Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir October 22, 2018

Hill Happenings 

Surgeon General STD Letter 

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter to Surgeon General Jerome Adams urging him to “play a role in addressing increasing rates of STDs.” 

Short-Term Health Plans 

A resolution to limit short-term health plans failed to obtain the 51 votes required. The resolution would have reversed new regulations that allow insurers to sell skimpy health plans outside the Affordable Care Act (ACA) markets for up to a year, rather than the previous limit of three months. 

Administration Activities  

Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy 

The Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) is inviting states to join the second year of the Hepatitis C Medicaid Affinity Group. Participating states will work collaboratively with colleagues across the country to learn about and share innovative strategies to improve outcomes for hepatitis C virus (HCV) among Medicaid enrollees. 

The Expression of Interest form is due on Friday, November 19, 2018 by 5:00 PM EST. More information and to access the Expression of Interest Form and fact sheet, please visit https://go.usa.gov/xPRX4. Additionally, OHAIDP will be hosting a webinar on October 23, 2018 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST. 

National Latinx* AIDS Awareness Day 

October 15 was National Latinx* AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided free tools in the NLAAD Resource Center to help in supporting your awareness activities and testing events.  

Public Charge 

The Department of Homeland Security released a proposed rule on “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” The rule would expand the federal definition of “public charge,” allowing the federal government to deny legal immigration status to immigrants who use a range of public benefits, such as Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and SNAP (non-cash health benefits programs had previously been exempt from consideration of public charge). NASTAD released this statement on the proposed ruleNASTAD, along with national HIV and hepatitis partners, will be submitting comments on the proposed rule, urging the Administration to weigh the public health consequences of punishing individuals for accessing HIV and hepatitis prevention, care, and treatment services. 

Drug Pricing Legislation  

The President recently signed a pair of bills aimed at increasing drug pricing transparencyThe Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and Know the Lowest Price Act ratifies the ban on gag clauses for both Part D and other commercial plans. NASTAD, in partnership with Treatment Action Group (TAG) and HIVMA, advocated for these changes in comments responding to the Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs. The comments called on Congress and the White House to boldly address a broken drug pricing system and to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for its role in ensuring that critical disease-preventing and life-saving medications are both available and affordable, particularly for people living with HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. NASTAD also joined the HIV Health Care Access Working Group’s comments on the blueprint, as well as the 340B Coalition’s comments.   

Overall, the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act is not expected to have a significant impact on drug pricing and consumer costs, and it is not expected to have much impact for people using antiretrovirals for treatment or prevention or direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C, given the limited utilization of generic drug products.  

NASTAD Updates 

NASTAD’s Chair, Jacquelyn Clymore, provided an important organizational leadership update. After 17 years at NASTAD, three years as the Executive Director, Murray Penner has stepped down from his role. Terrance Moore has agreed to remain in the Acting Executive Director capacity. 

Job Opportunities 

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is hiring for a Disease Investigation Specialist I within their Division of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology, HIV/STD Program. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health is hiring for a Client Services Coordinator within their Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis. 

Upcoming Conferences 

2019 National HIV Prevention Conference 

The 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference will be held March 18-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Check out the updated website for more information about tracks and to view the tentative conference schedule.  

2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference 

The 2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference will be held in Atlanta on March 25-28, 2019. The conference will address advances in diagnostic testing, and strategies for using test technologies in public health programs and clinical practice.  The conference program this year expands beyond HIV testing, and incorporates STI and HCV testing technologies and strategies, with an emphasis on integrating testing programmatically.  As with past conferences, there will be a mix of oral presentations, panel discussions, and poster sessions. We strongly encourage health department HIV, HCV, and STI testing program managers and other staff consider submitting an abstract, attending the conference.  Abstract submission for the conference is open.   

Resources 

CDC’s Act Against AIDS initiative has launched Prescribe HIV Prevention, a new initiative for healthcare providers that focuses on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The target audience includes primary care providers, infectious disease and HIV specialists, nurses, and public health practitioners. 

The AIDS Housing Coalition is hosting a webinar, HOPWA Modernization: A Community Response, on October 23rd at 1pm ET/12pm CT/11am MT/10am PT. 

News Bulletin 

When people living with HIV walk out of prison, they leave with up to a month's worth of HIV medication in their pockets. What they don't necessarily leave with is access to health care or the services that will keep them healthy in the long term. That is one of the findings of a study published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine. The study was among the first to follow people with HIV from jail or prison back into the community. What they found was that most people — more than half — fell out of care within three years of leaving prison. 

“HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, the use of drugs to prevent HIV infection, among men who have sex with men can significantly reduce new infections across an entire population of men, a new study finds. Based on introduction of the intervention, HIV infections diagnosed in men who have sex with men in the Australian state of New South Wales fell by a quarter -- 25.1% -- in one year in the research, published Wednesday in the journal the Lancet.” 

“Duke researchers have recently discovered why some people can produce antibodies capable of fighting HIV, and the answer might lie in one special protein.  The study focused on better understanding broadly neutralizing antibodies—which are able to bind to HIV and block infection—in order to develop a vaccine against the virus.” 

“A small but increasing number of children in the United States are not getting some or all of their recommended vaccinations. The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years, according to federal health data released Thursday.”