Inside the Beltway – October 2020

Vote for Children: Politics Shapes Policy

Contributed by: Health Policy Committee Member Danielle Altares Sarik, PhD, APRN

It’s election time – and that means lots of ads on television, lots of prerecorded phone calls and (unfortunately) lots of less than factual information floating around about candidates. So, how can you, the informed voter, make a choice based on the topics important to you? It’s important to identify trusted sources of information, and to look into those issues that are most important to you. As a pediatric provider, we want to give you resources you can use to help make your decision!

Prepare for Election Day

Whether this is your first time voting or your 50th, it’s always good to prepare before election day. Review the FAQ list on the voting process from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

  1. Confirm that you are registered to vote.
  2. Update your registration if you’ve had any personal information changes since the last election.
  3. Review what ID or source of identification you will need to vote in your state.
  4. Make sure you have the address of your polling place and have a plan for how you will get there.
  5. If you won’t be able to vote in person on election day, plan ahead to request an absentee or vote by mail ballot.
  6. Make a list of issues that are important to you, and then use reputable sources to see where candidates stand on these topics.
  7. Make a plan to vote and stick to it!

Pediatric and Health-Related Issues to Explore

While there are many issues that you may choose to vote to address, we’ve compiled a list of potential areas to explore as you make your voting decision. These are issues that may impact the health and well-being of the children and families that you care for, and as such, may warrant an extra look:

  1. Health care: access to care, CHIP, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, coverage for existing conditions, including mental health
  2. Maternity and family leave: paid leave, Federal job protection, paternity leave
  3. Environment: climate change, environmental protection, regulations
  4. Science: Support for research, history of science and evidence-based responses, budget support for NIH
  5. Education: access to school, school choice, loans for higher education, loan forgiveness

Trusted Resources

Misinformation is widespread, and unfortunately, is often actively shared on social media platforms. In order to collect unbiased information on issues of interest to you, it is best to avoid social media as a source. If you see misinformation being shared on social media, report the information as misleading. Seek out a trusted source to guide your balanced and unbiased research. For important stories, you may want to see how several trusted sources report on the issues to help you form your opinion.

Visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for information in multiple languages on everything election-related to help you be an informed voter. To decide what news sources you want to trust, you can review Pew Research Center’s popular 2014 study how national news outlets are perceived on the political spectrum. More recently Pew published information on U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election. The University of Michigan published “Fake News,” Lies and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction which suggests that “centerist” new sources include:

  • Wall Street Journal
  • BBC News
  • USA Today
  • NPR
  • PBS News Hour

Political candidates shape policy, and policy in turn shapes the world that our children live in. As a pediatric provider, ensure that you are up to date and informed on the issues that matter to you and the children you care for. Happy voting!


Negotiators Press for Pre-Election Coronavirus Relief Deal

Despite a self-imposed Oct. 20 deadline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin continued to try to reach agreement on a comprehensive coronavirus relief package after Democrats blocked Senate Republicans’ efforts to pass two “targeted” bills to aid small businesses, extend unemployment benefits and reopen schools, but not addressing a host of Democrats’ priorities. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would take up a broader agreement if the House passed it, but he wouldn’t commit to a vote before the Nov. 3 election or whether Republicans would back it.

The negotiations extended two weeks after President Trump, having been released from Walter Reed Military Medical Centers after testing positive for COVID-19, first told Mnuchin and McConnell to break off coronavirus negotiations before then offering a more generous $1.8 trillion proposal that Pelosi called “insufficient” while many Republicans opposed it as being too big. House Democrats narrowly approved a $2.2 trillion relief package Oct. 1 without any Republican votes.


Federal Vaccine Standards Released as Experts Propose Allocation Plan

After weeks of delay, the White House approved tough new standards for coronavirus vaccines Oct. 6 – but only after the Food and Drug Administration unilaterally published the guidelines on its website. The standards for emergency use authorization for a vaccine are similar to standards for traditional approval. The delayed clearance occurred days after President Trump accused the FDA of being “political” in fashioning the guidance. Tired of delay, the FDA circumvented the White House by publishing the criteria online as part of a briefing for its vaccine advisory committee.

Earlier, a panel of vaccine experts, epidemiologists and behavioral scientists convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released its final report and recommendations on allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine Oct. 2, calling for federal and state plans to distribute any coronavirus vaccine to address the stark racial and social inequities exposed by the pandemic. The panel laid out four tiers for vaccine priorities, starting with people who are most likely to spread the virus and people who are most likely to be severely ill if infected, including health care workers, emergency responders, vaccine and drug manufacturers and other vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and infants. The second tier includes national security personnel, teachers, pharmacists and high-risk children, and the panel predicts those two tiers account for roughly half the U.S. population.


Rescheduled – TeamPeds Town Hall: COVID-19 Update and Vaccine Development

As companies around the world work to finalize viable COVID-19 vaccines, health care providers and patients have questions about when vaccines will be available and who will be able to get them. Conflicting information online and in the media make deciphering the situation more challenging. On Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. ET, join us for our next TeamPeds Town Hall – COVID-19 Update and Vaccine Development, featuring infectious disease and immunology expert Patsy Stinchfield, MSN, CPNP as our guest speaker. This event is free, but pre-registration is required by Nov. 4. If you registered for the September date, you do not need to re-register.


Senate Poised to Confirm Supreme Court Conservative Shift

The Senate Judiciary Committee held four days of sharply partisan hearings Oct. 12-15 on the nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, setting the stage for a committee vote on Oct. 22, likely followed by a Senate confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election. The accelerated timeline before the election outraged Democrats who argued the president elected in November should make the appointment of a jurist to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Sept. 18.

Confirmation of the 48-year-old Barrett would establish a 6 to 3 conservative majority on the court, which is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 10 in California v. Texas, a lawsuit brought by Republican state attorneys-general seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Barrett has critiqued the constitutionality of the health reform law multiple times, and the law’s supporters fear she will side with conservative justices to invalidate it. Barrett could also influence a wide array of health policy issues including abortion and reproductive rights.


In Other News…

Congress Delays Spending Decisions Until After Election
Hours ahead of a potential government shutdown as the 2020 fiscal year came to a close, Congress approved a stopgap spending bill that extended funding for federal agencies through Dec. 11 but left major decisions on budget priorities for a post-election “lame duck” session. President Trump signed the “Continuing Appropriations Act and Other Extensions Act” (H.R. 8337) on Oct. 1 after negotiators added funding for agricultural trade relief and nutrition assistance. While the House has passed all but two of its 12 regular appropriations bills, but the Senate has yet to advance any of its fiscal 2021 spending plans.

The resolution also extended a host of Medicare, Medicaid and public health policies as well as continuing funding for the National Health Service Corps, community health centers, community mental health services, and delayed cuts in Medicaid payments to disproportionate share hospitals through Dec. 11. Funds for nursing education and workforce programs was also extended at their fiscal 2020 levels.

the end of the 2020 fiscal year, funding for federal agencies was extended through Dec. 11 Thursday (10/1) when President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution that also continued a host of Medicare, Medicaid and public health policies. The Senate voted 84 to 10 on Wednesday (9/30) to pass the “Continuing Appropriations Act and Other Extensions Act” (H.R. 8337), which cleared the House Sept. 22

NAPNAP Backs APRN Role in Telehealth Expansion
At a Sept. 16 hearing, clinicians and administrators told members of the HHS Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) that the inclusion of telehealth services in alternative payment models increased access to and quality of care in rural areas, reducing burdens for patients and providers, and improving care coordination and patient engagement. Committee staff noted that from the end of 2016 to March 2020, half of the 36 practice model proposals submitted to the committee included a telehealth component, with it being a “central feature” in five of them.

NAPNAP Health Policy Committee co-chair Kelli Garber, MSN, APRN, PPCNP-BC, explained the role of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in expanding patient access to care through telehealth and encouraged the elimination of policies that limit the practice of APRNs in providing those services. Other speakers reinforced the value of telephonic services and encouraged greater flexibility and financial support for improving technology.

Congress Advances Maternal and Mental Health Bills
Legislation requiring smaller airports to provide private facilities for breastfeeding mothers in on the way to the White House after the House endorsed the “Friendly Airports for Mothers Improvement Act” (S. 2638) Oct. 1. Larger airports are already subject to similar requirements. A day earlier, the House on Tuesday passed the “Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019” (H.R. 4996) Sept. 29, giving states the option of extending Medicaid coverage to women for one year after they give birth and eliminating a cap on some Medicaid drug rebates. The bill moves to the Senate for possible consideration in a post-election lame duck session.

The House also approved the “School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act of 2019” (H.R. 2075), authorizing federal funding for health centers in schools through fiscal 2024, along with a number of mental health and suicide prevention bills passed on Sept. 29. Those measures include the “Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019” (H.R. 5469) authorizing funds to address racial and ethnic minority mental health disparities; the “Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2019” (H.R. 1109) to support mental health services in schools; and the “Improving Mental Health Access from the Emergency Department Act of 2019” (H.R. 2519) to assist hospitals in supporting patients treated for a mental health episode in the emergency department.


Join Our Child Health Policy Learning Collaborative

NAPNAP’s Child Health Policy Learning Collaborative is open to all NAPNAP members and meets at 8 p.m. ET via Zoom on the first Wednesday of every month from September through May to discuss policy trends and advocacy solutions on national, state and local levels. You can access past meetings on-demand.

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