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Beltway Buzz: August 2015

Beltway Buzz: August 2015

August 31, 2015 0 Comments

Who ever said recess wasn’t fun? With summer on its way out, DC is on its way in. Presidential campaigns and debates, FDA approvals and of course, health care reform is starting to come to life.


Presidential Update: The presidential race is heating up! As predicted, health care is a hot topic on the minds of candidates and voters alike. Here’s what you need to know:

  • GOP Talks The Talk: The first Republican presidential debate reaffirmed the party’s push to replace Obamacare. While this isn’t surprising news, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-F.L. are the only two candidates so far to detail their plans of action. CNN will host the next GOP debate on Sept. 16 and Democratic debate on Oct. 13.
  • High Drug Costs Takes The Cake: Research is showing that the elimination of the ACA may not be the top health care-related concern among GOP voters. What is it, you ask? Addressing high costs is the top health care priority, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Furthermore, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike are united on the issue.
  • Brunchin’ with Bernie: On the Democratic front, Bernie Sanders received excellent news this month – his first major union endorsement! National Nurses United, the largest group of nurses in the country with 185,000 members, announced its support at a meeting called “Brunch with Bernie.”

    Breaking Biosimilar News: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new system for naming biosimilar drugs, which could help create a market for the emerging treatments. The system would label biosimilars with four-letter codes that could help health care providers tell the medications apart from their original version. Fingers crossed, because this sounds nifty!


    Perfect 20/20 Vision: The White House recently updated its national HIV/AIDS strategy through 2020, with goals including:

    • Reducing the number of new diagnoses by 25 percent,
    • Increasing the percentage of newly diagnosed individuals linked to HIV care within a month of diagnosis to 85 percent, and
    • Increasing individuals adhering to treatment to 95 percent.
    And how does the White House plan to get it done? The many federal agencies and offices engaged in HIV activities will develop an action plan to guide the implementation of the updated strategy across the U.S. Now that’s what we call teamwork.


    Mental Health Day, Anyone? Momentum for substantial mental health reform is growing and lawmakers leading the push said they finally feel they are in a good position to pass a bill. However, nothing good comes easy – a fight regarding patient privacy is already picking up steam. According to POLITICO’S David Pittman, “Privacy right advocates say a 1972 law keeps patients’ addiction histories from falling into the wrong hands. They fear discrimination if the law is altered, and believe patients should have the right to decide who sees their records.” Stay tuned for updates.


    Not The Good Kind Of Shopping: A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to lower prescription drug abuse. If passed, the Act would identify those with a history of drug abuse in Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage and only allow them to use one prescriber and pharmacy. The act encourages insurers and physicians to help patients seek treatment of substance abuse.


    Kids, Say No To Drugs: In other opioid-related news, the FDA approved the use of OxyContin in kids aged 11-16. While the drug is only approved with the stipulation that it will be used as a last resort for kids who need around-the-clock pain relief, Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been loudly advocating for limiting the amount of opioids on the market, is less than thrilled with this latest approval. Manchin sent a strongly-worded letter the FDA’s Commissioner saying the FDA should be, “ashamed of itself for this reckless act.”


    Soda Tax is Fizzling: Findings from a Cornell study of a soda tax in Berkeley, California – the first such city (successful, cough New York City) ordinance in the country – found that the levy has so far “fizzled,” raising doubts that it will reduce consumption as much as its supporters expected. Similar legislation was proposed in Chicago, so we’ll see if this sin tax really takes on!


    Don’t understand a DC acronym? Confused about Washington in general? While we can’t fix Washington, we’ll certainly try to answer your questions. Send your questions, comments and story ideas to, and


    Sarah Slotnick and Maddy Barnes also contributed to this post.

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