Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras December 14, 2020

Hill Happenings 

FY2021 Appropriations 

Negotiations are ongoing between House and Senate Appropriations leaders on a bicameral omnibus bill to complete FY2021 funding. The House and Senate passed an additional continuing resolution (CR) that runs through December 18 to avoid a government shutdown and give negotiators more time to land on an agreement after the former CR lapsed on December 11. NASTAD continues to advocate on behalf of HIV and hepatitis FY2021 funding.  

COVID-19 Relief Updates 

Financial relief negotiations for COVID-19 pandemic aid have stalled in Congress following a brief period of renewed optimism after a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a $908 billion COVID-19 relief framework. Although a deal remains elusive, it is expected that there is alignment between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on combining COVID-19 relief with the omnibus spending deal. NASTAD will continue to monitor the appropriations process and stimulus negotiations and advocate for the highest funding levels on behalf of HIV and hepatitis programs.  

COVID-19 Community Sign-on Letter 

NASTAD joined a coalition of 52 organizations and co-signed a letter urging swift passage and implementation of the COVID Community Care Act (H.R. 8192/S.4941). The legislation would appropriate funding for community-based organizations to engage in a full spectrum of support measures to medically underserved communities, including funding contact tracing support from tracers who have experience in medically underserved communities and have relationships with the individuals who live there. 

Administrative Activity 

NASTAD Submits Comments on the HIV National Strategic Plan 

NASTAD submitted comments on the draft HIV National Strategic Plan: A Roadmap to End the HIV Epidemic (2021-2025) (HIV Plan), issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP). The HIV Plan articulates goals, objectives, and strategies for ending the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030. NASTAD’s comments applaud the HIV Plan’s strategic objectives and approach, but highlight the need for broader coordination of interagency efforts to meaningfully address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

President-Elect Biden Names Susan Rice to Lead White House Domestic Policy Council 

President-elect Biden appointed Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC). As the White House Domestic Policy Advisor and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Rice will have broad jurisdiction over the formulation and implementation of the President-elect’s domestic policy agenda. As such, she will play a large role in realizing the new Administration’s healthcare agenda. The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), which the Biden Administration has said it will reinstate, is housed within the DPC.  

President-Elect Biden Nominates Marcia Fudge to Lead HUD 

President-elect Biden nominated Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Pending Senate confirmation, Congresswoman Fudge will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years and the second Black woman to lead the department. A longtime champion of affordable housing, urban revitalization, infrastructure investment, and other reforms to enhance the safety, prosperity, and sustainability of American communities, Congresswoman Fudge is tasked with redirecting the agency following several harmful changes implemented by the Trump Administration. 

HRSA Issues the 340B Drug Pricing Program Final Rule 

On December 10, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) issued a notice of final rulemaking that would alter the administrative dispute resolution (ADR) process in the 340B Drug Pricing Discount Program used to assist covered entities and manufacturers in resolving disputes regarding overcharging, duplicate discounts, or diversion. In particular, the rule calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assemble an ADR panel composed of staff from key agencies that oversee the 340B program, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and HRSA. Although the rule has been in development since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the release of the finalized regulation is likely an effort to address recent legal challenges that have been leveraged against drug manufacturers that stopped providing drug discounts to community-based pharmacies that are associated with 340B-covered hospitals. The rule is set to go into effect on January 13, 2021.   

HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Health Care FY2021 EHE Funding Opportunity  

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) released the FY2021 Ending the HIV Epidemic - Primary Care HIV Prevention (PCHP) Notice of Funding Opportunity (HRSA-21-092). HRSA estimates approximately $83 million to be available annually to fund 300 recipients located in the 57 geographic locations identified by the EHE Initiative, with the goal of increasing the number of health centers in the geographic locations that are focused on HIV prevention.   

PCHP applications are due in Grants.gov on Tuesday, February 2 2021 by 11:59 PM ET. HRSA will host a TA webinar for applicants on Wednesday, December 16 from 3:00-4:00 PM ET. You can join the day of the session using this link.  

Resources 

NASTAD Training: Hepatitis C Patient Navigation Online Training 

Date & Time: December 14, 2020 from 1.00 – 4.00 pm ET  

In partnership with the International Network on Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), join NASTAD and our colleagues, Diana Diaz Muñoz and Marie P. Bresnahan from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, for this interactive online training that will provide a basic overview of hepatitis C, the need for patient navigation to eliminate hepatitis C, as well as an introduction to patient navigations steps: outreach, testing, linkage to care, treatment and liver health after cure. 

To join the training, please register here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join. Additionally, NASTAD launched the Hepatitis C Community Navigation Toolkit – Improving Care for People Who Use Drugs and Other Impacted Populations during a virtual training in September. This toolkit will be referred to during December’s Patient Navigation Training to explore lessons learned from the field, best practices, and how to make meaningful connections to navigate and get individuals linked to hepatitis C cure. The tools and templates offered can be tailored to the unique health care environment in different jurisdictions. 

NASTAD Resource: PrEP Generics Entering the US. Market: FAQs 

NASTAD is pleased to announce the release of a new resource created to address the many changes to the PrEP drug landscape, including the introduction of generics for PrEP in the United States. As new drugs are approved for PrEP and generic options become available, more questions have come up about what these changes mean for the PrEP access. Titled, PrEP Generics Entering the US. Market: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), this FAQ provides current information on the introduction of PrEP generics, potential coverage changes related to the changing PrEP drug market, and the impact on PrEP access.  

NASTAD Minority Leadership Program 2021  

Applications for the Minority Leadership Program 2021 Cohort are due on Monday, December 14, 2020. Please share with passionate, junior-mid level professionals of color in your network today! Please note that MLP sessions are virtual again this year as we prioritize safety, caution, and public health while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While in-person gatherings are irreplaceable, 2020 MLP participants gained valuable connections and personal growth in a virtual space.  

To learn more about the Minority Leadership Program, see the attached program overview, application, and checklist or visit NASTAD’s MLP website for details. 

FDA Approves DPP HIV-Syphilis Dual Assay 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first and only dual rapid test for the detection of antibodies to HIV 1/2 and Treponema pallidum in fingerstick whole blood, venous whole blood, or plasma specimens. The DPP® HIV-Syphilis test is produced by ChemBio Diagnostics, Inc.  

Report: Medicaid and Medicare Enrollees Need Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefits 

Job Postings 

Senior Associate, Health Equity – Washington, DC 

NASTAD is seeking a Senior Associate for the Health Equity team. The Senior Associate, Health Equity plays an essential role in supporting the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions identified by NASTAD's Center for Innovation and Engagement (CIE). CIE is leading a collaborative partnership with Northwestern University's Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology and Howard Brown Health Center to identify, catalog, disseminate, and support the replication of evidence-informed approaches and interventions to engage people living with HIV (PLWH) who are not receiving HIV care or who are at risk of not continuing to receive HIV care. The project's end goal is to support the replication of identified interventions into real-world implementation by Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) and HIV care providers. 

Virginia Medication Assistance Technicians Levels II and I – Virginia  

The VA Medication Assistance Program (VA MAP) provides access to critical HIV-related treatment for low-income individuals who have no other resources to pay for their medications. The Medication Assistance Technician (MAT) Level I manage telephone, fax, and written communications with consumers, providers, vendors, insurance companies, HCS team members, and others. The MAT I conducts individual client’s VA MAP eligibility and recertification in accordance with the most current Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) guidance and program policies and supports all daily operational activities of the VA MAP including staffing the program’s telephone hotline. The MAT I also supports daily VA MAP operations including responding to and managing client inquiries that come through the Eligibility Hotline and provider communications through other channels, referring clients to resources, resolving medication access issues, assisting with insurance enrollment and contacting clients to obtain additional application information. Candidates must have very good customer service skills, strong computer skills, the ability to follow instruction, problem-solve medication access issues, and accurately collect, organize, analyze, manage, and report data. Minimum requirements are a high school diploma or equivalent training and experience. Knowledge of HIV/AIDS health care services delivery and call center experience preferred. These are contractual positions working a minimum of 40 hours per week, but do not offer benefits (annual leave, sick pay, or health insurance). For Level I, the pay ranges from $18-$22 per hour based on experience. The Medication Assistance Technician Level II demonstrates a mastery of all duties and skills for the Level I position, in addition to providing training for new Level Is and assists with tasks and projects as assigned by their supervisor. Level II pay ranges from $23-$26 per hour based on experience.  

These positions are open until filled. To apply for either of these positions, please send your resume and cover letter by email to myras@tscti.comrajeshwarj@tscti.com, and dgsjobs@tscti.com, and in the subject line put “VA Medication Assistance Technician Level I or VA Medication Assistance Technician Level II”. Applicants must successfully pass a background investigation. 

STD Epidemiology and Surveillance Team Lead – Texas 

The Texas Department of Health Services is seeking a STD Epidemiology and Surveillance Team Lead in the STD/Hepatitis C Epidemiology and Surveillance Group of the HIV/STD/HCV Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Branch. Under the supervision of the group manager the Epidemiologist III performs highly advanced senior-level research and epidemiological work requiring specialized knowledge of STD surveillance. Designs and conducts advanced epidemiological research, evaluating populations and their risk factors for STDs using data from the STD reporting systems and other large data sets in the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch. Prepares and presents research findings on STD issues in reports, professional journals, national conferences, and state meetings. Plan, assign, and/or supervise the work of others. Works under minimum supervision with extensive latitude for the use of initiative and independent judgment.   

Ending the HIV Epidemic Treatment Coordinator – Tarrant County, TX 

The Ending the HIV Epidemic Treatment Coordinator oversees implementation of the Ending the HIV Epidemic grant activities for the Tarrant County HIV Administrative Agency. This position focuses on operational functions while working with community partners and sub-recipients to drive changes impacting the lives of more than 6,000 clients living with HIV. The Coordinator will assist with preparing the grant application, developing the workplan, overseeing grant-related reporting, monitoring the budget, and supervising Ending the HIV Epidemic staff. The posting may close at any time.  

Open Positions – New York State 

The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Health Research, Inc, has various job openings, including some within the AIDS Institute. Please visit this link to learn about their current opportunities.  

News Bulletin 

Republicans throw cold water on bipartisan Covid proposal 

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff told other congressional leaders on Wednesday that the bipartisan coronavirus negotiators will be unlikely to satisfy Senate Republicans, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the conversations. McConnell’s staff informed House and Senate leadership staffers that the group’s attempts to marry $160 billion in state and local aid and a temporary liability shield probably won't fly with most of the GOP, the Democrat said. Those two issues have become the primary focus for a bipartisan group of lawmakers that is trying to hammer out a $908 billion compromise.” 

Trump Plan May Set Clock Ticking on Many Health Rules — Setting Off Alarms 

“The Trump administration wants to require the Department of Health and Human Services to review most of its regulations by 2023 — and automatically void those not assessed in time. A proposed rule would require HHS to analyze within 24 months about 2,400 regulations — rules that affect tens of millions of Americans on everything from Medicare benefits to prescription drug approvals. 

The move has met a fierce backlash from health providers and consumer advocates who fear it would hamstring federal health officials while they seek to control the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.” 

Supreme Court upholds controversial Arkansas law that regulates pharmacy benefit managers 

“In a blow to pharmacy benefit managers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Arkansas law can be used to regulate these controversial middlemen in the pharmaceutical supply chain. The state law governs reimbursements rates that pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, must pay to pharmacies. Specifically, the law requires PBMs to reimburse pharmacies at or above their wholesale costs paid for generic drugs, and also prevents them from paying their own drug stores more than what is paid to other pharmacies.” 

FDA Takes Key Action in Fight Against COVID-19 By Issuing Emergency Use Authorization for First COVID-19 Vaccine 

Today [December 11], the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 16 years of age and older. The emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. 

Blood donor rules to be relaxed for gay and bisexual men in England 

Gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood more easily from next summer following a landmark policy change, the NHS blood service has announced. The move has been welcomed by campaigners who have fought to overturn rules that “perpetuate inequality”. Men in a long-term relationship with another man will be able to donate blood from next summer, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said. The rules currently require all men who have had sex with men to abstain from sex for three months to give blood.