had been gaining ground for decades. Tobacco use and smoking rates were dropping, year after year, as prevention and awareness campaigns worked to codify the dangers of tobacco. People weren’t just quitting smoking; people were avoiding the habit altogether—until the advent of vaping. Reversing a decade-long decline in smoking rates, e-cigarettes and vaping products have engendered an entirely new generation of would-be smokers to pick up the habit. Targeting underage users, the vaping industry experienced a boom. The issue grew with such ferocity that the U.S. Surgeon General declared a youth vaping epidemic in 2019.