Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir June 4, 2019


Hill Happenings

Oversight Committee Hearing

On May 16th, NASTAD’s Director of Medication Access and Pricing, Tim Horn, testified on behalf of NASTAD at the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform recent hearing on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). The hearing, titled “HIV Prevention Drug: Billions in Corporate Profits After Millions in Taxpayer Investments,” also had included Dr. Aaron Lord of PrEP4All, Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead Sciences, Dr. Robert Grant of University of California San Francisco, Dr. Rochelle Walensky of Harvard Medical School, and Stephen Ezcell of Global Innovation Policy, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation as witnesses. 

Administration Activities

1557 Waiver

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) last week issued a proposed rule revising the agency’s interpretation of non-discrimination provisions in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If finalized in its current form, the proposed rule would significantly weaken protections against discrimination in health programs based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and sex stereotyping. Section 1557 prohibits health programs—including health insurance Marketplaces, Marketplace plans, and programs administered or funded by federal agencies—from denying benefits or otherwise discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. Although the proposed rule retains the general prohibition against discrimination on these grounds, it would eliminate many of the current regulation’s more specific prohibitions—for example, the proposed rule seeks to remove the current definition of discrimination “on the basis of sex,” which would eliminate explicit protections against discrimination based on a person’s gender identity and potentially allow health programs and insurance plans to deny access to care or benefits to transgender individuals. The proposed rule would also weaken protections for individuals with limited English proficiency, eliminate the requirement that health programs provide information to the public about non-discrimination protections, weaken protections against discriminatory benefit designs in health plans that discourage enrollment by people living with HIV and other chronic conditions, and reduce access to grievance procedures for handling complaints about alleged violations of Section 1557. NASTAD will submit comments on the proposed rule once it has been published in the Federal Register. Comments are due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

ACA Navigator Grants

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will maintain the large cuts it implemented last year for the navigator program. Navigators help people sign up for coverage through the ACA. A minimum of $100,000 will be awarded in each of the 34 states that use HealthCare.gov to enroll people into coverage. Grantees will also now be expected to promote not just qualified health plans but association and short-term plans as well. announcement from CMS. Applications are due by July 22, 2019

National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

May 19 was National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an observance to end the silence and shame surrounding HIV in Asian and Pacific Islander communities, help prevent HIV, and help those who have this disease. 

Hepatitis Awareness Month

May was Hepatitis Awareness Month, and May 19th marked the 8th annual Hepatitis Testing Day in the US. 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.


Webinar: teenSPARC STI Prevention and Risk Calculator

CAMP partners, Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), and the University of Washington, will host a webinar on a newly developed Excel tool, teen-SPARC. The tool is designed to help public health jurisdictions and other entities explore the potential short-term impact of behavior change on reducing sexually transmitted infections among the sexually active high-school-attending adolescent population. The tool integrates data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) and can also be useful to jurisdictions who do not have local YRBS data, and who either have alternative data sources or who wish to explore what-if scenarios. This tool can be accessed at www.emorycamp.org/teensparc. The webinar will be held on June 7, 2019 from 2-3:00 PM EDT. 

Episode 2 of Defining Equity Podcast Available

The second episode of NASTAD’s Defining Equity podcast s now available for download. Defining Equity is a monthly podcast series that tackles the numerous health equity issues facing underserved communities highlighting public health professionals using strategies to empower and center communities living at the margins. 

Issue Brief: An Update on Insurance Coverage Among People with HIV in the United States

MMWR:Increase in Hepatitis A Virus Infections — United States, 2013–2018

Upcoming Meetings

Adherence 2019

Adherence 2019 will take place June 17-19, 2019, in Miami. This annual series of conferences features HIV treatment and biomedical prevention adherence research, and current behavioral and clinical perspectives in practicum, within the context of optimizing the continuum of HIV care and prevention. Adherence 2019 will also include an implementation science track focused on closing gaps between evidence and routine practice for health in real-world settings. Registration is currently open.

2019 National Sexual Health Conference 

The 2019 National Sexual Health Conference will take place July 10-12 in Chicago, IL. The conference aims to create opportunities to share information, efforts, and best practices around sexual health across the lifespan by bridging the varied disciplines of education, advocacy, and clinical care, among others. Registration is currently open.

Fast-Track Cities 2019

Fast-Track Cities 2019 will take place September 8-11, 2019, in London. This will be the first international conference of more than 270 cities and municipalities, including from the United States, that are accelerating their responses to HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis. The conference’s aim is to highlight successes achieved across the Fast-Track Cities network, address cross-cutting challenges faced by local stakeholders, and share best practices in accelerating urban AIDS responses, inclusive of co-infectious diseases and comorbid conditions. Registration is currently open.

Job Opportunities 

Epidemiologist II– Massachusetts 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is hiring an Epidemiologist II within their Office of Health Care Planning of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. This posting is open until filled. 

Surveillance Director– West Virginia 

The West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services is hiring a Surveillance Director for the Division of STD and HIV within the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services. This posting is open until July 7. 

Communicable Disease Prevention Program Manager– Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Health is hiring a Communicable Disease Prevention Program Manager within their Communicable Disease Unit. This posting is open until filled. 

Director, Ryan White– Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health is hiring for a Director within their Ryan White Part B Program. This posting is open until filled. 

News Bulletin

Old Fight, New Front: AIDS Activists Want Lower Drug Prices. Now!

“Now, AIDS activists — drawn from that older generation, and from a new one — are working again to bring down the prices of HIV medication. This time, the drugmaker is Gilead Sciences, and the drug is Truvada. It's the only FDA-approved version of PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, currently available commercially in the U.S.”

AIDS Activists Take On The High Price Of HIV Prevention Pill

“In the 1980s, AIDS activists demanded action from the U.S. government in a dramatic way, and got results. Now, they have a new goal: more affordable access to an HIV prevention pill.”