Murkowski States ACA Repeal/Replace Position

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced that she will not be voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if the repeal legislation undoes Medicaid expansion or eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood. It has long been recognized that Sen. Murkowski might be a swing vote in getting health care reform through the 115th Congress. The Senate GOP can only afford to lose two members of their own party, assuming all Democrats vote against it, and a number of other senators also hailing from states that expanded their Medicaid programs have also expressed concern about elimination of the expansion.

Overdose Deaths Continue to Rise

The rate of drug overdose deaths continued to increase in 2015, in keeping with a 16-year trend, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were 16.3 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people. The greatest impact of overdoses was seen in the 45-54 age population, and was higher for men than for women. The percentage of deaths caused by opioids decreased from 29 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015. Overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are on the rise – increasing from eight percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2015. Leadership from the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) last week requesting more information on the federal response to the fentanyl epidemic. “Overdoses and deaths associated with fentanyl are spreading across the country. Nonetheless, it remains unclear if key law enforcement and public health agencies have developed a strategic plan aimed at the fentanyl threat, particularly one that disrupts the illicit supply of fentanyl coming into the U.S.,” they write. The lawmakers ask ONDCP to question all federal agencies in their jurisdiction about their plans to address this particular public health threat. The letter was signed by Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

Legislators Send Bipartisan Letter on the Importance of Vaccines

Bipartisan leadership from the top congressional health committees are circulating a “dear colleague” letter affirming the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. “Vaccines are our first line of defense against infectious diseases…As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly diseases,” the lawmakers write. The letter comes as some states move to loosen vaccine requirements. There are also increasing trends that have led to lower vaccination rates in some communities. The letter points to the measles outbreak in 2014 which resulted in over 600 cases of a disease that had been declared eradicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2000. Even President Trump has questioned whether vaccines cause autism, despite no scientific evidence linking vaccines to developmental disorders. The letter was signed by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Texas).

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