Health Care at the Republican National Convention

While issues pertaining to health care were mentioned during the Republican National Convention last week, they certainly were not the focus of the week’s events. Although most speeches focused on the economy, immigration, or the threat of ISIS, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did mention Zika and opioids during his speech, blaming Democrats for blocking a bill to fund the fight against the Zika virus before it could spread. He credited his party for the legislative package to counter opioid misuse passed by both the House and Senate earlier this month. Speakers also referenced the Party’s longstanding positions regarding repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), defunding of Planned Parenthood, and opposition to abortion. Speakers also stressed the importance of health care affordability under a Trump presidency.

Zika Update

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it would be distributing $60 million to state and local health departments to help them fight the Zika virus. The grants will be for the specific purpose of epidemiological surveillance, mosquito control and monitoring, improving lab capacity, and participation in a registry that tracks pregnant women infected with Zika and their infants. The new funding comes from the $589 million reprogramed from Ebola response and other administrative priorities, and will be available on August 1. Officials in Florida and at the CDC are investigating whether an incidence of Zika in Miami-Dade County was the first to be transmitted within the continental U.S. The health department has not specified whether the case could have been transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion, or other known ways of transmission. Florida officials will work with CDC to launch an epidemiological study. According to the most recent data from CDC, there are now 5,321 cases of Zika across the U.S. and its territories. Of the 1,404 within the United States, 15 have been sexually transmitted and one was laboratory acquired.

Democrats Release Party Platform

The Democratic Party released the final version of their platform last week. In addition to longstanding Democratic positions like preserving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and women’s reproductive rights, the platform focuses on the affordability and accessibility of care, as well as the need to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and research that will accelerate the pace of medical progress. The platform expresses support for expanding ACA waivers to permit states to experiment with universal coverage. The Party also urges repeal of the ACA’s Cadillac tax on high-cost employer health insurance plans. The platform criticizes Republicans for failing to pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. In addition to a commitment to crack down on runaway prescription drug prices, the platform also includes language in support of a public option and allowing Americans to opt in to Medicare at the age of 55.

Recently Introduced Health Legislation

H.R. 5921 (introduced by Rep. Bucshon): A bill to amend title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act to change the permissible age variation in health insurance premium rates; to the Committee on Energy and Commerce; July 21

H.R. 5923 (introduced by Rep. Israel): A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to eligible entities to train elementary and secondary school nurses on how to respond to a biological or chemical attack or an outbreak of pandemic illness in a school building or on school grounds; to the Committee on Energy and Commerce; July 21

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