A Budget to Nowhere

  

 

The good news is that the budget unveiled Monday by the Trump administration is dead on arrival. The two-year agreement reached by Congress last week makes this budget even less relevant than most presidential budgets, and more importantly the congressional spending deal funds a number of crucial health programs that were in danger of losing funds. The bad news is that the President’s budget seeks to normalize policy proposals that would either cripple or eliminate altogether a number of crucial federal programs that provide critical aid for nurses and their patients.

Nursing Workforce Development Programs covered under Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act would be particularly hard hit, with cuts of almost 65% at a time when nurses nationwide desperately need this funding to continue providing quality care. The budget slashes $145 billion overall, eliminating all but one program under Title VIII (the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program, which would be funded at $83 million). As a result of this drastic and misguided approach, the Nursing Community Coalition (of which ANA is a member) announced their strong opposition earlier today.

Even when the President’s budget takes one step forward by allocating new funds, it simultaneously takes two steps back, as with funding to combat the opioid crisis. While the budget proposal would allocate $13 billion, experts estimate that at least $32 billion is needed to address this lethal epidemic. This new funding would also come at the expense of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which would lose $1 billion and suffer particularly deep cuts to programs aimed at reducing chronic disease, bolstering public health preparedness, and overseeing occupational safety and health.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the budget embraces the approach of the already-rejected Graham-Cassidy legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This approach would implement massive cuts to Medicaid and eliminate its state-based expansion (which 33 states to date have chosen to embrace). It would also end the subsidies that help a vast majority of Americans who obtained health coverage under the ACA-implemented marketplace pay for their premiums.

Rather than promoting a misguided and out-of-touch budget, ANA urges the administration to instead focus on more pressing priorities, including helping Congress reach an agreement on those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as efforts to stabilize the health insurance marketplace following the repeal of the individual mandate late last year. Too many of the ideas included in this budget have been rejected by bipartisan congressional majorities. Like those ideas, this budget should similarly be put aside.

Time is Up on Nurse Abuse

  

This guest post is by ‘Nurse Alice’ Benjamin, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC.

As a nurse for nearly 20 years, I have witnessed and experienced physical, verbal and emotional abuse while caring for patients. I once cared for a patient who threw objects at me, yelled obscenities and racial slurs, spat on me and made unreasonable demands even though I was providing the best care possible.

Last month in Arkansas, a nurse was bitten and punched in her head repeatedly. In another incident, a nurse was choked and sexually assaulted. A majority of the time, nurses who have either been a victim or witnesses to physical and verbal abuse don’t receive news coverage. Thanks to technology and media, we have been able to highlight the magnitude and urgency of the matter, but still not intensely enough to end abuse altogether. As a nurse and media health expert, I make sure to discuss this issue on national television. I truly believe that these senseless acts of violence and abuse demand immediate attention and swift action.

Sadly, all nurses face similar, unsafe situations every day. And at times, unwarranted acts of violence are committed against us. That’s why I am proud to support the #EndNurseAbuse initiative – a national call-to-action led by the American Nurses Association urging nurses, healthcare professionals, patients and all concerned individuals to get involved. Sign a pledge to support zero tolerance when it comes to violence against nurses; report abuse whenever possible; and share the pledge with others asking them to sign too.

The clock has run out on harassment, sexual assault, and inequality in the workplace.

Across all industries and professions, women and men are speaking up to make it clear that time is up.

As we launch ANA’s Year of Advocacy, please join me by taking the pledge to #EndNurseAbuse today.

Trump, Congress can’t close deal as shutdown looms

  

 As the federal government appears headed toward its first shutdown since 2013, congressional leadership and Trump administration figures have engaged in an increasingly public back and forth over which side should be held most responsible for the high-stakes stalemate. Major sticking points remain around immigration, specifically Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has now gone more than three months since its long-term funding expired (and after Congress kicked the can down the road before the holidays late last year).

While the House of Representatives was able to pass a short-term funding bill by a slim margin, Senate Democrats refuse to support any legislation that does not include long-term CHIP funding and a solution on DACA, which the President unilaterally decided to end last year, a move ANA condemned at the time.

While the House spending bill included a long-term funding solution for CHIP, it did not address DACA, and the President rejected a bipartisan immigration deal earlier this week. With 49 Democrats currently serving in the Senate, and any funding bill needing to enjoy filibuster-proof support of 60 votes, Democratic buy-in is necessary to keep the government open.

Additionally, while inclusion of long-term CHIP funding in the House bill is heartening to see, House Republican leaders have had ample opportunity to address CHIP long before this week. Moreover, due in part to the repeal of the individual mandate as part of last year’s tax reform legislation, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) earlier this month revised its estimate of CHIP’s cost to the federal government and showed that it now stands at $800 million, down from $8.2 billion.

The President, largely via his Twitter feed, has repeatedly attempted to pin responsibility over a potential shutdown on congressional Democrats. Polling released Friday indicates he’s enjoying little success: 48% said they would blame the President and Republicans (who control every branch of government), with just 28% placing the blame on Democrats.

On Friday afternoon, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) visited the White House to meet with President Trump, a meeting at which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were not present. Following the meeting, Schumer indicated that progress was being made but that no agreement had yet been reached; nor was it clear what deal the President could reach with Schumer that would be acceptable to more conservative House Republicans, particularly those in the Freedom Caucus.

Regardless of the outcome, this episode is just the latest reminder for congressional leadership and the administration that a bipartisan, long-term budget is sorely needed, and that any such budget should include input from experts, including America’s nurses. Families who are affected by DACA or reliant on CHIP deserve better than what Washington has so far failed to deliver.