A Way to Honor Fallen Heroes on #GoldStarSpousesDay

  

By Brian Davis and Matthew Fitting

Today is Gold Star Spouses Day, a time to honor the husbands and wives of fallen servicemembers who take up the courageous task to keep their loved ones’ memories alive. As we thank them for their service and sacrifice on this #GoldStarSpousesDay, there are several ways to honor fallen heroes of our country and celebrate those loved ones they leave behind. One way to honor those nurses who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country is through recently introduced legislation.

The bi-partisan United States Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act (H.R. 2056/S. 997) was recently introduced in both houses of Congress by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps served in World War II and are the only uniformed corps members from that war who haven’t been recognized as veterans. The United States Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act would correct this and ensure that these nurses’ service to their country is never forgotten.

This remarkable group of nurses didn’t just make a difference by serving – they revolutionized the nursing profession for decades to come. By ensuring that there were trained healthcare professionals at home and abroad during World War II, the Cadet Nurse Corps paved the way for how nursing and nurse training evolved in the US by professionalizing the practice and teaching methods that would serve as the backbone of our nation’s recovery for generations. As a result of federal funding for the program, nursing schools across the country were able to upgrade their facilities and equipment, ensuring better care for all patients, not just those serving in the military. The program also made positive steps toward expanding access to minority and low-income students who might not have considered entering the profession otherwise.

In honor of #GoldStarSpousesDay, we’re asking you to take action and tell your Member of Congress to not only support these bills, but to ensure passage. This common-sense legislation has been introduced 11 times, but has yet to become law. As we commemorate #GoldStarSpousesDay, it is long overdue that these brave Nurses who served our nation with dignity in its time of need are properly recognized as veterans.

A new Congress hears a delayed State of the Union

  

After a postponement following the partial government shutdown, President Trump’s State of the Union address to the newly elected 116th Congress included outlining his vision to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the end of the next decade and pledging $500 million over 10 years to fight childhood cancer, the leading disease-related cause of death in American children.

The President also touted recent declines in prescription drug prices and promised additional reductions, while maintaining that he supported coverage for pre-existing conditions. It is politically feasible that the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate could find common ground with the President on both the HIV/AIDS and childhood cancer efforts.

Lowering prescription drug prices is something both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listed as a priority when they gave their respective news conferences post-Election Day. However, lawmakers from both parties have spent years trying to address this issue, with limited success. It remains to be seen whether the Democratic House and Republican Senate can come together in collaboration with the White House to craft an effective piece of legislation in the face of what is likely to be intense lobbying from pharmaceutical companies and other health industry stakeholders.

In the official Democratic response former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and state representative Stacey Abrams called on leaders in Washington to tackle the ongoing issue of gun violence prevention and criticized Republican Attorneys General who have joined a Texas court case that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). She urged elected officials to back efforts that would expand access and lower the cost of health care. Abrams also joined the President in pointing out that prescription drugs are too expensive for too many families, and that policy solutions are badly needed to address this.

While health care is unlikely to dominate the start of this Congress to the extent that it dominated the start of the previous Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle still believe that voters sent them to Washington to take tangible steps toward improving the American health care system. Despite the challenges of divided government, the prominence of health policy in the SOTU and the Democratic rebuttal emphatically shows that your vote truly matters when it comes to policy decisions regarding the nation’s health care system.

An unexpected health care ruling leads to turmoil

  

Friday night’s ruling by a federal district judge in Texas v. Azar that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional has created fresh uncertainty in the U.S. health care system. While the ruling does not immediately impact the health law itself, it could potentially upend the American health care system in significant ways.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle immediately vowed to take steps that would retain the ACA’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions and Essential Health Benefits (EHB) while the case continues to make its way through the legal system (experts widely believe that Friday’s decision will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and could ultimately reach the Supreme Court).

ANA’s official statement noted that “This ruling puts at risk access to quality, affordable, and accessible health care for the millions of Americans whose lives have improved due to the coverage expansions and consumer protections under the ACA.”

Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) promised on Twitter that his committee would hold hearings on the ruling, and that he would work with Democrats to “strengthen” the ACA through legislation, while Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she was sure the ruling would be overturned and that “There is widespread support for protecting people with preexisting conditions.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to press for a vote on the Senate floor “urging an intervention in the case,” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), widely expected to lead Democrats as Speaker in the 116th Congress, pledged to “move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process.”

President Trump indicated via Twitter that a potential Supreme Court ruling that upheld Friday’s decision would offer an opportunity to work in a bipartisan fashion “to deliver great health care.” He called on lawmakers to formulate and pass a replacement for the ACA, despite the limited success of previous efforts to do so.

Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), was quick to clarify via social media that the ruling would not adversely impact consumers who were still shopping for individual health insurance coverage during the Open Enrollment period that ended on Saturday, December 15th. In a formal statement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) echoed this point, noting that “This decision does not require that HHS make any changes to any of the ACA programs it administers or its enforcement of any portion of the ACA at this time.”

The Texas v. Azar lawsuit was brought following the congressional repeal of the individual mandate in December 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Texas Attorney General, along with AGs in 19 other states, argued that this repeal eliminated the Supreme Court’s rationale for finding the individual mandate constitutional in the 2012 Supreme Court decision NFIB v. Sebelius. Though driven by these states, the focus will now shift to Congress, following an election cycle in which support for major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and health care in general were key campaign issues.