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From the Hill to the NICU

Monthly Advocacy Updates

NANN's Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) is committed to advocating for optimized care, and health outcomes for neonates and their families. In an effort to raise awareness of key regulations and issues that affect NANN, NANNP, and the populations we serve, the HPAC Committee will be sending out monthly updates to help keep you informed.

June 2020 - Lend Your Voice to Advance Equitable Healthcare

Tommie Farrell, RN
Julie Sundermeier, DNP APRN NNP-BC

According to NANN's 2020 Advocacy Agenda, our organization pledged to support and enhance legislation that would benefit all babies regardless of race, parental economic/educational status, or geographic area. When adding disparities in the NICU to the Advocacy Agenda, no one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic or the societal unrest that would follow the death of George Floyd. Both events have highlighted our nation's profound inequalities and the challenges we face in order to create a more equitable world. As nurses, we must hold ourselves, our hospitals, and our governments accountable to the work that needs to be done in order to dismantle the disparities in our NICUs and healthcare systems.

Nurses have the responsibility to look at the healthcare systems we work in and take thoughtful actions to address inequities and advocate for change. A tangible step nurses can take to address the systemic issues we see in our institutions is to engage with elected officials. For 18 consecutive years, Gallup polls have rated nursing as the most trusted profession in the United States. Now is the time to leverage our trusted position, and to lend our voice, expertise, and compassion to educate and bring about the necessary changes to create a more equitable healthcare system.

In a statement to the House Ways and Means Committee on June 1st, President of the American Nurses Association, Ernest J. Grant, PhD RN, called on nurses to "educate yourself and then use your trusted voice and influence to educate others about the systemic injustices that have caused the riots and protests being covered in the news."

"The pursuit of justice requires us all to listen and engage in dialogue with others," he said. "Leaders must come together at the local, state, and national level and commit to sustainable efforts to address racism and discrimination, police brutality, and basic human rights. We must hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to committing to reforms and action."

NANN is aligned with ANA's statement. Our organization understands that nurses can and should lead the charge to create a more just world. Nurses have allies and supporters in Congress, and we must urge them to act too. The Congressional Nursing Caucus is charged with the responsibility of educating elected officials on issues that are important to our profession and how it impacts healthcare. We urge you to review the list of current Caucus Members. If your Representative is not listed, consider sending them a letter urging them to join. This is a great place to start: https://www.aonl.org/advocacy/resources/congressional-nursing-caucus

NANN continues to watch for legislation that will ensure equitable outcomes:

  • H.R.1897 MOMMA's Act
  • S.116-MOM's Act
  • S2373-Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization Services Act

We know that there will be more legislation introduced in the weeks and months to come. As a profession, we must reflect on how we can be part of the change in ending systemic racism in our units, hospital systems, and beyond. Change can sound daunting, but a great place to start is in your unit. Read NANN's new position statement, Racial Disparity in the NICU, to learn how you can better support patients and families that face inequality in the NICU. Together we will be able to make great change.

June 2020 - Testing Infants for COVID-19

Raymond K. Riley, BSN RNC-NIC
Health Policy & Advocacy Committee Member

While the COVID-19 pandemic has more significantly affected the adult patient population, especially those with underlying conditions, it is important to take note of the effect the virus has had on the mother/baby dyad. Visiting guidelines have been restricted, mothers and their babies have been isolated from one another, and the continuum of care and childbirth has been interrupted.

There is still a lot to be understood when it comes to infants testing positive for COVID-19 and what protocols should follow. This article does not aim to suggest national guidelines for infants and mothers testing positive for COVID-19, but merely provides examples of what has been done in some NICUs to date, specifically in the region of Washington, D.C., to help nurses navigate the current situation. As NICU nurses, it is our job to stay informed of the most recent guidelines on caring for patients with COVID-19, persons under investigation (PUIs), and their newborn infants. Advocating for patients and their families is more important than ever.

The District of Columbia Department of Health is currently operating under guidelines specified by the CDC. If a pregnant mother tests positive for COVID-19 or gives birth before testing is done and is considered a PUI, then the newborn should also be considered a PUI according to CDC guidelines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020). Infants that are considered PUIs (i.e. born to a mother that is positive or a PUI) will need to be tested to rule out COVID-19 infection (Government of the District of Columbia, 2020). Currently, there is little data available on all the possible routes COVID-19 can be transmitted between a mother and a newborn. The CDC is currently recommending that infants should be separated from a mother that is positive or a PUI to minimize the risk of transmission through respiratory secretions. These infants should also be treated as PUIs until they have negative tests (CDC, 2020).

The process for testing an infant is slightly different than an adult. First, the infant should be bathed after birth to remove any fluids potentially containing the virus from the skin. Infants should be tested at 24 hours of life, and then again at 48 hours of life. To test an infant, one swab is inserted into the throat and then into the nasopharynx. That single swab is placed in the viral transport media and sent to the lab for testing (Cummings et al., 2020). An infant would be considered negative if both tests resulted in undetected for the virus.

In the example of Washington, D.C., on a case by case basis, the government health organization directs facilities to allow infants that are born well and test negative to be kept with their COVID-19 positive mother depending on the mother's wishes, facility constraints, illness severity, and individual needs (Government of the District of Columbia, 2020). The CDC endorses this practice and recommends that any infant that is kept in the same room as a positive mother be behind a physical barrier such as a curtain and maintain a 6-foot distance (CDC, 2020). Infants that test negative, do not require NICU admission, and have a negative adult family member can be discharged home. The infant should remain isolated from any positive family members until they are negative. Finally, infants that test positive or remain PUIs, but have no symptoms and do not require NICU care can be discharged home in some cases. These infants should have thorough follow-up through 14 days after birth, and the caretakers should be instructed to take proper precautions at home including hand hygiene, gloves, and masks (Cummings et al., 2020).

Advocating for patients, families, and keeping the mother/infant dyad together, NANN has released a position statement to guide nurses and institutions during the current COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the previously stated CDC guidelines, NANN encourages and fully supports the practice of shared decision making between the mother and the clinical team. This allows the mother to be involved with the decision regarding the plan of care for her infant and develops a working partnership between the two parties. As nurses, we have the opportunity to participate in this holistic approach, determining the plan of care, ensuring that: the family's needs, the infants' needs, and the family's thoughts and feelings are all acknowledged and addressed.

The challenge nurses currently face is immense. To help patients and their families, nurses must try their best to understand the varying and evolving guidelines, recommendations, and the impact protocol may have on a baby and their mother. Together we can learn the best tools for advocating for our mothers and babies during this pandemic.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html.

Cummings, J., Hudak, M., Kimberlin, D., & Puopolo, K. (2020). Management of Infants Born to Mothers with COVID-19. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Government of the District of Columbia. (2020). Guidance for Pregnant Women COVID19. https://coronavirus.dc.gov/.

National Perinatal Association/ National Association of Neonatal Nurses. (2020). Mothers with COVID-19 and Their Newborn Infants. http://nann.org/uploads/About/PositionPDFS/Position%20Statement%20COVID-19_NPA%20and%20NANN.pdf

April 2020 - Nurses on the Frontline

Julie Sundermeier, DNP APRN NNP-BC
NANNP Council Member

On March 11th, the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 as a global pandemic. In the US, we witnessed the global effects of this virus and continue to experience the impact on society, the economy, and healthcare. Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US on January 11, 2020, the country has reported 938,154 cases, and 53,755 deaths. (John Hopkins University; April 28, 2020). Hospitals across the US, especially in areas hardest hit, have experienced marked shortages of personal protective equipment, testing, ventilators, bed space, and healthcare personnel, including nurses and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

To overcome nursing shortages many states took steps to authorize emergency licensure to provide the increased coverage needed during surge capacity. This involved temporary licensure for retired, out-of-state, and inactive nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs). States have also temporarily waived part of the requirements or all requirements for collaborative/supervisory/protocol agreements for NP practice.

The need for professional mobility in times of crisis brings to light advantages of compact State Licenses for RNs, as well as APRNs. Currently there are 33 States with eNCL (Nurse Licensure Compact) legislation for RNs. New Jersey enacted partial implementation on 3/24/20 and Indiana has future implementation slated for 7/1/20. Nurses apply for their multistate license in their home State, which allows them to practice with one license, either in person or via telehealth, in both their home state and other states participating in the NLC.

A license compact for APRNs was proposed in 2015 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Under the APRN Compact, APRNs could legally provide care to patients across state lines without having to obtain additional licenses. Currently, three states have signed APRN Compact legislation: Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota. These states are 3 of the 22 in the nation (plus the District of Columbia) who grant full practice authority. The primary barrier to the APRN Compact moving forward will be individual state legislation and restrictions that are imposed limiting full practice authority. The APRN Compact will be implemented when 10 states have enacted the legislation. In order to be eligible to join the APRN Compact, states must pass the model legislation without any material differences. (NCSBN, 2020).

The benefits of the APRN Compact include:

  • Creates a model that allows APRNs to practice freely among member states while still allowing states to retain autonomy and the authority to enforce the state nurse practice act.
  • Improves access to licensed APRNs during a disaster or other times of great need for qualified advanced nursing services.
  • Benefits military spouses with APRN licenses who often relocate every two years.
  • Grants the necessary legal authority to facilitate interstate information sharing and investigations in the event of adverse actions to ensure public protection.
  • Eliminates redundant, duplicative regulatory processes and unnecessary fees.

In addition, many states have called for health care volunteers to help respond to the pandemic crisis. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is tracking calls for volunteers and you can find more information about state volunteer opportunities on their website.

The ANA website has a link for volunteer sites for RNs.

Emergency responses to RN and APRN practice and education, as well as state emergency responses, can be found at https://www.ncsbn.org/14508.htm. National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking state actions related to licensed workers as part of the COVID-19 response:

*eNLC states for RNs include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

March 2020 - Completing the 2020 Census is More Important than Ever

Susie Taylor, RNC-NIC
NANN HPAC Member

The year 2020 has been declared "The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife" by the World Health Organization and it is also the year for the 2020 United States Census. As nurses it's important to know how the census impacts our federal government, but more important for us is to understand how it will effect healthcare.

Let's start with a quick overview of the basics:

  • It is mandated by Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution that the population of the United States be counted every ten years. It is vital to get an accurate population count as the U.S. Census helps determine how hundreds of billions of federal dollars will be spent and distributed across the country, including funding for schools, police and fire departments, road and infrastructure projects, and health clinics.
  • The 2020 census survey runs from March 12- July 31, 2020 and can be completed online, by phone or in person. In December of 2020 the Census Bureau will give its report to the President and Congress. The 2020 census is being monitored closely to evaluate the need for an extension or change in methodology due to COVID19.
  • Based on the number of people counted in each state, changes to the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives may be adjusted in a process known as reapportionment. Some states will gain an extra congressional representative and others will lose a seat to make up the 435 members of the House of Representatives. The count also impacts the number of Electoral votes each state has in presidential elections.

The census impacts healthcare in a variety of ways. While the census occurs every 10 years, the data taken from it influences the delivery and funding for the healthcare of millions of Americans each year. The Census Bureau is also responsible for the American Community Survey (ACS) to collect socio-economic data of the U.S. population on a yearly basis. With this information the data enables:

  • Establishment of eligibility and reimbursement rates set for Medicaid, enrollment for Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
  • Medicare Part B reimbursement rates to be set, and an account for the cost of providing care in specific geographical areas.
  • Social Determinates of Health. The 2020 Census tracks the population's race, nation of origin, and type of housing. The ACS expands on the census by evaluating income and educational levels on a yearly basis in order to understand where/what resources are needed most. All of these factors are known to be influencers of health.
  • Public Health Measures. The CDC and Department of Health and Human Services utilize census results for research, tracking diseases, and potential barriers to federal program access. Without an accurate count of the population, how could the CDC truly know the impact of a disease such as the yearly flu or the current COVID19?

The 2020 Census is open! Go to https://2020census.gov/ to respond today or to learn more.

Reference:

https://2020census.gov/en/census-data.html

Leadership Conference Educational Fund, April, 2018, The Census and Healthcare. Center on Poverty and Inequality, Georgetown Law https://censuscounts.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Census-Health-Care-Factsheet.pdf 

March 2020 - 2020 Advocacy Agenda

As the association for neonatal nurses and advanced practice neonatal nurses, NANN seeks to optimize care and health outcomes for neonates and their families. In an initiative to be purposeful with our legislative advocacy efforts, the Health Policy and Advocacy Committee has created an advocacy agenda for the year. We will focus our energy, communication channels, and resources towards advancing our core issues at the federal level. The full agenda follows and an electronic copy is available.

Disparities in the NICU

There are numerous studies demonstrating health disparities in pre-term NICU infants. Three contributors to health disparities have been described: increased risk for pre-term birth, lower quality of care, and socioeconomic disadvantages. NICU mothers who experience poor social determinants of health have an increased risk of losing a child before his or her first birthday. NANN strongly believes that all infants, regardless of race, parental economic or educational status, or geographic area should receive equal, quality healthcare.

Related legislation:

H.R. 1897 – MOMMA's Act

S. 116 – MOMS Act

S. 2373 – Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization Services Act

Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave allows working people to continue to earn all or a portion of their income while they take time away from work to meet family caregiving or personal health needs. This can include time to address a serious medical condition or a significant health event such as pregnancy (medical) and to care for a newborn. Paid leave is a critical tool to invest in the mother and infant needs, supporting healthier pregnancies, better birth outcomes, more successful breastfeeding, and both physical and mental health in the post-partum period.

Related legislation:

H.R. 4964 – Paid Family Leave Pilot Extension Act

H.R. 1185 – FAMILY Act

Nutrition and Breastfeeding

The breastfeeding experience plays an important role in the healthy neurological development of the infant as well as supporting the establishment of the critical relationship between the infant and mother as a dyad. NANN supports the need for access and education to information on breastfeeding, thereby encouraging breastfeeding as the best possible experience for the nutritional and emotional health of infants.

Related legislation:

H.R. 5592 – PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (S. 3170 Companion Bill)

S. 2381 – Traveling Parents Screening Consistency Act of 2019

Nursing Workforce Development

The continued development of the nursing workforce is critical to the health of our country. Through research, education, expansion of access to healthcare facilities and providers, and funding directly connected to meeting the nursing profession's pressing needs, NANN advocates for the entire nursing community.

Related legislation:

H.R. 728 - Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (Passed House)

S. 1399 – Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019

S. 1045 – Nursing Where It's Needed Act

H.R. 900 – ACO Assignment Improvement Act of 2019

NANN will continue to provide updates and calls to action regarding our 2020 Advocacy Agenda priorities.

February 2020 - The First 1,000 Days

Michelle Cherry, DNP RN

Children and their mothers have struggled with obtaining adequate nutrition throughout the world and many suffer from chronic malnutrition leading to their developmental growth being stunted. Chronic malnutrition has downstream effects on these children and often lead to life-threatening diseases and infections. Obesity is another form of malnutrition that has affected our youth, mainly due to unhealthy diets.

The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world yet still suffers from having one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates. The U.S. statistics are staggering with:

  • 1 in 12 babies being born at low birth weight
  • 1 in 6 have not had any breastmilk
  • 1 in 4 being overweight/obese by the time they turn 5
  • 1 in 6 under 6 years old live in households that struggle with healthy food options.

Contributing to high obesity rate, the U.S. has one of the unhealthiest diets which is high in sugar and saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables. The population most affected by these low nutritional diets are low-income families. These differences in healthy food intake habits widen the gap with already existing disparities.

Where do we go from here to look to improve the outcomes of our new moms and babies? Supporting the mother's nutritional status during pregnancy is key in ensuring her diet can support the needs of her fetus's rapidly growing brain. The mother requires foods that are rich in folic acid, zinc, iron, and iodine, as well as protein and fatty acids to support this growth. Lack of any of these critical nutrients can lead to developmental delays, cognitive deficits, and birth defects.

During the first 1,000 days of a newborn's life, their brain is growing faster than any other period. The nutritional status of the mother and baby are stepping-stones in building baby's cognition and motor skills. Without proper nourishment and nutrition, the baby's ability to reach developmental milestones is hindered, creating irreversible damage to their growing brain. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed and is the reason that the first 1,000 days of life are so important. Breastmilk contains the perfect nutrition to support brain growth and provides nutritional support that formula cannot replicate, such as growth factors and hormones. It is no surprise that breastfed babies perform better on intelligence tests and have higher IQ scores. Breastfeeding also provides physical contact that supports the baby's sensory and emotional needs. Rapid brain growth reaches 80% by age 3 and 90% by age 5, and this growth requires foods rich in iron, zinc, and protein. A deficiency in these critical nutrients can impair their learning capacity and their behavior.

1,000 Days is working to turn what the evidence shows as best practices into a reality to improve the lives of these moms and babies. 1,000 Days focus is to:

Increase investment in women's nutrition and health throughout the 1st 1,000 days
Expand programs that provide the most vulnerable children with proper nutrition to ensure they thrive- In December 2019, funding for global nutrition programs was increased by $150 million
Improve baby/toddler diets and feeding practices- Supplemental nutrition programs for WIC will receive $6 billion, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Programs will receive full funding of $90 million for the 1st time
Improve policy and funding to ensure that more children are provided with mother's own milk- The CDC received a small increase after years of flat funding to include $9 million aimed at providing hospitals and states with the tools to help improve breastfeeding rates and implement baby-friendly practices.
Calling on Congress and the administration to support a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that covers all workers

Join the movement to help moms and babies by visiting 1,000 Days website and send a letter to your members of Congress to urge their support in the campaign and for Paid Parental Leave.

Reference:

Homepage- 1,000 Days. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2020, from https://thousanddays.org/

July 2019 - Update on Nurse Practitioner Full Practice Authority in the U.S.

Julie Sundermeier, DNP APRN NNP-BC

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners defines full practice authority as "the authorization of nurse practitioners (NPs) to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests and initiate and manage treatments—including prescribe medications—under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing." There are 22 states and the District of Columbia, along with two U.S. territories, who currently have Full Practice Authority (FPA) for nurse practitioners as seen in green on the map below (AANP, 2018). States with a reduced or restricted environment have laws either requiring a career-long regulated collaborative agreement, limits on the setting of one or more elements of NP practice, or delegation and team management by another health provider.

FromtheHill July 2019

Several states have introduced FPA legislation in 2019 with varying degrees success including California, Florida, Kansas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. As legislation is introduced APRNs are educating legislators and the public on how FPA can improve access to care, reduce cost, and increase efficiency. States are also making incremental advances towards Full Practice Authority. Below are examples of 2019 state legislation regarding prescriptive authority:

  • Arkansas - AR H 1267- Enacted March 29. Extends the prescriptive authority of an advanced practice registered nurse to Schedule II drugs, under certain conditions.
  • New Jersey - SB 1961 eliminates requirement of joint protocol with physician for advanced practice nurses to prescribe medication.
  • Utah - HB 336 signed in to law on March 25. Amends the requirements for NPs to maintain a consultation and referral plan to legally prescribe Schedule II agents. Once enacted, the law narrows this requirement to NPs who open their own practice and who have been licensed as an APRN for less than one year, or who have fewer than 2,000 hours of practice. The new law allows the supervisor of a consultation and referral plan to be either a physician or an APRN who has at least three years of experience. The requirement for a career-long consultation and referral plan for NPs who own or operate pain management clinics remains unchanged.

References:

AANP (2018, December). State Practice Environment. Retrieved from https://www.aanp.org/advocacy/state/state-practice-environment

May 2019 - Two Bills Affecting our Patient Population

Alyssa Jelinek, BSN RNC-NIC

MOMMA Act

Introduced by Representative Kelly (D-IL), the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act overall aims to improve federal efforts in preventing maternal mortality. Within the United States about 700 women die due to pregnancy related complications while another 65,000 suffer near-fatal complications. The United States continues to have a high maternal mortality rate when compared to other countries, it is believed that as many as half of these are preventable. There are also significant racial disparities with Black women dying of maternal-related deaths at three to four times that of non-Hispanic White women; specifically, there are 12.7 death per 100,000 live births for White women, 14.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other ethnicities, and an alarming 43.5 deaths per 100,00 live birth for Black women.

The MOMMA act will address these alarming issues through developing policies to improve data collection, disseminate information on effective interventions, and expand health care and social service access for postpartum women. The MOMMA act would also extend Medicaid, CHIP, and WIC coverage for pregnant and postpartum women from 60 days to 1 year. Finally, this legislation aims to address cultural competency and implicit bias (attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner) through education.
Please support the MOMMA Act by following this link  to reach out to your Representative and Senators.

H.R. 728: Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019

Introduced by Representatives Joyce (R-OH), Gabbard (D-HI), Davis (R-IL), Bonamici (D-OR), Matsui (D-CA), Castor (D-FL), McKinley (R-WV), and Underwood (D-IL) on January 23rd, 2019, the purpose of the bill is to amend Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act, extending through Fiscal Year 2024. Specific programs focus on nurse retention, recruitment, education (through advanced education), and faculty preparation.
The new bill proposes amendments to several sections to include:

  • An annual report on the nursing workforce programs to be submitted by the Secretary. The purpose of the report is to assess the Department of Health and Human Services' programs and activities to improve the nursing workforce. The report will identify to what extent the programs are meeting their goals.
  • Recognition for all advance practice nursing roles with newest addition of clinical nurse specialists; adding the CNS to the current group of nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse-midwives.
  • Further funding for increasing nursing workforce diversity, giving grants to increase opportunities for students with minority backgrounds.
  • Promote a career ladder through supporting career advancement through rewarding grants to promote specialty training as well as baccalaureate and graduate prepared nursing education, among other supportive measures.
  • Adds Nurse Managed Health Clinics to list of eligible entities in the definition section

March 2019 - Legislation Affecting Moms and Babies

Theresa Crowe, BSN CCRN

The government has reopened and Congress is back to work. Among the many pieces of legislation that have been introduced for consideration this year, there are a handful that should be of particular interest to health care professionals working with moms and babies.

First, is the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards or "MOMS" Act, introduced by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY). This act seeks to provide $5,000,000 a year from 2020-24 to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to study, develop, and initiate best practices that would improve the quality and safety of maternity care across the continuum. The end goal would be to decrease the high levels of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States.

Next, Rep. David P. Joyce (R-OH-14) has introduced H.R. 383, Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019, which, if passed, would maintain the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's particular requirement that people could nNAot be denied insurance coverage because of their pre-existing conditions. This is significant for many of our moms seeking prenatal care who have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, as well as important to many of our babies who will grow up with chronic illnesses. Another bill that would adversely affect access to prenatal care, especially for low-income women, is H.R. 369 Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2019 as introduced by Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-4).

Finally, there is the Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now or "NEWBORN" Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9). This would provide HRSA with $10,000,000 each year from 2020-24 to target areas in the United States with the highest rates of infant mortality (city or rural). HRSA would then work with local agencies already in place to fund outreach, education, and treatment programs aimed at decreasing the infant mortality rate in these areas. This systems approach includes efforts to prevent preterm labor, enhance maternal health and address family needs, (including mental health, substance abuse, housing, domestic violence, smoking cessation, access to health care, etc.), as well as education and support for parents on how to care for babies and keep them safe and healthy. This program would also require HRSA to track information on the success of the programs utilized so that in 2024, health agencies will have a better idea where to focus their efforts across the entire country to further decrease our high rate of infant mortality.

Advocate on behalf of your profession!
All of the above pieces of legislation have just been introduced in January 2019. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to become more aware of or active in the issues that affect you and your patients, follow their progress on Congress.gov. You can look up any piece of legislation in either the House or Senate and even apply filters to help you get to specific areas of interest or concern (such as health). In addition, you can always email or call your local representatives to express your support or opposition to these bills (many are co-sponsored by other Congressmen and Congresswomen) or the offices of the individuals listed above who have introduced them.

January 2019 - Meet Your Nurse Representatives in Congress

Tommie Farrell, RNC-NIC
HPAC Board Liaison

The U.S. Government has finally reopened after the longest shut down in history - Congress now has until February 15 to make a deal or risk another shutdown. With Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) retaking the position of Speaker of the House, the shutdown represented the new power dynamic at the federal level as the Democrats now control the House of Representatives. The incoming freshmen for the House represents the most diverse class ever.

As for health care, we are seeing more science-based representation. Four RN elected officials bring years of nursing and health care education and expertise with them. It is imperative that the most trusted profession in the country has the ability to advocate for our patients and families, present evidence for the need for adequate health care access, and share our unique perspective on how best to reach and care for underserved populations.

Presently, there are four nurses in Congress.

EddieU.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), reelected to a 14th term was the first nurse elected to Congress and has been a tireless advocate for nurses on the Hill. She serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, as well as serving on the House Committee on Transportation, and Infrastructure. Johnson is also a part of the Nursing Caucus.

DonnaU.S. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL-27), Secretary of Health and Human Services under former President Bill Clinton and chair of the 2010 Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing Report at the Institute of Medicine, won a Miami-area congressional seat. Shalala has built a reputation as a staunch supporter of nurses throughout her distinguished career, most recently serving as president of the University of Miami. (Campaign for Action, November, 2018) Shalala serves on the House Committees on Rules and Education and Labor.

LaurenU.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), is an RN who is the youngest black female to be elected to Congress. Her focus has been on public health policy and she has a strong interest in the Affordable Care Act, focusing on pre-existing conditions. She holds two master's degrees in public health and nursing. Her background includes work with the Obama administration working on public health, emergencies, and disaster response. She has also worked for the Department of Health and Human Services.

KarenU.S Rep. Karen Bass, (D-CA-37), originally a vocational nurse, moved on to become a physician's assistant. She serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is on the House Judiciary Committee.

Advocate on behalf of your profession!

These women represent the future of health care. We encourage you to engage with NANN and your elected officials to help shape what the future will look like for the nursing profession, health care policy and our vulnerable patients.

October 2018 - Year in Review

Stephanie M. Blake, DNP APRN NNP-BC
HPAC Chair

CHIP

HPAC continued its reporting on the funding crisis facing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is a grant program in which the federal government and the state's share the cost of extending health insurance coverage to children who neither qualify for Medicaid or whose parents don't have health insurance through their jobs.
Good news for the millions of children covered under this program, CHIP funding has been extended in the federal budget through FY2023. A few highlights of the new funding:

  • Provides federal funding for CHIP for six years, from FY2018 through FY2023.
  • Continues the 23-percentage point enhanced federal match rate for CHIP that was established by the Affordable Care Act, but reduces the federal match rate to the regular CHIP rate over time.
  • Extends the requirement for states to maintain for coverage for children from 2019 through 2023; after October 1, 2019, the requirement is limited to children in families with incomes at or below 300% FPL.

Title VIII

HPAC played a pivotal role in the continued advocacy for this program. Title VIII or the Nursing Workforce Development program funds nursing education helping educate nurses who work in the rural or underserved areas. Additionally, the funds provide loan forgiveness for clinical nurses and nursing educators in order to increase retention within the nursing field. The funds for this program are awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The advanced nursing education grants have helped educate nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse administrators, and public health nurses in primary care in unserved and rural areas. The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill was signed by the President and includes $249.472 million for Title VIII, which is close to a 9% increase over FY 2017. The bill also included $158 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research, which is a 5% increase over FY 2017.

ACA

On June 7th, the Justice Department indicated that it would not defend the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) constitutionality in a case filed by Texas and 19 other states (opposed by 16 other states). The case asserts that because the new Republican tax act removed the individual mandate, the ACA is no longer a constitutional exercise of Congress's power to tax, as established by a 2012 Supreme Court decision. In its statement letter, the Justice Department contends that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance will soon no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law will not be valid either – including preexisting conditions coverage. If these provisions of the ACA were to be deemed unconstitutional, it would once again allow insurers to deny or charge more to people with chronic or preexisting conditions.

August 2018 - Affordable Care Update

Theresa Crowe, BSN CCRN

On June 7th, the Justice Department indicated that it would not defend the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) constitutionality in a case filed by Texas and 19 other states (opposed by 16 other states). The case asserts that because the new Republican tax act removed the individual mandate, the ACA is no longer a constitutional exercise of Congress's power to tax, as established by a 2012 Supreme Court decision.

In its statement letter, the Justice Department contends that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance will soon no longer be constitutional and that, as a result, consumer insurance protections under the law will not be valid either – including preexisting conditions coverage. If these provisions of the ACA were to be deemed unconstitutional, it would once again allow insurers to deny or charge more to people with chronic or preexisting conditions.

The removal of such protections may cause new challenges for our patient populations. NANN will continue to monitor and provide up-to-date information as it becomes available.

August 2018 - ANA Hill Day: Nurses Stand Together

Tommie Farrell, BSN RNC-NIC

If you ever want to feel energized and empowered, spend a day in DC with almost 1000 nurses and advocate for our patients, health care and our profession! My colleague, Heather Hopkins (DVANN) and I joined the American Nurses Association (ANA) on the Capital Hill on June 21st to elevate nursing concerns and demonstrate how our collective voices matter in directing healthcare in America.

While on the Hill, we were able to shine a light on critical issues impacting healthcare, our patients, and our nursing practice. Among the topics we spoke about were the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act, (H.R. 959/ S. 1109), The Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 5052/ S. 2446), and The Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 3692/S. 2317). Many of us had other concerns, not the least of which is the status of families and children caught up in the Immigration debate. So, yes, we dove right in to let everyone know that nurses stand behind the need to protect these vulnerable families.

Because of our advocacy on June 21st, we were able to speak to the importance of APRN prescribing authority regarding MAT (medication assisted treatment). The very next day and directly influenced by our stories, this bill passed through the House and is next up in the Senate. This directly impacts our NAS infant's outcomes for them and their mothers. What a great feeling to have participated in this process!

It is easy to be overwhelmed by our daily lives and feel we don't have time or energy to add advocacy to our list of "to do's" but it is critical for nurse's voices to be heard and to be part of the process. We are the front line for healthcare in America. You certainly don't need to get to DC to do this. Call, email, write and participate in local town halls. Stop by your local offices to check in and tell your story. As we continue to stay involved in advocacy, we look forward to you joining is in the process.

April 2018 - Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development: Small Win and What's Next?

Michelle CherryMichelle Cherry, DNP RN

Now that President Trump has signed the spending bill to fund the government through September: what is the impact on nursing, what is Title VIII funding, and what does it mean to you?

Title VIII or the Nursing Workforce Development program originally began in 1964 by Lyndon Johnson as the Nursing Training Act of 1964 in response to the nursing shortage – more than 20% of hospital nursing positions were vacant. The funds from this program were utilized to fund nursing education and to help educate nurses who work in the rural or underserved areas. In addition, the funds provided loan forgiveness for clinical nurses and nursing educators in order to increase retention within the nursing field. The funds for this program are awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  The advanced nursing education grants have helped educate nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse administrators, and public health nurses in primary care in unserved and rural areas.

There are currently an estimated 2.75 million registered nurses in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nursing workforce is projected to increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026 in order to meet the needs of our baby-boomers that are living longer, increased emphasis on preventative care, and to address chronic conditions.  Currently, nursing schools are turning away qualified applicants due to lack of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical instructors, and budget limitations according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In 2016 alone, nursing schools were forced to turn away 64,067 qualified applicants to nursing programs.  A report issued by the Bureau of Health Professionals predicts by 2020, the percentage of unfilled nursing positions will increase by 29%.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill was signed by the President and includes $249.472 million for Title VIII, which is close to a 9% increase over FY 2017. The bill also included $158 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research, which is a 5% increase over FY 2017. The breakdown of the Title VIII programs are listed. As nurses, we need to continue to speak Congress regarding the importance of these Title VIII funds. NANN will continue to provide updates on Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 (HR 959/S.1109).

Hill to NICU Table

March 2018 - CHIP Renewed Through FY2023

Theresa Crowe, BSN CCRN

Last fall, the Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) reported on the funding crisis facing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is a grant program in which the federal government and the states share the cost of extending health insurance coverage to children who neither qualify for Medicaid or whose parents don't have health insurance through their jobs. Information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicates that about 9 million kids were covered by CHIP in fiscal year 2016.

Unfortunately, the federal side of CHIP's funding was set to expire this last September. Without that federal funding assistance, states would have been left to their own to either come up with the shortfall elsewhere in their budgets or to no longer offer coverage. Congress had been struggling over the budget, including whether or not to continue to fund CHIP. For these 9 million children and their families, they were facing the prospect of losing their health insurance and being unable to continue to afford much-needed medical care. 

Congress provided some temporary stopgap measures to continue CHIP funding until March 2018, a time when it was believed that the final federal government budget plan would be finished. Professional organizations such as NANN, the March of Dimes, The Children's Hospital Association, and many others strongly supported the continuation of CHIP. In an example of successful advocacy, CHIP funding has been extended in the federal budget through FY2023. A few highlights of the new funding:

  • Provides federal funding for CHIP for six years, from FY2018 through FY2023.
  • Continues the 23 percentage point enhanced federal match rate for CHIP that was established by the Affordable Care Act, but reduces the federal match rate to the regular CHIP rate over time.
  • Extends the requirement for states to maintain for coverage for children from 2019 through 2023; after October 1, 2019, the requirement is limited to children in families with incomes at or below 300% FPL.

Simmons-Duffin, Selena. After Months in Limbo for Children's Health Insurance, Huge Relief over Deal, National Public Radio: All Things Considered. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/23/580062690/after-months-in-limbo-for-childrens-health-insurance-huge-relief-over-deal. January 28, 2018.

Shapiro, Lisa. The Children's Health Insurance Program: Key Facts About CHIP and How it Helps Kids, First Focus. https://firstfocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/CHIP-Key-Facts-082317-1.pdf. Sept. 2017.

Id.

Kaiser Family Foundation. Status of Federal Funding for CHIP and Implications for States and Families, https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/status-of-federal-funding-for-chip-and-implications-for-states-and-families/. January 10, 2018.

Scott, Dylan. Congress just funded CHIP for a full decade. Vox, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/7/16986440/chip-funding-10-years. Updated Feb. 9, 1028.

November 2017 - Tax Reform Insight

Both chambers of Congress are actively working on comprehensive tax reform bills. The House of Representative's bill passed on Thursday, Nov. 16, while the Senate is readying for a floor vote immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday.

While neither the Senate's nor the House's legislation will be the final bill that reaches the President's desk, there are stark differences that exist between the two. The Senate's proposed bill includes the repeal of the individual mandate, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. In the provision the repeal would not expire and is estimated to raise approximately $318 billion over 10 years.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released an updated estimate in response to possible repeal of the individual mandate within the confines of the existing health care law. The number of uninsured will increase by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The CBO acknowledges the difficulty in projecting these numbers, but stated the following, "Despite the uncertainty, some effects of this policy are clear: For instance, the federal deficit would be many billions of dollars lower than under current law, and the number of uninsured people would be millions higher."

NANN is committed to advocating for affordable access to quality care for all. Under the existing health care law, removing the individual mandate at this time will have harmful effects on patient care. It is in the best interest of our patients and families for a fully vetted, scored, and debated health care legislation to be created.

The Senate is currently in recess and will reconvene on Monday, Nov. 27. Now is the time to make your voice heard – contact your Senators today!

As the tax reform bill continues to evolve, NANN will keep members abreast of new developments. If you have any questions, please contact Joe Lindahl, Sr. Operations Manager, at jlindahl@nann.org.

September 2017 - Global Goal: Reducing Maternal Child Mortality

Julie SundermeierJulie Sundermeier, DNP APRN NNP-BC

Between 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by about 44%. While a significant improvement, every day approximately 830 women around the world continue to die from mostly preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. During that same time period mortality rates for children under five were reduced by more than one half. Yet 16,000 children under the age of five continue to die daily. A 2015 United Nations report notes that 45% of all under-five deaths happen during the first 28 days of life, one million neonatal deaths occur on the day of birth, and close to two million children die in the first week of life.

A reintroduced piece of bipartisan legislation, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2017 (S. 1730), has the goal to implement a strategic approach for providing foreign assistance in order to end preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030. This legislation would assist in the effort to end preventable deaths of mothers and children under five. The bill was introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). This bill will soon be introduced in the House of Representatives.

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act 2017 would:

  • Establish rigorous reporting requirements to improve transparency, accountability, efficiency, and oversight of maternal and child health programs
  • Coordinate a U.S. government strategy to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths and help ensure healthy lives by 2030
  • Ensure that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) scales up the most effective programs
  • Encourage the use of innovative ways to pay for these programs, including public-private partnerships
  • Focus on the poorest and most vulnerable -populations, recognizing the unique needs of different countries and communities
  • Improve coordination among the U.S. government agencies and relevant foreign governments and international organizations
  • Accelerate partner country progress toward self-sustainability for maternal, newborn and child health

Contact your Senators to voice your support of reducing maternal child mortality at a global level.

References

UNICEF. Retrieved from http://www.childmortality.org

World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/

You D., et al. (2015). Global, regional, and national levels and trends in under-5 mortality between 1990 and 2015, with scenario-based projections to 2030: a systematic analysis by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00120-8

July 2017 - Health Care Reform: What Now?

Welch-Carre WElizabeth Welch-Carre, EdD MSN APRN NNP-BC

Last week was dramatic in the Senate as several bills that would change or repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act (AC) were introduced. Ultimately, the Senate could not pass any legislation that affects the current health care law in place.

On July 25th, by a vote of 51 to 50, the Senate passed a motion to begin debate to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). All 48 Democrats and two Republican Senators opposed the motion. However, Vice-President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote allowing the debate to commence (Stark, 2017) and allowed what is called "vote-o-rama" to commence. During this time period all members of Congress were invited to propose new amendments to be voted upon before the bill is finalized.

The final bill was brought to the floor in the form of a "skinny bill" which would have

  • Removed some of the ACA mandates
  • Increase the number of uninsured to 43 million by 2026 (CBO, 2016)
  • Increase premiums for non-group members by as much as 20% (CBO, 2016)
  • Medicaid coverage for infants who need it
  • No per capita cap because many infants may reach that cap early in life
  • Continued coverage of essential health benefits:
    • Ambulatory patient services
    • Emergency Services
    • Hospitalization
    • Maternity and newborn care
    • Mental health and substance use disorder treatment, including behavioral health
    • Prescription drug coverage
    • Lab services
    • Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management
    • Pediatric services which include oral and vision care
  • Continued coverage of pre-existing conditions because a) many infants have congenital conditions and b) many pregnant women/mothers have pre-existing conditions

The future of health care reform is unclear. The Senate GOP has stated that they wanted to change their focus to other legislation, most notably tax reform and infrastructure. However, both parties have maintained that they want to improve and stabilize the current health care market (Schroeder, 2017). President Trump is still encouraging the Republicans to find a replacement bill for the ACA. A bipartisan group of House members, called the Problem Solvers Caucus, are also gathering to discuss ways to improve the existing healthcare law.

NANN will continue to provide updates and advocate for the following:

Works Cited

Bryan, B. (2017, July 13). The Business Insider. Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/ted-cruz-amendment-health-care-bill-preexisting-conditions-2017-7

Congressional Budget Office. (2016, December ). Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved from Congressional Budget Office: https://www.cbo.gov/budget-options/2016/52232

Congressional Budget Office. (2017, July 19). Cost estimate: H.R. 1628 Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/52939-hr1628amendment.pdf

Krieg, G. (2017, June 26). CNN. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/22/politics/comparing-obamacare-ahca-senate-health-care-bill/index.html

Ohlemacher, S., & Taylor, A. (2017, July 26). ABC News. Retrieved from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/senate-health-care-debate-suspenseful-raucous-48853633

Ramsey, L. (2017, July 26). Business Insider. Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/senate-health-care-vote-repeal-without-replace-2017-7

Schroeder, R. (2017, July 30). Market Watch. Retrieved from Market Watch: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/where-health-care-reform-goes-after-failure-to-repeal-and-replace-obamacare-2017-07-28

Stark, L. (2017, July 25). Vote tally: How each senator voted on GOP health care motion. Retrieved from CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/25/politics/vote-tally-senate-health-care/index.html

June 2017 - the ACHA and Maternal Child Health

Julie SundermeierJulie Sundermeier, DNP, APRN, NNP-BCChair, Health Policy and Advocacy Committee

H. R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (ACHA), has been in the spotlight with the House passing the bill by a narrow margin on May 4, 2017.  This legislation would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act and has raised opposition from numerous notable medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Nurses Association.  

Among the concerns is the anticipated exponential increase in uninsured Americans.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan office that provides independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues, published a report stating that there would reduction in the Federal deficit by $119 billion over the course of 2017 to 2026, and that "the largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the replacement of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) subsidies for nongroup health insurance".  As a result, according to CBO's findings, 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018, 19 million more in 2020, and an estimated 23 million more in 2026 compared to current law (Congressional Budget Office, May 24, 2017).

NANN is committed to advocating for maternal child health. The ACHA legislation passed by the House would have direct impact on the heath and welfare of the population we care for.  Currently there are 37 million children that benefit from Medicaid and a record 95% of children across the United States currently have health coverage (Stein, 2017).  The ACHA legislation passed by the House will have deleterious effects for maternal and child healthcare, impacting NICU patients and graduates directly.

H. R. 1628 (ACHA) as written would:

  • Convert federal Medicaid financing to a per capita cap beginning in FY 2020. Federal share of payments would be capped with pre-set amount per enrollee (total or by population group)
    • Preterm and sick infants could potentially reach their cap with a lengthy and involved initial hospital course.
    • Babies who survive a premature birth and hospitalization may have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities.
    • Children born with congenital malformations and defects may require multiple surgeries and prolonged periods of hospitalization.
    • Implementing a per capita cap could be difficult administratively and maintain current inequities across states (Rudowitz, 2016).
  • Add state option to elect Medicaid block grant instead of per capita cap for certain populations for a period of 10 fiscal years, beginning in FY 2020. States would have a set amount of money for Medicaid spending
    • Block grants could limit funding of important programs such as funding to public schools to provide early intervention services.
    • Fewer individuals would qualify for Medicaid.
    • In states electing Medicaid block grant, family planning would no longer be a mandatory covered service (Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017).
  • Continue the ACA requirement to cover 10 essential health benefit (EHB) categories. All women and children benefit from the inclusion of these benefits.
    • Ambulatory patient services
    • Emergency Services
    • Hospitalization
    • Maternity and newborn care
    • Mental health and substance use disorder treatment, including behavioral health treatment
    • Prescription drugs
    • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
    • Lab services
    • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
    • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

However...starting in 2020, essential healthcare benefits, including maternity and newborn care, could be changed under state waiver authority (Kaiser, 2017).  The CBO (2017) projects that "those living in states modifying the EHBs who used services or benefits no longer included in the EHBs would experience substantial increases in out-of-pocket spending on health care or would choose to forgo the services. Services or benefits likely to be excluded from the EHBs in some states include maternity care, mental health and substance abuse benefits, rehabilitative and habilitative services, and pediatric dental benefits. In particular, out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year for the nongroup enrollees who would use those services." (CBO, March 13, 2017).

Weakening the rule of essential health care will allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums. It will also allow insurers to deny people coverage for the care and services they need. This could affect not only people in the individual market but also those who get their health insurance through employers.
Low maternal income or socioeconomic status is associated with preterm birth. If a mother cannot afford out of pocket expenses, prenatal care may be sporadic or deferred.

  • Prohibit federal Medicaid payments to Planed Parenthood
    • Federal law already prohibits federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions other than those to terminate pregnancies that are a result of rape, incest or a threat to the pregnant woman's life. (Ranji et al, 2017). 
    • Cutting off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood for one year would result in loss of access to services, such as contraception) in some low-income communities.  A CBO (March, 2017) report stated that the policy would result in thousands of additional unintended pregnancies that would in turn be financed by Medicaid.

The Senate is currently working on drafting their version of ACHA legislation.  Details of this legislation have not been released to the public so little is known about how the Senate bill will compare to the House ACHA bill.  NANN's HPAC Committee will monitor this legislation closely and update the NANN community once details are forthcoming. We encourage members to contact their representatives to educate them on how the ACHA will affect women and infants. 

References

Congressional Budget Office. (May 24, 2017) Cost Estimate: H. R. 1628 American Healthcare Act of 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/hr1628aspassed.pdf

Congressional Budget Office (CBO). (March 13th, 2017). American Health Care Act. Retrieved from: https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/americanhealthcareact.pdf

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (June 26, 2017). Summary of the American Health Care Act. Retrieved from: http://files.kff.org/attachment/Proposals-to-Replace-the-Affordable-Care-Act-Summary-of-the-American-Health-Care-Act

Ranji, U., Salganicoff, A., Sobel, L, & Rosenzweig, C. (May 8, 2017). Ten Ways That the House American Health Care Act Could Affect Women. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Retrieved from: http://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/ten-ways-that-the-house-american-health-care-act-could-affect-women/

May 2017 - Nurse in Washington Internship (NIWI) and NANN

Stephanie M. Blake DNP, RN, NNP-BC
Chair-Elect, Healthy Policy and Advocacy Committee

I had the pleasure of participating in the NIWI program through the NANN NIWI Scholarship Program, which is a gathering of nursing professionals covering all spectrums of healthcare, and a forum for The Nursing Community coalition. The coalition includes 63 national nursing organizations all of which are committed to improving the health and health care of our nation through collaboration by supporting the education and practice of Registered Nurses (RNs) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

The three day internship was jam packed with all the information one needed to know on the how, when, what, and why of nursing advocacy. The first two days consisted of panels including Professional Nurse Advocates, a Congressional Staff Panel, and a General Advocacy Panel. In preparation for our day on the Hill, discussions included advocacy training and tips as well as the Nursing Community coalition "Asks". Representative Gail Adcock, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, North Carolina House of Representatives and the first APRN elected to the North Carolina legislature, was the featured speaker, who was dynamic and inspiring. Her poignant discussion of her life in politics and work experiences as a Family Nurse Practitioner that led her to where she is today was as comical as it was serious. Listening to Rep.Adcock left all attendees feeling as if it is time to get up, make our voices heard, and advocate for change.

Day three was comprised of meetings on the Hill where these three "Asks" were given to each attendee's home state House Representative as well as Senate Representative.

Ask 1: $244 million for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs in FY 2018.

In order to ensure access to care across the nation, investments in the pipeline of RNs and APRNs must remain a top priority. While great strides have been made to meet the demand for nurses, a constant focus must be placed on education to ensure a stable workforce. This could not be truer in communities struggling to recruit and retain highly qualified providers, including those in rural and medically-underserved regions.

For over 50 years, the Nursing Workforce Development Programs (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act [42 U.S.C. 296 et seq.]) have helped to meet the nation's demand for nurses. More than ever, safeguarding dollars to promote America's health through nursing care is critical. These dollars translate to on-the-ground care being delivered in all corners of the country. For example, in Academic Year 2014-

2015, the Title VIII Advanced Nursing Education Grants supported 9,024 graduate nursing students and partnered with over 4,200 clinical training sites. Of these, 45% were located in underserved areas and 46% provided primary care.

Update: Since our visit to the Hill, President Trump released his FY 2018 Budget Proposal which recommends to Congress steep cuts to HHS programs. The proposal suggests the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs be decimated by 64% taking the funding level from $229.472 million in FY 2017 down to $82.977 million. To put this in context, this is slightly more than the programs received back in FY 2001. Essentially, what the budget recommends is to only fund the NURSE Corps (Loan Repayment and Scholarship program-*note 0.19% decrease from the Omnibus, not the CR as reported in the justification) and eliminates the funding for the following Title VIII programs:

  • Advanced Nursing Education Grants (ANE), ANE Traineeships, and Nurse Anesthetist Traineeships
  • Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention Program
  • Nurse Faculty Loan Program
  • Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant
  • Comprehensive Geriatric Education Grants

Ask 2: $160 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) in FY 2018

As one of the 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NINR funds research that establishes the scientific basis for quality patient care. Nurse scientists supported by NINR are advancing discoveries in genetic research, leading team science, and promoting precision health initiatives. In addition, nurse scientists lead complex studies focused on health promotion and disease prevention. The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research is requesting at least $2 billion above the FY 2017 funding level for the National Institutes of Health, in addition to funds included in the 21st Century Cures Act. Included in this amount is $160 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research.

Update: As it relates to the NINR, President Trump's FY 2018 budget proposes taking the funding levels back to approximately what NINR received 16 years ago. The President recommends a 24% reduction to NINR— taking the funding from $150.273 million in FY 2017 down to $113.668 million. For all of NIH, the recommended cut is approximately 21% taking the funding from $32.084 billion to $26.9 billion. (Please note, the President's Budget compares the CR levels and not the final FY 2017 Omnibus).

Ask 3: Join the Nursing Caucus

The bipartisan House and Senate Nursing Caucuses educate legislators on issues impacting the profession and how nurses are transforming America's health.

NIWI is not only for the novice nurse wanting to learn about advocacy, but for the experienced advocacy nurse as well, offering continued opportunities to advocate for the nursing community that we are all a part of. NANN will have additional information on the 2018 NIWI Scholarship program available after the Annual Conference in October.

References

    1. http://www.nursing-alliance.org/About-Us
    2. Health Resources and Services Administration. (2016) Justification of estimates for appropriations committees. Retrieved from: https://www.hrsa.gov/about/budget/budgetjustification2017.pdf

For more information about the Nursing Community requests, contact Convener of the Nursing Community, Dr. Suzanne Miyamoto, at smiyamoto@aacn.nche.edu

April 2017 - 3 Quick and Simple Advocacy Tools

Keeping track of legislation can be intimidating. Bills are constantly changing, elected official's priorities are ever-shifting, and schedules are rarely kept. Throw in the multiple layers of federal, state, and municipalities - knowing what is going on in the world of public policy and advocacy can be near impossible.  As a starting point, The Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) has three simple (and free!) tools to help you stay current on legislation.

GovtrackGovTrack
By Lizz Welch-Carre, MS NNP-BC

Govtrack is a non-partisan one-stop shop to learn more about legislative bills. The website allows you to set up alerts so that you can receive updates about bills that are important to you (such as nursing or healthcare). You can also receive a customized email each week with all of the bills and resolutions that have been submitted over the last. If you provide your address, the website will give you the names of your Representative and Senators – it even provides information about their voting record. GovTrack also has links to all of the legislative committees for Congress. It lists the names of the chair and all of the members of the committee and tracks committee activity or any of the subcommittees.

Follow @govtrack or Facebook help you stayed informed via social media.

OpenStatesOpenStates.org
By Tommie Farrell, BSN RNC

If you're interested in more local and state specific legislation, OpenStates.org may be the website for you. Open States is an open source website run by volunteers that allows you to connect to your legislators in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. The website also allows you to track active or pending state legislation, the progress of bills, and how your legislator is voting. Data on the website is extensive and reliable, all of which is shareable via Twitter and Facebook.

There is a link to a user friendly tutorial on how to use this site and Open States is on Twitter at @openstates.

 ResistbotResist Bot
By Tara Boice

Resistbot is a new, free service that turns text messages into faxes and sends them to your elected officials. Unlike pre-written form letters, which are often ignored by Congress, Resistbot doesn't tell you what to say. Your own personal message as a constituent and nursing professional can be more effective in reaching your representative. By texting "resist" to 50409 and answering a few simple questions, you will be able to generate personalized fax messages to your senators.  Over time, Resistbot allows users access to more features such as the ability to contact your U.S. Representative.

No worries- messages don't have to be polished essays.  A couple of sentences from a real voter can be very impactful.  Just text "resist" to 50409 and in five minutes you can send two letters to your Senator.  It's really that easy! Follow Resistbot @botresist on Twitter

March 2017 - Withdrawl of the American Health Care Act

In the February issue of From the Hill to the NICU, we discussed the Republican administration's plan to "repeal and transition" the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) and saw the transition plan in March. The GOP's bill, the American Health Care Act (also known as the AHCA or Trumpcare), was a moving target up until the day of the vote as House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to amend portions of the bill that would appease the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. The final version of the AHCA that was debated included the elimination of essential health care benefits—including prenatal and maternal health care.

NANN issued a call to action opposing the AHCA as the House of Representatives planned to vote on the bill on Friday, March 24th. After four hours of debate, the AHCA was withdrawn after party leadership realized it did not have enough votes to pass.

The withdrawal of the AHCA leaves the ACA intact as the Republicans turn their attention towards tax reform.

What does this mean for us?

The ACA, signed into law in 2010 and enacted in 2014, still stands as federal law. States such as Kansas and North Carolina will now look at Medicaid expansion, knowing the ACA will remain the health care law for the foreseeable future. There will be two governorships up in 2017 (VA and NJ) and 39 up in 2018 (36 states, three territories). Health care will be a hot topic for all elections.

The Health Policy and Advocacy Committee is committed to working with other nursing organizations to monitor the ongoing communications on Capitol Hill. As additional information becomes available on health care legislation and other issues relevant to neonatal care, NANN will keep its members abreast with pertinent and timely updates.

February 2017 - Patient Protection Affordable Care Act

Welch-Carre WElizabeth Welch-Carre, MS NNP-BC

The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare, will be repealed by the Republican Party who controls the legislative and now executive branch of the federal government. The repeal will be done through budget reconciliation, which will eliminate the employer and participant penalties associated with the act, effectively making the law non-existent. This process is also how the ACA was originally passed.

Repeal and Transition
The GOP changed their initial tagline of "repeal and replace" to "repeal and transition," to accurately communicate the timeline needed to alter the existing law. As of this writing, no ACA replacement plan has been introduced into Congress, but there have been several possible plans discussed which include the following:

  • Medicaid may be changed to block grants for states which would provide enrollees with a set amount of money for coverage
  • Provide subsidies for premium coverage, instead provide tax breaks
  • Likely will repeal the individual mandate for coverage
  • States will be allowed to keep ACA if desired
  • Cover pre-existing conditions but may be in high-risk pool
  • Continue with coverage for offspring up to age of 26

What does this mean for us?

NANN is committed to working with other nursing organizations to monitor the ongoing communications on the hill. As it pertains to neonatal nurses and the specific population we provide care for, the following topics are on the HPAC's radar:

  • Pregnancy and newborn care
  • Breastfeeding benefits
    • Covers the cost of breast pumps
    • Substance use disorder treatment
  • Mental Health Services
    • Treatment for behavioral health diagnosis
    • Substance use disorder treatment
  • Pre-existing condition coverage
    • Continuous health insurance coverage provided for pregnant women
    • Continuous coverage for other pre-existing conditions that may impact pregnancy
  • Preventative care woman
    • STD testing and treatment
    • Tobacco screening and treatment
    • Breast cancer screening
  • Preventative care kids
    • Immunizations
    • Developmental screening 0 to three years
    • Well-baby appointments

As additional information becomes available on this ongoing issue, NANN will keep our members abreast of pertinent and timely information.

If you have any questions regarding the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act or the Health Policy and Advocacy Committee, please contact Joe Lindahl, NANN Senior Operations Manager, at jlindahl@nann.org.