Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities
Congress passed a third continuing resolution (CR) (H.R. 2872) on January 19 to avoid a government shutdown, temporarily extending Fiscal Year 2023 (FY2023) funding levels while appropriators negotiate on a final FY2024 spending package. The new CR establishes a “laddered” deadline for federal spending bills, with some federal agencies and programs facing a new March 1 deadline. Larger agencies, including those funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill, now face a March 8 deadline, affording lawmakers just under 3 additional weeks to finalize FY2024 spending levels.
On January 7, a bipartisan group of senior appropriators reached an agreement on topline spending levels for FY2024, kickstarting negotiations on programmatic spending levels with less than a month to approve a spending package. However, lawmakers from the right-wing Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives have blocked all legislative action in the lower chamber in opposition to the bipartisan deal forged by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA-04). As a result, Speaker Johnson will need more time to build approval for the deal within the Republican caucus or renegotiate topline numbers with Democrats.
NASTAD will continue to monitor the congressional appropriations process and advocate for the highest possible funding for HIV, hepatitis, and drug user health programs.
NASTAD Calls on Congress to Fund Health Programs in FY2024
On January 12, NASTAD and the Partnership to End the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Epidemics called on Congress to reject major cuts to health programs in the FY2024 spending package. The Partnership highlighted the disparities between House and Senate funding levels for health programs, highlighting the consequences that reduced funding will have on collective efforts to combat the HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemics. The coalition also highlighted the $400 million rescission in Disease Intervention Specialist workforce funding that was a result of the bipartisan debt limit compromise, urging Congress to reject any further cuts to the public health workforce and programs that work to improve the well-being of individuals affected by HIV, STIs, and Hepatitis.
NASTAD Calls on CMS to Revise Custody Definitions to Ensure Coverage for Older Adults and People with Disabilities
On January 18, NASTAD joined a coalition of aging, disability, healthcare access, and civil rights organizations and called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to revise Medicare’s custody definition to ensure access to health coverage for older adults and people with disabilities who are not subject to institutional confinement. Due to Medicare’s overly broad coverage exclusion for people “in custody,” many older adults and people with disabilities who have a history of involvement with the criminal legal system and are living in the community are unable to access health care services, in turn affecting health, earnings, and recidivism. The coalition highlighted the custody definition change as a critical step to improve health equity and streamline access to health coverage for aging populations.
FDA Announces Shelf-life Extension for Naloxone Nasal Spray
On January 17, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Emergent BioSolutions, the manufacturer of Narcan naloxone nasal spray, is extending the shelf-life of newly produced Narcan 4 mg products. All new Narcan products manufactured by Emergent will be labeled with a 4-year shelf-life, an increase of 1 year over the current expiration dates. FDA requested that Emergent extend the shelf-life of Narcan products in order to expand access to the life-saving opioid overdose reversal product. In March of 2023, FDA approved non-prescription use of Narcan 4 mg nasal sprays.
CDC MMWR: Mpox Outbreak
During the summer of 2023, mpox spread at lower levels than in 2022 but at higher levels than previous months.
Advocates for Youth: Recruiting National Youth HIV & AIDS Day Ambassadors
“Every year, Advocates for Youth pays young people (ages 13-24) to work in their own community or campus to share factual sexual health information, organize actions to address the impact of HIV & AIDS on youth, and create community spaces for healing and reflection. This year, we are selecting 50 young people (ages 13-24, of any gender) for the program. Ambassadors will be trained in HIV policy and community engagement in order to promote a message of prevention, treatment, care and youth empowerment. They will be given a $150 stipend for their work.”
Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator – Austin, TX
Under direction of the Prevention Unit, provides highly advanced, senior-level consultative services and technical assistance as the DSHS viral hepatitis prevention coordinator. Oversees implementation and maintenance of viral hepatitis prevention efforts by identifying ways to integrate viral hepatitis prevention, vaccination, testing, and linkage to care into existing public health, clinical care, and community settings. Responsible for developing a DSHS viral hepatitis prevention plan as well as legislatively-mandated plans, including working with branch staff to solicit input from the public, including experts on Hepatitis, on the tenets of the plan. Apply by April 23.
Program Content and Training Specialist, Supporting Harm Reduction Programs (SHaRP) – University of Washington
This position is part of a cooperative agreement award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide technical assistance about monitoring and evaluation to syringe services programs (SSPs) as part of the National Harm Reduction Technical Assistance Center. One of the primary projects of this award is to provide technical assistance (TA) to SSPs for monitoring and evaluation activities. The University of Washington is working in collaboration with the CDC, SAMHSA, NASTAD, the National Harm Reduction Coalition, and other TA partners to provide a suite of technical assistance support to individual programs.
Communicable Disease Epidemiologist – Cheyenne, Wyoming
This position will serve as the Communicable Disease AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Coordinator, Wyoming TB Controller, and Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) for the Communicable Disease (CD) Treatment Program. Assist in outbreak response to ensure the safety of Wyoming residents; by interviewing cases for exposure information, updating news outlets on the progress of outbreak control, analyzing exposure data utilizing epidemiological and statistical methods.
Open Positions – New York State
The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Health Research, Inc, has various job openings, including some within the AIDS Institute. Please visit this link to learn about their current opportunities.
“Conservative justices on the Supreme Court on Wednesday pressed the Biden administration on whether ambiguous laws passed by Congress should be interpreted by judges, rather than by federal bureaucrats. The high court’s eventual ruling could hand courts — including the Supreme Court itself — more power to strike down regulations on health care, the environment, immigration and virtually all other policy areas that are administered by federal agencies. That would strip power from the executive branch and make it harder for Joe Biden and future presidents to defend their regulatory agendas against legal challenges.”
“Some members of Congress are demanding federal oversight of billions of dollars in opioid settlements, which state and local governments began spending over the past two years — with some using it to plug budget holes rather than fight the addiction crisis… It’s the third time since 2019 that Kaptur has proposed similar legislation, but she considers it more important now because settlement money has begun to flow and examples of questionable uses have surfaced. She cited KFF Health News’ reporting in Greene County, Tennessee, as an example. But in the current Congress — one of the most unproductive on record, and which now faces an election-year calendar full of big-ticket items from the federal budget to border security — the bill’s path forward is difficult at best.”
“A new Biden administration rule released Wednesday aims to streamline the prior authorization process used by insurers to approve medical procedures and treatments.
Prior authorization is a common tool used by insurers but much maligned by doctors and patients, who say it’s often used to deny doctor-recommended care. Under the final rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health insurers participating in Medicare Advantage, Medicaid or the ObamaCare exchanges will need to respond to expedited prior authorization requests within 72 hours, and standard requests within seven calendar days.”