Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir April 16, 2018

Hill Happenings

Opioids

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently released a discussion draft of “The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.” The Committee plans to mark up the legislation on April 24, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said after a two-hour hearing on the package. We are pleased that the legislation includes funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address HIV and hepatitis infections associated with injection drug use.  NASTAD is working with other community members to increase this funding to a higher level. 

The House Oversight Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules recently held an opioid hearing. The hearing examined local responses to the opioid epidemic, with witnesses from Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia. Additionally, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing looking at Medicare and Medicaid's ability to provide care related to the opioid epidemic. Among the witnesses that testified: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Kim Brandt and Obama-era "drug czar" Michael Botticelli. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-2) said he wants to bring their package to the House floor before Memorial Day, although a formal schedule has not been released. NASTAD is advocating for funding for CDC to be included in this package.

Speaker of the House

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) announced that he will not seek re-election this year, adding that he will serve out his term before making his exit. Speaker Ryan, a 20-year veteran of Congress, explained his decision to his Republican colleagues Wednesday morning at a meeting in the Capitol, saying he would like to spend more time with his children, and insisted that his decision to retire was not based on signs of a midterm Democratic wave. Speaker Ryan has endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-R-23) to succeed him as speaker.

Appropriations

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) formally won the post of Appropriations Chairman in a voice vote on Tuesday night. Senator Shelby has served on the spending panel since 1994 and has spent years as ranking member. With the departure of Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), his replacement, Cindy Hyde-Smith(R-MS), was also named his replacement on the Appropriations Committee. She was also named to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (LHHS) which has jurisdiction over HIV and hepatitis appropriations. 

CDC Coalition Letter

NASTAD signed onto a letter urging members of Congress to support at least $8.4 billion for CDC programs in the FY2019 LHHS Appropriations bill.

Administration Activities 

Affordable Care Act

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued final rules for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces for 2019. The regulatory blueprint lays out the benefit and payment guidelines for insurers selling products through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces. 

The Trump administration is again extending transitional health insurance plans that do not meet ACA's coverage requirements, allowing them to remain in place through 2019. The Administration is also expanding exemptions to the individual mandate ahead of the elimination of the penalty for failing to obtain insurance coverage in 2019.

Personnel Updates

Valerie Huber, a prominent abstinence education advocate within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has been promoted to senior adviser for theAssistant Secretary for Health. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health oversees the U.S. Surgeon General's office, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP), as well as programs for women's health, vaccines, and minority health. She was previously the office's chief of staff and has been serving as the acting deputy assistant secretary forHHS' Office of Population Affairs.The position was previously held by Teresa Manning, who had worked for anti-abortion groups and was fired from HHS early this year.

PEPFAR's 2018 Annual Report to Congress

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) released its 14thAnnual Report to Congress. The report includes results and implementing partner performance data for more than 40,000 PEPFAR-supported facilities spanning all 35 country and regional programs.

In conjunction with its release, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Health GAP published new reports, “At the Tipping Point: U.S. Leadership to End AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria” and “Deadly Impact: How Flat Funding is Undermining U.S. Global AIDS Programs.”

Medicare

The Partnership for Part D Access, a coalition of drug industry, disease, and patient groups, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, asking him not to alter the Medicare Part D protected classes.

Work Requirements

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday intended to force low-income recipients of food assistance, Medicaid, and low-income housing subsidies to join the work force or lose their benefits. The order, “Reducing Poverty in America,” is directed at “any program that provides means-tested assistance or other assistance that provides benefits to people, households or families that have low incomes,” according to the order’s text.

2018 National STD Prevention Conference

The 2018 STD Prevention Conference will be held August 27-30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Registration for the conference is now open. Early registration ends on May 31.

Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and May 19thmarks the 7th annual Hepatitis Testing Day in the U.S. The CDC has provided free tools in the Hepatitis Awareness Month and Testing Day Resource Center helpful in supporting your awareness activities and testing events. 

Resources

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Services Report (RSR) Data Slide Desks

The National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan Partner Planning Guide

Community Response Planning for Outbreaks of Hepatitis and HIV Among People Who Inject Drugs: A Case Study from the LENOWISCO Health District, a Rural Community in Virginia

News Bulletin

Rampant opioid injection: 'A ticking time bomb' that puts all Americans at risk for disease

“First came the opioid epidemic. Then, a wave of drug-fueled infections. Now, after years of quietly spreading across the nation, diseases such as hepatitis and HIV are prompting action by a critical mass of top doctors, health officials and policymakers.”

Southern AIDS Coalition to Partner with Six Organizations to Pilot HIV-Related Stigma Reduction Interventions Across the U.S. South

“The Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) announced today the first phase of its work as a Gilead COMPASS Initiative™ coordinating center, which launched in December of 2017. Starting in May, the organization will begin piloting multiple HIV-related stigma reduction interventions, including their own LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development) Academy, a health promotion intervention designed to combat stigma by training people living with HIV to be leaders, educators, and advocates in their communities. SAC will work with the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University to rigorously evaluate the interventions.”

Job Opportunities

HIV Care Supervisor

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is seeking an HIV Care Supervisor.

Reminders

Please fill out this RSVP form and return by Wednesday, April 18 to let us know if you are doing Hill visits during this year’s Annual Meeting.