Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Calista Ogburn April 26, 2021

Hill Happenings 

Senate Finance Committee Votes on Healthcare Nominees

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted on the nominations of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Andrea Joan Palm for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary. The committee advanced Andrea Palm’s nomination without significant Republican opposition (20-8). The committee, however, was unable to advance Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s nomination after the committee vote ended in a tie along party lines (14-14). Republicans pointed to the Biden Administration’s decision to revoke a 10-year extension of a Texas Medicaid 1115 program demonstration waiver that was issued in the final days of the Trump Administration as the reason for holding up the nomination. Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will need to file a discharge petition to advance the nomination to a full floor vote, where Brooks-LaSure is expected to receive sufficient votes to secure the nomination.

House Democrats Reintroduce Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act

On April 22, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-06), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA-01), and Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert Scott (D-VA-03) reintroduced H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The House passed the landmark drug pricing package in the 116th Congress, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. The bill would lower the cost of prescription drugs by empowering the HHS Secretary to negotiate on certain prescription drug prices, capping out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries, and implementing an inflation penalty on manufacturers that hike the prices of their drugs. NASTAD supported the introduction of the bill in the 116th congress.

The reintroduction of H.R.3 is representative of broad Democratic pressure on the Biden Administration to include health care as a top priority in this legislative session after officials suggested that health care would not be included in the upcoming infrastructure package, The American Families Plan (AFP). NASTAD joined a coalition of 47 organizations and called on the Administration and Congress to include bold drug pricing reforms in the AFP and use the savings to implement popular Medicare benefit expansions, such as lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50 and creating an out-of-pocket cap for medical expenses. The advocates expect that these drug pricing reforms would garner $450 billion in savings over 10 years. Additionally, the coalition released a new poll showing wide support across party lines for expanding and improving Medicare.

Administrative Activity 

Hepatitis Awareness Month and National Hepatitis Testing Day

Hepatitis Awareness Month is observed annually during the month of May in the United States. Throughout the month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health partners work to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral hepatitis and encouraging priority populations to get tested. Additionally, May 19 marks National Hepatitis Testing Day, a campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C as major public health threats, while encouraging testing to identify the millions of people living with hepatitis who don’t know it. Click here to access updated resources for 2021 Hepatitis Awareness Month.

HHS Announces Historic Funding Opportunity for Navigators and Releases 2021 Marketplace Open Enrollment Figures

On April 21, HHS announced that CMS will make $80 million in grant funding available to Navigators in Federal Marketplaces for the 2022 plan year, marking the largest ever funding allocation for the program. The additional funds will support outreach and education efforts to enroll uninsured and underinsured consumers in Marketplace plans throughout the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Special Enrollment Period, which was extended on April 15, 2021. Additionally, HHS released the 2021 Enrollment Report, which shows a 5% increase in enrolled consumers compared to the 2020 enrollment cycle.

Biden Administration Announces Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and SAMHSA Administrator

On April 23, the Biden Administration announced the nomination of Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator. Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon is currently the Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and completed a two-year White House appointment working as a Senior Advisor to the SAMHSA Administrator in 2014. The Administration highlighted Dr. Delphin-Rittmon’s extensive experience in the design, evaluation and administration of mental health, substance use and prevention services, programs, and policy.


NASTAD Webinar: U=U is a Public Health Imperative!

Date: Wednesday, May 5 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm ET

NASTAD and Prevention Action Campaign are co-hosting a webinar for state, county, and city health department staff focusing on integrating U=U into their responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemicAnyone interesting in learning about integrating U=U into publicly funded HIV prevention and care programs is welcome to attend.   

Please pre-register for the webinar here. The webinar agenda is still being finalized but will include presentations focusing on U=U as a public health strategy, the latest scientific evidence supporting U=U, and a panel of representatives from four health departments that have been leading the way in endorsing and implementing U=U in their HIV testing, surveillance, prevention, and care programs.    

Notice of Funding Opportunity: Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation

NACCHO has released a funding opportunity to promote monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of syringe services programs (SSPs) and support the use of data for SSP program improvement. With support from CDC and in partnership with the University of Washington, NACCHO will provide funding (up to $98,750) and technical assistance to local health department (LHD) and community-based SSPs to strengthen M&E efforts and systems.

Applications are due May 21, 2021 at 11:59 PM PT. For additional information or to access the Request for Applications, visit here. Register for an informational webinar, to be held on Monday, April 26 at 2 PM ET, here.

Job Postings

NASTAD Senior Director, Public Health Systems – Remote/Washington, DC

The Senior Director, Public Health Systems, provides leadership and direction to NASTAD’s health care access (HCA) and health systems integration (HSI) efforts. This position leads the HCA and HSI teams providing direct supervision to these teams’ directors and the overarching work of the teams regarding programmatic, technical assistance, and capacity building activities.

NASTAD Drug User Health Team – Remote/Washington, DC

  • The Associate, Drug User Health will play a vital role in project coordination to streamline and enhance the team’s expanding drug user health portfolio. Core activities will entail administrative and logistical support to NASTAD’s Drug User Health team in the delivery of technical assistance (TA) and training to health department and community-based officials. This position works closely with the team to facilitate effective coordination and communication across multifaceted project activities and deliverables.
  • The Manager, Drug User Health will support the advancement of NASTAD’s efforts to assist health departments and community-based drug user health programs by providing technical assistance (TA) and training on effective drug user health strategies and connecting people who use drugs to HIV and hepatitis prevention and treatment programs. Core activities will include: leading collaborations and organizational partnerships to expand access to clinical care for people who use drugs; supporting the creation and release of training curricula and guidance documents; and providing tailored TA to support health department drug user health and harm reduction programs, community SSPs, and HIV and hepatitis care and treatment programs.

Disease Intervention Specialist – St. Paul, Minnesota

This posting will be used to fill two (2) positions. These positions will work as the Disease Prevention Specialists focusing on intervening and prevention of the transmission of HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infection through educating, counseling, investigating, and facilitating the medical examination and treatment of persons with these infections, and those at highest risk for infection to prevent death and disability by initiating and maintaining HIV clinical care and antiretroviral therapy.

Statewide Deputy Medical Director, HIV/STD/Vi ral Hepatitis -- Nashville, Tennessee

Primary responsibilities include leadership and oversight of programs related to HIV prevention and treatment in Tennessee. This position will supervise and provide mentorship to the directors of HIV Prevention and Surveillance and the Ryan White Part B program. Utilize data to guide program and policy development and will provide clinical and programmatic oversight for the implementation of all related prevention and treatment activities. Requires management and leadership skills.

COVID-19 Project Manager – Richmond, Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health is seeking a COVID-19 Project Manager in the Office of Epidemiology. This position works with various stakeholders to organize resources, communicate on projects, and provide reports to various levels of leadership. The COVID-19 Project Manager is primarily responsible for implementing project management processes, organizing timelines, communicating updates, escalating issues that are identified, and providing various reports that provide updates regarding the project’s status.

Clinic Operations Director—Baltimore, Maryland

The Clinic Operations Director position falls within the Division of Population Health and Disease Prevention at Baltimore City Health Department in the Bureau of Clinical Services and HIV/STI prevention. It reports directly to the Bureau Administrator of the Bureau of Clinical Services and HIV/STI Prevention. The medical direction of the clinics are led by 4 medical directors and 2 clinical chiefs. The clinic operations director will work in tandem with the medical directors and report to the bureau administrator. All 8 leadership positions work in an integrated and collaborative partnership. The Clinic Operations Director will oversee all operational aspects of the two clinics, as well as their integration into other aspects of the health department and coordination with other health department programs.

Assistant Commissioner - Health Department – Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) is seeking an Assistant Commissioner to lead the Bureau of Communicable Disease and Outbreak Control. This senior management position will lead a talented team responsible for communicable disease investigation, outbreak control and emergency preparedness programming. The incumbent will also be responsible for developing and implementing agency wide policies related to health department readiness to respond to public health emergencies. The incumbent will report directly to the Deputy Commissioner for BCHD’s Division of Population Health & Disease Prevention.   

Communicable Disease Epidemiologist – Cheyenne, Wyoming

This position will serve as the Communicable Disease AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Coordinator, Wyoming TB Controller, and Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) for the Communicable Disease (CD) Treatment Program.  Assist in outbreak response to ensure the safety of Wyoming residents; by interviewing cases for exposure information, updating news outlets on the progress of outbreak control, analyzing exposure data utilizing epidemiological and statistical methods.

Department of State Health Services, Program Informatics and Evaluation Group – Austin, TX

  • Epidemiologist III - designs and implements statistical analyses appropriate for epidemiologic and programmatic data with a focus on HIV prevention programming.
  • Program Specialist V - performs advanced (senior-level) consultative services for the Program Informatics and Evaluation Group within the integrated HIV/STD/TB Surveillance and Prevention unit of DSHS
  • Research Specialist V - conducts highly advanced (senior-level) research and analysis of program evaluation and epidemiologic data associated with HIV, particularly routine testing for HIV in clinical settings

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 

Strides Against HIV/AIDS In The U.S. Falter As Resources Diverted To Fight COVID-19

“Facing a yearlong siege from the coronavirus, the defenses in another, older war are faltering. For the last two decades, HIV/AIDS has been held at bay by potent antiviral drugs, aggressive testing and inventive public education campaigns. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound disruptions in almost every aspect of that battle, grounding outreach teams, sharply curtailing testing and diverting critical staff away from laboratories and medical centers.”

Biden administration reverses Trump restrictions on fetal tissue research

“The Biden administration on Friday moved to unwind strict Trump-era restrictions on federal-funded medical research using fetal tissue obtained by abortions, reversing policies that scientists warned would devastate the development of treatments for a broad range of diseases. The Trump administration, under pressure from allied anti-abortion groups, ended fetal tissue research at the National Institutes of Health and established an ethics board to review government support for the research at universities and other labs.”

Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban

“Senate Republicans on Wednesday opted to keep a ban on earmarks, a symbolic victory for conservatives that capped a weeks-long fight about spending in the post-Trump era. They reaffirmed the existing caucus rules that contained the earmark ban and added language supporting the idea of spending cuts for raising the debt ceiling, in a call back to the fiscal-hawk priorities that helped fuel the Tea Party wave and swept Republicans to power in 2010. But top members of the caucus acknowledge the ban isn’t enforceable and that GOP senators will be able to request earmarks if they want to.“

HUD scraps Trump proposal on transgender access to single-sex homeless shelters

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is withdrawing a Trump-era proposed rule giving federally funded single-sex homeless shelters the choice to house only people whose biological sex, rather than gender identity, matches the sex of the shelter. The Trump rule, proposed last July, would have rolled back transgender protections included in HUD’s 2016 Equal Access rule, which mandated access to shelter based on a person’s self-expressed gender identity.”