HHS Secretary Releases Proposal to Lower Prescription Drug Costs
On September 9, 2021, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra released the Drug Pricing Plan to combat excessive pricing or prescription drugs and reduce the prices paid by the federal government for such drugs, and to address price gouging in the industry. The plan is a part of an initiative from President Biden’s executive order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy to advance the federal government’s ability to address overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition in the economy.
Legislators Call for Improvement in Palliative Care and Hospice Workforce
Legislators across the United States are recognizing what ONS has advocated for more than a decade: the need for improved access to and better understanding of palliative and hospice care. In September 2021, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) voiced their support for palliative care through a letter to the U.S. Congress.
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.
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.
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).
HHS HIV Challenge Encourages Community Engagement to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Disparities
The negative stigma surrounding HIV can affect patients’ emotional well-being and mental health, and the stigma can come from anywhere: healthcare professionals, communities, and even themselves. In partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health and Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health created the HIV Challenge, a community engagement program to reduce HIV-related stigma and disparities by “providing an opportunity for individuals and organizations to participate in developing novel innovative approaches that can be successfully implemented within their local communities.”
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.
HHS Releases New Practice Guidelines to Expand Treatment Accessibility to Americans With Opioid Use Disorder
Access to treatment for opioid use disorder is a priority in the Biden-Harris administration’s healthcare program, with resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dedicated to raise awareness of the issue. In April 2021, HHS released new practice guidelines to expand evidence-based treatment to more Americans with opioid use disorder.
U.S. Senators Introduce Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act
In April 2021, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, legislation that would waive the five-month waiting period for social security disability insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for eligible Medicare benefits.
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.
Biden-Harris Administration’s Drug Policy Priorities Support Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery
Prescription overdoses and addiction rates have dramatically increased since 2012, with more than 70,000 deaths attributed to the abuse of fentanyl, opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine in 2019, a 35% increase since 2015. Addressing drug misuse is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration, as well as researching systematic inequities in the country’s approach to criminal justice and prevention, treatment, and recovery.
HHS Solidifies Protections for LGBTQ Patients
In a May 2021 expansion to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and the Title IX civil law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office for Civil Rights, increased protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) people from discrimination. The revisions now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Vivek Murthy Confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General, Again
Known as the nation’s doctor, the U.S. surgeon general provides scientific information and oversees the U.S. Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps: more than 6,000 professionals who promote health across the United States. Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, who served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, once again assumed his post as the nation’s doctor in March 2021 and said he will prioritize addressing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and opioid epidemic during his second tenure. Murthy was appointed during his transition as the chair of the COVID-19 advisory board.
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.
HRSA Awards $99 Million to End the HIV Epidemic in the United States
In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative awarded $99 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. The funding will support efforts to link people who are either newly diagnosed with HIV or diagnosed but currently not in care to essential treatment and support services, helping them reach viral suppression and reduce HIV transmission.
CDC Builds a Powerful Plan to Confront Racism and Health
In the early 2000s, healthcare professionals began creating theoretical frameworks to better understand racial gaps in care. Two decades later, racial disparities remain across all aspects of cancer care, from clinical trials and screening to mortality rates and survivorship. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), declared racism a serious public health threat. To put those words to action, the agency also unveiled Racism and Health, an online hub for CDC’s efforts and a catalyst for education and dialogue around the critical issue.
Nurses Have an Ethical Responsibility to Speak Up and Advocate for Patients
“Ethical issues and dilemmas are inherent in the care we provide to our patients and their families across the life span,” Joyce Neumann, PhD, APRN, AOCN®, BMTCN®, FAAN, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said during a session on April 22, 2021, for the 46th Annual ONS Congress™. “We have a responsibility to speak up and speak out individually, through our professional organizations like ONS and the American Nurses Association (ANA), and internationally, when possible, to advocate to resolve ethical issues.”
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.
Empower Recent Graduate Nurses to Be Patient Advocates
Most nurses can attest to the immense personal and professional growth that takes place during the first year of their nursing practice. When I graduated in May 2019, I began working on a blood and marrow transplant (BMT) unit. The BMT process is long and intensive, but it provides opportunities to develop strong connections with our patients. We often care for the same patient for multiple weeks or months and then again a year or two later if they experience longer-term complications. As a newly minted nurse, I had a lot to learn about my specialty and about nursing in general, but my fresh perspective made learning exciting.
HHS Releases National Strategic Plan to End HIV Epidemic
The two most recent administrations prioritized ending the HIV epidemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 700,000 Americans since the virus was first identified in the 1980s. To follow those initial efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a strategic roadmap to end the HIV epidemic and reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.
U.S. Rep. Underwood, RN, Highlights Health Priorities in Open Letter to Biden
After a contentious election season, U.S. Representative Lauren A. Underwood, RN, (D-IL) returned to Capitol Hill as a new subcommittee chair and the same drive to push forward on healthcare issues, most recently with an open letter to President Joe Biden.
Biden Addresses Health Care and Racial Disparities in Series of Executive Orders
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has made good on his campaign promises to change federal tone and action in response to Americans’ concerns about health care and racial equity. On January 28, 2021, Biden signed an executive order (EO) extending the timeline for more Americans to apply for and receive access to the Affordable Care Act, reiterating his commitment to the law known as Obamacare. Biden also signed an EO supporting women’s health by reinstating Title X protections.
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.
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.
U.S. Senate Designates November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and supporting early detection of lung cancer, a crucial awareness with smoking on the rise among young adults.
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.
HHS Responds to Drop in Pediatric Vaccines Because of Stay-at-Home Orders
As families follow public health recommendations to stay at home, many have missed routine vaccinations. In response to lower vaccination rates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to encourage vaccinations and safeguard children at risk for life-threatening diseases.
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.
Address Social Determinants by Meeting Patients Where They’re At
A hallmark principle of social work is meeting clients where they’re at. This means taking time to understand where they come from, what might be influencing how they are navigating the healthcare system, and how their cancer diagnosis personally affects them.
Bedside Nurses Bring Value to Ethical Consults
Oncology nursing is a complex world that continues to evolve rapidly. However, one challenge that remains consistent is the ethical dilemmas nurses face when caring for patients with cancer. Complex care needs and lengthy hospital stays are common in our patient population and allow opportunity for nurses to develop relationships with patients and their families. Over the course of treatment, various ethical issues may arise, which nurses are at the forefront of identifying and acting on.
FDA Study Reveals Higher COVID-19 Death Rate for Patients With Cancer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Oncology Center of Excellence confirmed that those with immunocompromised systems, including cancer, are at greater risk for serious outcomes or death after contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Acknowledge and End Unequal Representation in Cancer Research and Improve Access to Care
Research influences care along every inch of the cancer continuum, from prevention to survivorship, enabling healthcare professionals and patients to share decisions that result in the most current and tailored care strategies. It’s a powerful tool that sets the groundwork for providing optimal health outcomes. However, we must work to eliminate unequal representation.
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.
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 Have a Role and Responsibility in Ending Racism
“There’s no way you can extricate what’s been going on and the outcomes of the (COVID-19 coronavirus) from the basic racism and social injustice and inequities that have existed in this country for so many years,” American Academy of Nursing Living Legend Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN, said in a June 17, 2020, podcast. “The chronicity of racism is the issue.”
Nurses Can Provide Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Patients With Cancer
The 2019–2022 ONS Research Agenda mentions LGBTQ patients with cancer among ONS’s research priorities for the very first time. A panel discussion at the 44th Annual ONS Congress focused on this underrepresented patient population, so we are making progress. In the past few years, our field has given a little more attention to LGBTQ patients with cancer, although I suspect that many of the issues are still pervasive.
HIV-Positive Patients With Cancer Need to Be Included in Clinical Drug Trials
Viral infections such as HIV may increase a person’s risk for developing several malignancies. However, most investigational drug studies exclude HIV-positive patients with cancer and optimal treatment regimens remain unknown.
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.
ONS Joins Health Community in Condemning Racism
The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, spurred a national wave of protest. United in the wake of a global pandemic, people are doing what they feel is necessary to bring social justice and equality changes to the forefront of the American experience. Across the country, people are demanding immediate changes to a biased system. In a formal statement, ONS condemned racism and called for “all of us to commit to an end to hatred, discrimination, and racism in every form.”
Unique Roles in Oncology Nursing: Oncology Nurse Navigation
As early detection, treatment modalities, and symptom management advance in oncology care, we are seeing an increase in the number of adult and childhood cancer survivors. Added to the unique challenges of comorbid conditions in an aging population, oncology nurses have a lot to juggle in the spectrum of patient care. The relatively new role of the oncology nurse navigator was developed to enhance care coordination in patients with cancer.
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.
International Position Statement Calls for Advocacy for COVID-19 in Oncology Nurses and Patients With Cancer
Oncology nurses must advocate for prevention and control of the COVID-19 coronavirus to minimize the risk to themselves and the patients with cancer in their care, the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) announced in its April 2, 2020, COVID-19 Position Statement. ONS is a full member of ISNCC.
Prevent, Recognize, and Manage Sepsis in Patients With Cancer
Because of weakened immune systems and prolonged treatment courses, patients with cancer have a higher chance of developing sepsis. Once acquired, sepsis puts patients at risk for hospitalization and increased morbidity and mortality. Prevention and prompt management are essential to improve outcomes.
Geographic Disparities in Cancer Care
As part of a larger understanding of the social determinants of health, geography—whether it’s rural or metropolitan, urban or suburban—plays a huge part in how patients understand, receive, and access care. Regardless of zip code, community, or travel distance, patients have a right to receive the best possible care for their cancer diagnosis. As staunch patient advocates, oncology nurses are primed to help patients navigate geographic disparities and overcome challenges they face in treatment.
Nurses Are Critical to Reducing Global Geographic Cancer Disparities
Cancer is a global health problem. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer incidence is expected to continue to grow to nearly 27 million new cases around the world by 2040. In 134 of 183 countries, cancer is the first or second leading cause of premature death for people aged 30–69 years, and it ranks third or fourth in an additional 45 countries. Although cancer is a major health issue across the world, outcomes differ depending on a patient’s country of origin.