Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras September 13, 2021

Hill Happenings

FY2022 Appropriations

Democrats on the Hill are working across the House of Representatives and the Senate to prepare the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY2022) spending package, dubbed the Build Back Better Act. Democrats are leveraging the budget reconciliation process to avoid the Senate filibuster and pass Democratic policy priorities in the spending package without Republican support, while advancing the Senate-negotiated bipartisan infrastructure package (H.R.3684) and the House-approved voting rights bill (H.R.4) in tandem.

On September 9, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled legislative text ahead of a markup that contains key health provisions. The committee calls on Congress to include H.R.3, the 2019 House-approved drug pricing legislation, in the Build Back Better Act. This would empower the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to address the high cost of prescription drugs by negotiating Medicare Part B and Part D drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. The committee is also proposing to temporarily expand Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits to close the Medicaid coverage gap before a federal Medicaid program can be implemented in non-expansion states by 2025 to ensure that all low-income Americans have access to affordable coverage. Additionally, the legislative text would invest over $35 billion to rebuild and modernize public health departments and other health care settings.

Although Congress is working to quickly advance the FY2022 spending bills, many lawmakers expect that a continuing resolution (CR) will be required to extend federal funding ahead of a September 30 fiscal deadline and raise the debt limit to avoid a government default, which could occur as soon as October. NASTAD will continue to monitor the FY2022 appropriations process to advocate for the highest funding levels on behalf of HIV and hepatitis programs.

NASTAD Calls on Congress to Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap

On September 7, the HIV Health Care Access Working Group, a workgroup of the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership (FAPP), sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging lawmakers to close the Medicaid “coverage gap” that persists in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA. According to national estimates, over two million low-income individuals are ineligible for affordable coverage because they are both denied access to Medicaid and ineligible for subsidies to purchase private insurance on the ACA Marketplace. In particular, the coalition highlights the harms perpetuated by the coverage gap for access to HIV care, especially for people at risk or living with HIV who reside in the south. The advocates call for a federal solution that closes the gap and permanently ensures that all low-income Americans can access affordable coverage regardless of their state’s willingness to adopt Medicaid expansion. NASTAD signed onto and supported this advocacy. 

NASTAD Calls on Biden Administration to Invest in the Title X Family Planning Program

On September 3, NASTAD joined a coalition of 55 organizations and urged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to properly fund the Title X family planning program in the fiscal year 2023 (FY2023) budget. The advocates center Title X, the nation’s only federally-funded family planning program, as a key component of the Administration’s work to promote health equity, racial and economic justice, and sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. The coalition requests the additional investments in order to rebuild the Title X network that was impacted by Trump-era rulemaking that forced abortion providers out of the program.

Administrative Activities

Biden Administration Releases Plan to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

On September 9, HHS Secretary Becerra released the Biden Administration’s Drug Pricing Plan, a comprehensive proposal for reforming drug prices. The plan was prompted by President Biden’s Executive Order 14036, which directed the federal government to promote competition in the American economy, including the health care industry. The plan outlines principles for equitable drug pricing reform through competition, innovation, and transparency, and proposes legislative and regulatory actions that can be taken to make prescription drugs more affordable. Notably, the Biden Administration is calling on Congress to allow the Secretary of HHS to negotiate Medicare Part B and Part D drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies and make those prices available to other purchasers. The proposal mirrors H.R.3, Democrat’s House-approved 2019 drug pricing legislation that would have allowed the government to directly negotiate the prices of certain drugs, and will likely bolster Democrats’ efforts on the Hill to include drug pricing reforms in the budget reconciliation package.  

Biden Administration Announces Vaccine Mandates for Health Workers

On September 9, the Biden Administration announced new COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees and health workers as part of a revamped COVID-19 Action Plan. The Administration will now require that all workers in healthcare settings, federal employees, and federal contractors receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a term of employment. President Biden is expected to issue an Executive Order and regulations to implement the requirements in the coming days. The expanded vaccination requirements will impact a total 17 million healthcare workers across various clinical settings.

Resources

Updated FAQ: COVID-19 Vaccines and People with HIV FAQ / Vacunas contra la COVID-19 y VIH Preguntas frecuentes

The HIV Medicine Association and Infectious Diseases Society of America developed this document to respond to questions from HIV clinicians, and as a resource for HIV clinicians to respond to patient questions regarding the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration and the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S.

NACCHO/CDC Funding Opportunity: Comprehensive Community Approaches Preventing Substance Misuse (CCAPS)

Informational Webinar: Wednesday, September 15 from 4-5 pm EST

Application Deadline: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NACCHO is pleased to announce a funding opportunity to support the implementation of evidence-based approaches to prevent overdose, substance use disorders (SUD), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and other potentially traumatic events in the homes and families of those most at risk of overdose. Through this funding opportunity, NACCHO and CDC will award up to seven applicants to implement or expand programs that prevent SUD or overdose and that also have the potential to simultaneously prevent ACEs within the selected communities and populations of focus. Applicants may request up to $450,000.

 2021 Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium

Date: September 29-30

As part of the HRSA-funded Special Project of National Significance (SPNS): Evidence-Informed Approaches to Improving Health Outcomes for People Living with HIV, Howard Brown Health will host the virtual 2021 Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium taking place on September 29-30. This year's theme is Community Informed Care is a Radical Act. The goal of the conference is to provide a space for healthcare professionals, educators, researchers, and advocates from across the country to disseminate evidence-based practices and engage in rigorous discussion around issues relating to the health of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities.

Job Postings

Operations Manager, Bureau of Communicable Diseases -  Tallahassee, Florida

This position is a highly responsible position as the HIV/AIDS Section Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Section reporting directly to the Chief of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. This position is responsible for all aspects of the HIV program including providing direction and functional supervision of staff responsible for HIV Prevention, Patient Care, Surveillance and Quality Improvement initiatives for the state of Florida. The position also has the responsibility of coordinating statewide efforts for program planning and culturally competent community engagement efforts.

NASTAD Drug User Health Team

NASTAD, in partnership with AIDS United, has been selected by the CDC to manage a grant that will support SSPs in expanding their COVID and adult vaccination programming. We are recruiting for a Manager, a Senior Manager, and Associate Director/Project Coordinator. More information can be found below:

  • The Manager, Drug User Health plays a vital role in expanding the organization’s capacity to address the impacts of the intersecting crises of drug use, HIV/AIDS, and viral hepatitis in community and public health settings, particularly within state and local health departments and Syringe Services Programs (SSPs). Core activities will be to support NASTAD’s role in the launch and management of the Centers for Disease Control’s Supplemental Project for Expanding SSP Capacity to Respond to COVID-19through the Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health (CDC-RFA-OT18-1802). 
  • The Senior Manager, Drug User Health plays a vital role in expanding the organization’s capacity to address the impacts of the intersecting crises of drug use, HIV/AIDS, and viral hepatitis in community and public health settings, particularly within state and local health departments and Syringe Services Programs (SSPs). Core activities will be to support NASTAD’s role in the launch, advancement, and management of the Centers for Disease Control’s Supplemental Project for Expanding SSP Capacity to Respond to COVID-19through the Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health (CDC-RFA-OT18-1802).
  • The Associate Director, Drug User Health plays a vital role in expanding the organization’s capacity to address the impacts of the intersecting crises of drug use, HIV/AIDS, and viral hepatitis in community and public health settings, particularly within state and local health departments and Syringe Services Programs (SSPs). Core activities will be to serve as the Project Coordinator and direct activities related to NASTAD’s role in the launch and management of the Centers for Disease Control’s Supplemental Project for Expanding SSP Capacity to Respond to COVID-19through the Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services Through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health (CDC-RFA-OT18-1802).

Hepatitis Surveillance Data Analyst – New Orleans, Lousiana

This position is responsible for the data analysis activities for the Louisiana Office of Public Health STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program (SHHP), in the Hepatitis Surveillance unit. Data utilized for Hepatitis Surveillance activities include Hepatitis laboratory data, Case Report Forms, Provider Report Forms, Linkage to Cure data, investigation data, Medicaid data, and data from related sources and programs. This position will implement and coordinate data analysis activities to monitor and evaluate progress toward meeting hepatitis elimination within the state. All activities must be completed in accordance with the security and confidentiality guidelines required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHHP.

NASTAD Assistant, Program and Policy – Remote/Washington, DC

The Assistant, Program and Policy will support NASTAD’s program and policy teams by providing administrative and logistical support for the Senior Directors/Directors. The ideal candidate will be motivated, highly organized, and able to follow through on tasks with minimal prompting. Demonstrated ability to execute projects in a timely manner and precise attention to detail are required.

Program Specialist IV, Division of Public Health Services – Concord, New Hampshire

ID Care Services Quality Management Specialist (Program Specialist IV #9T2810, Job ID: 19231). This full-time position plans and evaluates the quality management areas of the NH Ryan White CARE Program. Provides subject matter expertise with regard to quality improvement methodology and HIV specific performance measures, to demonstrate measured improvements in HIV care across NH.

Statewide Deputy Medical Director, HIV/STD/Viral 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.

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

Medicaid Vaccination Rates Founder as States Struggle to Immunize Their Poorest Residents

“Medicaid enrollees are getting vaccinated against covid-19 at far lower rates than the general population as states search for the best strategies to improve access to the shots and persuade those who remain hesitant. Efforts by state Medicaid agencies and the private health plans that most states pay to cover their low-income residents has been scattershot and hampered by a lack of access to state data about which members are immunized. The problems reflect the decentralized nature of the health program, funded largely by the federal government but managed by the states.”

New Biden plan to lower drug prices drawn from familiar Democratic playbook

“The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited plan to lower prescription drug prices that included a number of aggressive proposals but largely tread over ideas that Democrats have pushed for years. The plan would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, a longstanding pledge from Biden, Democratic lawmakers, and every Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. It also would limit yearly price increases, allow the importation of drugs from Canada, and place a cap on out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries.”

Justice Department sues Texas over 'unconstitutional' abortion law

“The Justice Department is suing Texas over the state's new controversial restrictions on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday. Garland said that the law is plainly improper both for its onerous restrictions on abortion access and for the provisions allowing state residents to sue anyone who aids or carries out restricted abortions.”