Congress Passes Bipartisan Spending Measure with Funding for Critical Health Programs

  

Following a brief, overnight government shutdown, President Trump this morning signed a spending measure and continuing resolution which reopens the government and provides funding through March 23rd while setting broad spending levels through FY 2019. The measure provides roughly $500 billion in additional funding over the next two years, including roughly $140 billion in additional non-defense domestic spending, a similar increase in defense spending, and roughly $90 billion in federal relief funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, and Florida, which were pummeled by devastating hurricanes last summer, and for those impacted by the California wildfires. The bill also waives the debt ceiling until March 1, 2019.

Crucially, the spending bill provides additional funding for some of the nation’s most important public health programs. It provides $7 billion in funding for the nation’s 2,600 community health centers, which provided care to 26.5 million Americans in 2016; this was a critical need and the $7 billion in this bill represents roughly 2 years of federal funding for the nation’s centers.

The spending measure also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another 4 years, meaning that the program will now be fully funded at the federal level for 10 years. CHIP provides healthcare coverage for roughly nine million American children and is a critical provider of healthcare services. The measure also provides an additional $2 billion in funding to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to better manage their health system and prevents automatic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, while eliminating the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The measure critically provides $6 billion in funding over the next two FYs to fight the opioid epidemic.

With a large portion of the nation’s fiscal policy taken care of, the House and Senate have now cleared their plates to work on a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, better known as DACA. The Trump administration plans on ending the DACA Program on March 5th, giving Congress roughly four weeks to come up with a solution to shield hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation. ANA supports the DACA program and urges the House and Senate to quickly come to an agreement to keep these young Americans in the country. The Senate has already taken up a measure this morning to begin debate on the fate of DACA; ANA will continue to monitor this important issue.

We applaud Congress for coming to a bipartisan, long-term spending deal which ensures that several of the nation’s most important healthcare programs receive long-term funding. CHIP, the nation’s community health centers, and the VA all provide critical healthcare access to some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, and Congress should be commended for recognizing their importance.

ANA also applauds Congress for providing additional funding to areas hit hard by this summer’s devastating hurricanes and by the wildfires in California; the American Nurses Foundation teamed with the Texas Nurses Association in August to raise donations for victims, and numerous nurses went down to Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean to help out. The spending measure signed into law this morning, however, only provides funding for the government through March 23rd; until then, members of Congress will continue to work to hammer out appropriations for federal agencies and programs for the remainder of FY 2018 and FY 2019. We strongly urge you to make your voices heard and let your member of Congress know that funding for the nation’s healthcare programs is critical to the overall health of the nation.

Photo Credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Nurses work to stem the opioid crisis

  

Nurses see firsthand the devastating effects of the opioid crisis on their patients, communities, and perhaps even themselves or their families. ANA members have been forthcoming in their stories about access, treatment, and the pain they have dealt with each and every day working to fight this crisis. That’s why many are cheering the Trump administration’s work on the crisis, with the First Lady leading the administrative efforts for declaring it a national emergency, as nurses team with emergency responders, policymakers, law enforcement, and other stakeholders in the fight to turn the tide on the devastating effects of opioid abuse in local communities.

The statistics are sobering: 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug misuse in 2016. The number of people misusing prescription opioids in 2015 is even more alarming, 12.5 million people. There is hope—however, a comprehensive approach is needed from the ground level all the way up through state and federal governments in order to address the crisis. ANA supports nurses who are facing this crisis head on through targeted continuing education, support of federal legislation that supports nurses to practice to the full extent of their training and education, and supporting/advocating for policies that allow APRNs to prescribe medication assisted therapy, which has proven effective in stemming substance use disorder.

Within the walls of Congress, there are currently over a hundred of bills aimed at addressing varying aspects of the opioid crisis. Two in particular are at top of ANAs priorities for opioid legislation. In the Senate ANA has signed on to support is Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, introduced by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA). In the House, Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced H.R. 3692, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act with support from ANA and our nursing partners. The latter bill aims to build on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in order to allow clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to practice to the full extent of their training and education in prescribing buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine, however, is just one piece of the puzzle in treating opioid dependency. As with all medications used in Medication Assisted Therapies (MAT), it is just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes addressing the underlying issues through counseling and participation in social support programs. Nurses play a primary role in comprehensive treatment plans and will continue to be integral in treating the most vulnerable populations throughout the country. ANA urges you to continue to voice your support in this fight by contacting your representatives and asking them to support H.R. 3692.

 

And Here’s What You Missed On Healthcare!

  

On Monday – The Congressional Budget Office – a nonpartisan group that calculates the impact of proposed legislation – said the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act would leave tens of millions more Americans without coverage in the next decade, but it would also save the government a lot of money. That didn’t help convince any Democrats to back it. But – surprise – many GOP senators aren’t pleased either.

On Tuesday – The Senate delayed the vote on its healthcare plan until after the July 4th break. As a reminder, the plan includes things like a cap on federal funding for Medicaid and a temporary freeze on Planned Parenthood funding. It keeps the rule that insurance companies can’t arbitrarily raise prices for people with pre-existing conditions, but has a caveat that could still increase certain healthcare costs for them. Some say the bill doesn’t do enough to roll back Obamacare. And others are worried cutting funding for things like Medicaid and Planned Parenthood would hurt the Americans who need it most.

On Thursday – Senate GOP lawmakers are adding some extra money to their healthcare bill to help fight the opioid crisis. In recent years, the number of people in the US who have become addicted to opioids (think: heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone) has gone way up. Especially in rural parts of America. Cutting how much money states get for Medicaid would mean less money to spend on helping people fight addictions. Many Senators from both sides of the aisle – especially from states hard hit by the opioid crisis – are not down with this. So now, the GOP’s adding $45 billion to their bill specifically for substance abuse treatment. Governors on both side of the aisle say this isn’t enough.

Today – GOP Senators are going back to the drawing board, with new amendments and negotiations, some of which include a repeal and replace-later plan. Which means they’ll wait for another CBO review before putting version 2.0 to a vote.

Now – Senators are heading home for a week of recess, aka district work period, and they need to continue to hear from you.

The Senate made a last-minute decision to delay the vote – all because of nurses like YOU, joining with others across the country, calling every single day to speak out for your patients and the 22 million people at risk of losing their health care.

But a delay isn’t a victory. And your patients deserve a victory.

Even if you’ve already called – even if you already know where your Senators stand – we need EVERYONE to call again.

We’ve seen what can happen when they think we’re not watching: when this bill was in the House, there was a delay just like this week’s delay in the Senate, and lawmakers saw that the calls were slowing down. Just when their constituents let up on the pressure, they rushed their bill through to pass by the thinnest margin.

We absolutely cannot let that happen again!