Important Happenings in HIV/Health Policy
Week ending: January 11, 2018
By: Sable K. Nelson & Matthew Rose
TAKE ACTION: Trump Administration Proposes Changes to Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit that Could Hurt PLWH
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have proposed new rules that could have unprecedented access restrictions to lifesaving HIV drugs under Medicare Part D. If finalized, this rule would jeopardize our nation’s efforts to provide treatment to Medicare beneficiaries living with HIV, one of the largest providers of HIV care services. The new proposed rule would change the “protected class status” of anti-retrovirals under Medicare Part D, which allows PLWH to have direct access to the best treatments as prescribed by their doctor. Over the last 15 years, this policy has saved and improved millions of lives and brought us closer than ever to our shared goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. AIDS United has led the charge, providing a way to edit and submit your own comments, check out: https://www.aidsunited.org/Take-Action/My-Status-My-Medicare!.aspx. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on January 25, 2019 in response to a rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For additional information about the proposed regulation, check out this webinar presented by the HIV Health Care Access Working Group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZy0yTaOZw&feature=youtu.be
READ: Report Impact of Trump Administration Judiciary on the LGBT Community
Lambda Legal issued a report entitled “The Promise of a Fair and Independent Judiciary is Under Siege.” This document examines the impact of the Trump Administration on the judiciary with an LGBT lens. The Trump Administration has worked tirelessly to confirm ideologically driven judges in order to further their ultraconservative policy objectives in the courts. To achieve this aim, the administration has worked closely in tandem with outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and advisors from a powerful, but shrouded, network of right-wing organizations. For more information, READ https://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/trumps-judicial-assault-on-lgbt-rights
US Senator and US Representatives Introduce Legislation to Reduce Prescription Drug Plans
On Thursday, Jan. 10, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Joe Neguse (D-Co.), and other cosponsors in the House and Senate held a press conference to announce a legislative package of three bills that would drastically reduce prescription drug prices in the United States. These bills seek to provide policy solutions to address particular challenges in the current health insurance market such as giving HHS the authority to invalidate manufacturers’ exclusivity rights if their prices are deemed excessively high; allowing HHS to negotiate prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and permitting Americans to buy drugs from other countries, like Canada. For more information, WATCH https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/video-audio/sanders-cummings-and-colleagues-announce-legislation-to-lower-drug-prices. For a good summary of how drug prices are set in the United States, LISTEN to a recent “Today, Explained” podcast regarding prescription drug prices: https://art19.com/shows/today-explained/episodes/cec4cf6e-55d0-4606-87ec-8ee2ad54b117
UPDATE: How the Government Shutdown Affects Health Programs
As the partial government shutdown stretches into unprecedented territory, several questions have been raised regarding the health and well-being of both the impacted government workers as well as the persons who benefit from government programs. For example, the USDA announced funding for SNAP (food stamps) will remain for February 2019 (for more information, READ https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/usda-to-fund-snap-for-february-2019-but-millions-face-cuts-if-shutdown) but it’s unclear what will happen after February if the government does not re-open. Similarly, health care benefits are not expected to be interrupted for those affected by the current partial federal government shutdown (for more information, READ https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/01/11/683770812/most-federal-workers-health-coverage-to-continue-during-shutdown-even-if-pay-sto). However, some people living with HIV have already begun encountering obstacles and financial impediments for accessing essential HIV treatment, including labs and prescription medications.
What You Can Do
TAKE ACTION: It is very important that our elected officials hear from us to protect federal funding for HIV prevention and care. Speak truth to power by sharing your personal stories with your elected officials. It is vitally important to meet to your federal elected officials when they are at home. If we don’t support and advocate for HIV funding and programs, who will? Our movement cannot afford to stand on the sidelines. Your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives need to hear from you.
- Find your U.S. Senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
- Find your U.S. Representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
What NMAC is Doing About It
- NMAC remains vigilant in its advocacy to protect FY19 government funding and the existence of the social safety net.
- NMAC is planning for the new year and meeting our new members of congress we are very excited to talk to the new House about our priors. We spent last Thursday stopping by members’ offices to welcome them to Hill.
- NMAC is working in coalition to defend the right of people living with HIV to serve in the US military.