How the ‘red ripple’ could impact health policy in 2023 and beyond (The Hill)

THE HILL | Rather than a red wave, the 2022 congressional midterms brought a ‘red ripple’. 

With races still being decided and votes counted, Democrats have won control of the Senate, despite a runoff in Georgia. It looks like Republicans will take back the House — albeit with a much smaller majority than they had hoped. 

What does this all mean for health policy? With a divided Congress, President Biden’s ability to pass major, sweeping legislation along party lines (like the Inflation Reduction Act) falls to the wayside. But it doesn’t mean legislating comes to a standstill. Contrary to popular opinion, Congress has passed major health-related legislation with bipartisan support in recent years. This includes:

  • The No Surprises Act, which passed as part of 2020 appropriations legislation, established new federal protections against surprise medical bills;
  • Major opioid legislation of 2018, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act;
  • The 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, which modernized the development and delivery of drugs and medical devices and advanced research into serious illness;
  • And the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), which repealed the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula and changed the way that Medicare rewards clinicians for value over volume.

Read the full article here:

“A Storm For Which We Are Entirely Unprepared …”: A 2005 Pandemic Prophecy & Call For A “Manhattan Project” For The 21st Century (Forbes)

FORBES | Two years ago this week, the United States declared a public health emergency in response to what was then being referred to as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, now widely known to all as COVID-19. Few envisioned how all-encompassing and destructive this virus would become. Few would have believed that two years later, it would have led to nearly 900,000 deaths in the United States, with thousands more still suffering the effects of long COVID, as well as the devastating financial repercussions the pandemic has sowed.

Yet, it was predicted. A coming pandemic was certain. Tragically, it was not adequately prepared for. And now as we continue to recover and slowly enter a stage of endemicity, we must increase our resolve to prepare for the next pandemic — for there will be another.  

Seventeen years ago, I, serving then as Majority Leader of the United States Senate and one of the few physician-scientists in Congress, wrote a formal Declaration to serve as the foundation for a nationwide call-to-action to what I and a few others saw as the inevitability of a coming catastrophic pandemic that would cause massive loss of life and destruction of livelihood: “But we will not be able to sleep through what is likely coming soon — a front of unchecked and virulent epidemics, the potential of which should rise above your every other concern.”

The Declaration, which I share in its entirety below, was the substance of a speech which I repeatedly delivered over the course of a year across the country in multiple venues, from large outdoor settings in San Francisco to the National Press Club in Washington, DC to the lecture halls at Harvard. The mission was urgent — to warn we were not prepared for what we would have to face and to lay out a proposal that would “dwarf the Manhattan Project.”  We knew that if left unprepared we would face a global pandemic that would devastate our economy, our livelihoods, our health systems, our way of life. We did not prepare.

Read the full article here:–call-for-a-manhattan-project-for-the-21st-century/?sh=5452666513f2

What a Difference a Decade Makes

(The Hill, May 28, 2013)

By Rep. Barbara Lee and Bill Frist

A Democratic Congresswoman and a former Republican Senator aren’t afforded many opportunities to work together. Especially at a time of fiscal crisis when every dollar is scrutinized and fought over, partisanship pushes us into opposite corners. But we agree on a program that truly has bipartisan support, saves millions of lives a year, and contributes directly to stability, security and economic growth worldwide.

Ten years ago this May, when the AIDS pandemic was at its worst, ravaging many African countries and a sure death sentence for millions, our country responded in an unprecedented way. We both, along with the late Republican Congressman Henry Hyde and the late Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, worked with the Congressional Black Caucus and a bipartisan group of legislators to address this enormous problem. Soon after, in 2003, then-President George W. Bush instated PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, pledging $15 billion over five years to combat the spread of HIV, prevent further infections and improve access to care for millions of people across the globe.  Each year since then, Congress, with bipartisan support, has stood behind the program, providing critical funding to enable PEPFAR to truly help change the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic.

Now, a decade later, PEPFAR’s success isn’t just measured in dollars spent, but in lives saved and communities improved. The Institute of Medicine called the program “transformational” in global health.

PEPFAR has directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for nearly 5.1 million men, women and children around the world, and is helping prevent hundreds of thousands of mother-to-child transmissions, an essential step toward achieving an AIDS-free generation. Engaging women is crucial to the broader goal; about half of the people living with HIV worldwide are women, and their empowerment is critical to beating this disease. PEPFAR supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women in 2012 alone.

Because of PEPFAR, we’re not just working toward an AIDS-free generation, we’re achieving an AIDS-free generation.

All around the world, PEPFAR is caring both for the health of the individual and the health of communities. The medications and programs supported by PEPFAR are so effective that people living with HIV/AIDS are doing just that — living. Infected individuals can care for their families and hold jobs. Communities enjoy economic stability. The United States earns a positive reputation.

But we are at a tipping point to truly realize this vision. If we back away now, the gains we’ve made will evaporate; the success we’ve had will disappear. Support of PEPFAR now is as important as it was 10 years ago.

HIV is a virus, not an ideology. Democrats and Republicans should be proud of PEPFAR’s legacy and continue to support it moving forward, providing the program with the robust funding it still needs to help achieve an AIDS-free generation.

Lee serves on the House Committee on the Budget and the House Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and is founding co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus and represents the United States on the United Nations’ Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Frist is adjunct professor of surgery at Vanderbilt and Meharry medical schools and former majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

This article was originally featured in The Hill