Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras June 14, 2021

Hill Happenings

HHS Secretary Testifies on FY2022 Executive Budget

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on June 8 and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on June 9 to provide testimony on the Biden Administration’s FY2022 Executive budget proposal. Secretary Becerra contextualized the Administration’s proposed $23.3 billion overall discretionary funding increase for HHS, including an increase of $100 million for the third year of the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative and a $6.5 million increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Infectious Diseases and the Opioid Epidemic program. Additionally, Becerra highlighted the Administration’s proposed investments in public health infrastructure and pandemic preparedness.

NASTAD Urges CMS to Strengthen Access to Affordable PrEP Coverage

On June 11, NASTAD and the Federal Aids Policy Partnership urged Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to strengthen affordable access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). The coalition of advocates call on the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS to issue guidance clarifying that updated clinical practice guidelines for PrEP medication require that health plans cover PrEP and necessary ancillary services without cost-sharing. Absent federal guidance, state insurance commissioners have been reluctant to develop guidance for health insurance plans, leading to disparate levels of PrEP coverage by state.

Assistant Secretary of Health for Mental Health and Substance Use Nominee Undergoes Senate Confirmation Hearings

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the Biden Administration’s nominee to lead the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) on June 8 for a hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Delphin-Rittmon, the former Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, would play a key role in implementing the Administration’s strategy to combat the opioid and substance use epidemic. The Senate HELP Committee will reconvene on June 16 to vote on her nomination.

Administrative Activities

Biden Administration Reviews Georgia ACA Waiver

On June 3, CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure sent a letter to the Governor of Georgia requesting updated information on the state’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) innovation waiver. The waiver, approved under the Trump Administration in November of 2020, leverages flexibilities authorized under Section 1332 of the ACA to modify payment and coverage models for state marketplace plans. Advocates warned that the state’s 1332 waiver would result in reduced coverage and costlier premiums for enrollees. Administrator Brooks-LaSure called for an updated analysis from the state due to an increase in health plan enrollment during the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period and due to projected savings to consumers afforded by the American Rescue Plan. Georgia must submit the updated analysis by July 3, after which a public comment period will open.

NIH Releases Statement on Racial Equity

On June 10, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins released a statement acknowledging the impact of structural racism on funded research and the biomedical workforce at NIH. Collins highlighted existing and new initiatives at NIH that aim to diversify the biomedical research workforce, develop research that examines racial equity and health disparities, and ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are reflected in the extramural research ecosystem.

Resources

NASTAD Launches Racial Equity Collaborative for Drug User Health

NASTAD, in partnership with Reframe Health and Justice and Healing Equity United, is excited to announce the launch of the Racial Equity Collaborative for Drug User Health: A Pilot Program for People of Color. The Collaborative is intended to create a supportive space for up to twelve Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) individuals navigating the landscape of governmental, nonprofit, research, and philanthropic fields that support the health of people who use drugs. Convening virtually from July 13 – September 14, 2021, this program will develop connections between BIPOC who work in drug user health and build their capacity to advance racial justice through collaborative, cross-sector change.    

Applications for the Collaborative are now open and can be found here. The deadline is June 21, 2021, at 12:00 PM ET. NASTAD’s Drug User Health team hosted an informational webinar about the Collaborative on Thursday, June 3. Visit our website to view the webinar recording and slides.  

Southern Steep Podcast Mug Giveaway!

Visit NASTAD's Instagram page for your chance to win a mug from our Southern Steep Podcast! https://www.instagram.com/p/CQGf7RtLlvF/

Job Postings

Health Program Administrator II, Director of HIV/STI Prevention Services – Baltimore, Maryland

A Health Program Administrator II plans, administers and coordinates a large health program. Work of this class involves assisting in directing the activities of health clinic personnel. Incumbents receive managerial direction from a technical superior. Employees in this class work a conventional workweek. Work is performed in an office where there is minimal exposure to environmental hazards. Work requires minimal physical exertion.

Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Coordinator – Des Moines, Iowa

Under the direction of the bureau chief and functional oversight of the Data Program Manager, coordinates and serves as the lead epidemiologist for the Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Program, including providing functional oversight for surveillance activities for hepatitis B and C.

HHS Policy and Research Fellowship – Remote/Washington, DC

Multiple fellowship opportunities are currently available in the Office of Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) located in Washington, DC. The opportunity will be remote, until otherwise specified by the participant's assigned mentor. The policy and research fellowship within the Office of Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) provides participants with an opportunity to learn about the policy development process from a range of different perspectives and program areas. Other activities will include drafting reports, letters, white papers, and other forms of scientific writing. OIDP supports a range of inter-agency activities in public health, and serves as a foundation for federal and non federal stakeholder collaboration.

Director I, HIV/STD Prevention and Care – Austin, Texas

Works under the general direction of the Director of the TB/HIV/STD Section (THSS) of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Performs advanced (senior-level) managerial work leading the day-to-day operations of the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Unit. The Director I would lead the day-to-day operations of an array of programmatic services that maintain and facilitate programs of the Unit. These programs include statewide programs for HIV clinical and social services; the provision of medications for the treatment of HIV and other STDs; and HIV, STD and viral hepatitis prevention.

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.

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.

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.

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 rebel against a powerful anti-opioid tool

“Recent efforts to shutter needle exchanges in Republican-led areas could indicate renewed GOP backlash to the controversial programs aimed at preventing outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis, public health experts are increasingly warning. West Virginia, which has been ground zero for the deadly opioid epidemic, this spring approved sweeping new requirements that have already forced the planned closure of one needle exchange program and left the future of several others in doubt. The needle exchange in Washington state’s Grays Harbor County, a purple region that twice voted for former President Donald Trump, shut down after the local government axed funding. And last week, Indiana’s Scott County moved to eliminate a program it created in the aftermath of a 2015 HIV outbreak that drew national attention.”

Change to Gilead Assistance Program Threatens PrEP Access, HIV Advocates Say

“Nationwide, safety-net clinics like Prism Health North Texas rely on Gilead’s Advancing Access Patient Assistance/Medication Assistance Program to fund services that keep patients in need HIV-negative. In April, Gilead announced it will change how much it reimburses through that assistance program. For pharmacies that contract with certain safety-net clinics, like Prism Health, the change means less reimbursement cash to pass along to the clinics. The domino-like impact of the company’s move means Prism Health may lose between $2 million and $3 million annually, Carlo estimated.”

The U.S. Finally Has a New AIDS Czar!

“AIDS advocates nationwide are congratulating Harold Phillips on his appointment by President Joe Biden as the new director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP)… A Black man living with HIV, Phillips brings a wealth of professional—as well as personal—experience to his new post. Many advocates and health leaders have had years of experience working with Phillips, who most recently served as the senior HIV adviser and chief operating officer of the “Ending the HIV Epidemic” initiative. In that capacity, he worked in the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) and helped oversee and coordinate the initiative’s activities across the divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

At Last, Generic HIV Prevention Drugs Promise Savings And Access—But Also Reveal Precarious Financing

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis or “PrEP,” a once-daily pill that prevents HIV transmission, has been a game-changer for HIV and has helped put the United States on a path to end new HIV infections nationwide. However, PrEP has also exposed the instability of HIV public health financing and its outsized reliance on pharmaceutical manufacturers to prop up not only medication access programs but the basic fabric of the HIV workforce.”