NVHR February 6, 2012 Federal Policy Call Notes

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Viral Hepatitis Testing Bill Update – Lorren Sandt

Whitney Englander (Harm Reduction Coalition) and Oscar Mairena (Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership/NASTAD) will do a series of Hill visits about the bill that will be focused on Republican members. They have 12 visits scheduled in two weeks. They will be joined on some of the visits by Lorren Sandt (Caring Ambassadors Program (CAP)/NVHR Steering Committee) and industry federal affairs staff.

CAP is making a national map to show prevalence of HCV and HBV by district for hill visits.

There will be a small meeting of congressional staff and a few community representatives on the 17th to plan a comprehensive strategy for moving the bill forward. This will be discussed in greater detail at the HAP/NVHR Policy meeting on the 28th.

Health Care Reform – Ryan Clary

We are still awaiting final confirmation that the $10 million earmarked in the Prevention and Public Health Fund for viral hepatitis testing (increasing the number of people who know their hepatitis status) will stand.

NVHR has sent and signed on to letters to Secretary Sebelius urging her to ensure that chronic conditions are adequately addressed in essential health benefits by adopting a national standard. State controlled implementation of provisions of the Affordable Care Act will result in different interpretation of the law and widely different benefits packages, including testing, access to care and preferred drug lists. Advocates will need to have these conversations in their respective states. Lorren offered to provide TA to advocates beginning to address this issue (lorren@caringambassadors.org)

Appropriations – Oscar Mairena

FY 2012: Disbursement of the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) $10 million to the Division of Viral Hepatitis is complicated because Congress did not vote on it, which leaves the decision up to the discretion of the Secretary. Congress is tending to look at the PPHF as an offset for other budget shortfalls.

FY 2013: The President’s budget will be released on Monday, February 13. In past appropriations cycles, appropriators wait until a budget resolution is passed before beginning their processes. Because the Budget Control Act of last year set a cap on spending, the Senate is considering this cap a budget resolution and will, in turn, not pass a budget resolution before beginning appropriations. The House will consider a budget resolution – leading to a discussion of more spending cuts. This means that the Appropriations process can start as soon as the President’s budget is released.

The Extenders package (doc fix, payroll tax cut and unemployment extension) expires on February 29. PPHF is being looked as an offset for these extensions. The way PPHF works is that every year the fund grows an amount. Instead of eliminating the fund, the proposals suggest that the annual growth is cut to offset the extensions.

Programmatic requests and report language by Members of the House are due by March 20. Outside witness testimony is due to the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee by April 27th.

Syringe Access – Daniel Raymond

Daniel was unable to be on the call. Martha Saly reported that the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) is collecting signatures for a petition to House Republican leadership protesting the reinstatement of the federal ban on spending to support syringe exchange. The link to the petition is: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1627/p/dia/action/public/?action_KE... . It will be hand delivered on February 15th. HRC is also collecting stories from communities where there have been hepatitis outbreaks associated with syringe access limitations to take to the Hill.

Next Call
Monday, March 5, 2012
11:00 AM PST, 1:00 PM CST, 2:00 PM EST