Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Garrett Eberhardt January 13, 2020

Hill Happenings

FY2021 Appropriations Strategizing Begins Amidst Presidential Budget Release Date Announcement

Last week, the Administration announced that President Trump will send his annual budget request to Congress on February 10. While the President’s Budget is generally taken as a suggestion by Congress, it will be taken into consideration as Congress determines spending levels for fiscal year 2021. In light of the announcement, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is planning to meet with Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) to discuss strategies for the upcoming appropriations season. The Senate remains vocal about their hopes that the President’s budget adheres to the previous budget cap deal and is more “realistic” than last year’s. NASTAD continues to advocate its FY2021 requests for both HIV and viral hepatitis funding and programs to both Congress and the Administration.

Administration Activities

Injunction Blocking Discharge of HIV-Positive Members of the Air Force Upheld

On Friday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling halting efforts by the Trump administration to discharge members of the Air Force who are living with HIV. In its ruling, the court found that the arguments used by the federal government to justify discharging HIV-positive servicepersons was not based on “current medical literature and expert opinion about current HIV treatment and transmission risks.” A preliminary injunction was granted in February against the U.S. Department of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force to halt discharge proceedings against active duty HIV-positive Air Force members. NASTAD was a signee onto an amicus brief explaining the effects of HIV stigma and the negative effect the discharge policy would have on public health.

Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate Struck Down in Court

Shortly before the December holiday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the mandate for the individual purchase of health insurance contained in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. The court did however decline to rule on the validity of the ACA in its entirety, instead sending that question back down to the lower district court in Texas for a decision. The lawsuit was filed by over 12 Republican-led states that argued the law is no longer constitutional after the penalty for failing to follow the individual mandate was removed in 2017 tax legislation. Without the penalty the plaintiffs argued, the mandate became unconstitutional. The ruling is sure to thrust the ACA back to the forefront of the elections in November, with the Supreme Court unlikely to weigh in before that time.

NIH Unveils Strategic Plan for Hepatitis B Cure

At the end of 2019, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) unveiled their Strategic Plan for Trans-NIH Research to Cure Hepatitis B focusing on three key research areas as the agency increases research to develop a cure for hepatitis B (HBV), improve scientific understanding, and create improved screening and treatment strategies. The plan emphasizes the study of HBV’s biology, the development and sharing of tools and resources to support fundamental research and product development, and the creation of strategies to cure and prevent HBV infection. The strategic plan expands on the US National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and includes input from academia, patient advocacy organizations, private and nonprofit companies, government organizations, and clinical trial networks.

CDC Releases Report on HPV Vaccination Among Young Adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report from its National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination among adults aged 18-26. The report found that the percentage of 18 to 26-year-olds who received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine increased almost 18 percentage points from 22.1% in 2013 to 39.9% in 2018. Women remain more likely than men to have received at least one dose of the vaccine, increasing from 36.3% in 2013 to 52.6% in 2018, though the percentage of men who received at least one dose more than tripled from 7.7% to 27.0% during the same time period.

HRSA Seeking Nominations for CHACHSPT

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently seeking nominees to serve on the CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment (CHACHSPT). CHACHSPT advises the HHS Secretary, CDC Director, and HRSA Administrator on HIV, viral hepatitis, and STD prevention and treatment efforts, strategies, and priorities. The committee meets two times per year and those selected will be invited to serve for up to four years. Candidates may self-nominate or may be nominated by someone and packages (letter of interest, short bio, resume, and nominee contact info) should be sent to CHACAdvisoryComm@hrsa.gov

Resources

NASTAD submitted public comments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s revisions to its adult screening recommendations for hepatitis C virus (HCV) from risk-based to all adults aged 18 and older. NASTAD applauded the proposed changes and also encouraged the agency to consider expanding the testing recommendations to include first and third trimester screening, increased funding for jurisdictions to support existing hepatitis infrastructure, and address stigma and discrimination around universal screening.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released an analysis of antiretroviral (ARV) price increases under Medicare Part D. The analysis assessed ARV list price changes between 2016 and 2017 and finds that a substantial share of ARVs could be impacted by proposals seeking to control prices relative to inflation.

MMWR:  Recommendations for Providing Quality Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinical Services, 2020; Neural Tube Defects in Pregnancies Among Women With Diagnosed HIV Infection — 15 Jurisdictions, 2013–2017
 

Job Opportunities

Health Equity Fellow – Washington, DC

NASTAD is currently seeking a Health Equity fellow to assist in supporting the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions identified by NASTAD’s Center for Innovation and Engagement (CIE). In addition to having an understanding of, and commitment to, health equity, a successful candidate must

have research experience, the ability to translate data and information into accessible and meaningful formats and to develop structures that facilitate data collection, tracking, and extraction.