Looking forward to this year’s #ANAHillDay

  

In just under three weeks ANA members and registered nurses from across the country will gather on Capitol Hill to demonstrate the power of nurse advocacy firsthand. As we prepare for our annual #ANAHillDay on June 20th, we wanted to offer some helpful tips and reminders for those attending and encourage those who might still be on the fence to register before it’s too late. With momentum building around a number of bills in Congress that will help advance the nursing profession, now is the perfect time to join us for our biggest advocacy event of the year.

Prior to arriving in Washington for the big day, please take some time to get to know the lawmakers with whom you’ll be meeting (your federal representative and both Senators). In particular, determine whether they’re already supportive of the legislation we’ll be discussing in our in-person meetings. That includes:

  • Workplace violence legislation in the House and Senate;
  • Title VIII nursing workforce development reauthorization in the House and Senate, and;
  • Home health legislation for APRNs in the House and Senate.

For additional background on these bills, please visit our RNAction issues page. If you’re unsure who represents you in the House, please find out here. Rest assured, we’ll be going into greater detail on all these bills at our morning breakfast briefing before you head up to Capitol Hill for your meetings. We’ll also be hearing from ANA leadership as well as the newest nurse in Congress, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14).

Once you’re on the Hill, you and members of your state delegation with whom you’ll be paired will have the unique opportunity to share your professional perspective on why each of these bills matters to you. While it’s important to know what these bills are working to accomplish and how they would do so, it’s just as important for your representatives and their staff to hear your firsthand account on how you’ve encountered these issues in your job. Representatives and staff will always respond better when you are able to make a personal attachment to the issue at hand. Please spend some time thinking about if and how these issues have impacted your work, and decide which ones you feel most confident speaking to during your meetings.

And if you can’t join us here in our nation’s capital, rest assured you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to join through our virtual Hill Day campaign. To ensure you’re getting these and other timely nurse advocate updates, please sign up for our RNAction updates.

To watch our Facebook briefing with additional information on everything Hill Day-related, please click here. And if you’re interested in attending but still haven’t registered, please do so here

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.