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Health Policy Digest - April 2021

We are pleased to present the April issue of the ARN Health Policy Digest. This member benefit provides updates on health policy and legislative and regulatory developments that may be of interest to rehabilitation nurses.

President Biden's American Rescue Plan
On March 31, President Biden released his plans for a massive infrastructure proposal that he says would deliver a "once-in-a-generation investment" in the United States. The proposal would be paid for with a slew of tax increases on corporations. The American Rescue Plan seeks to spend hundreds of billions on what are traditionally considered infrastructure projects, but it would do a lot more—including putting $400 billion toward expanding access to home or community-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities.

President Biden Unveils FY 2022 "Skinny" Budget
On April 8, the White House released its so-called "skinny budget," or requests for FY 2022 discretionary funding. As the name suggests, this is not a full budget request, and does not include detailed budget justifications from each agency, nor requested funding levels for each individual program. However, it does provide some insight into some of the high-level priorities for the Administration. As always, it is important to note that the President's budget is simply a request, and Congress has full authority over the annual appropriations process. While the budget summary did not specifically mention Title VII or Title VIII programs, the "Promotes Health Equity by Addressing Racial Disparities" section highlighted that "[t]he discretionary request provides additional funding to increase the diversity of the healthcare workforce and expand access to culturally competent care." Read Acting OMB Director's letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Leahy.

President Biden Wants New Health Agency to Speed Development of Medical Treatments On April 8, President Biden released details on a proposal for a new agency—modeled on the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—that would seek to speed the development of medical treatments by funding risky, innovative projects. The agency, dubbed ARPA-Health (ARPA-H), would be housed at the National Institutes of Health and have a budget of $6.5 billion. Few other details about ARPA-H have been released, except that it would initially focus on cancer and diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. Read more on ARPA-H from The National Law Review.

Joint Statement by FDA and CDC on the J&J Vaccine
On April 13, the CDC and FDA recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine. Of the nearly 7 million doses that have been administered so far in the US, six reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot have been reported. The reports have occurred among women between the ages of 18-48, and symptoms occurred 6-13 days after the vaccination was administered. Read the joint statement.

Confirmation Hearing for CMS Administrator and HHS Deputy Secretary-Designee
On April 15, the United States Senate Committee on Finance questioned President Biden's nominee, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, for Administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as Andrea Palm, the nominee for Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). CMS oversees and administers Medicare and Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the programs implemented as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Read Finance Committee Chairman Wyden's opening statement.

Biden Administration Efforts to Strengthen Equity in COVID-19 Response and Vaccinations
On April 19, HHS announced the availability of nearly $150 million from the American Rescue Plan to support community-based health care providers to aid their response to COVID-19. These funds will support approximately 100 Health Center Program look-alikes to respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, strengthen vaccination efforts, and enhance health care services and infrastructure in communities across the country.

Renewal of Determination That a Public Health Emergency Exists
Effective April 21, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has officially extended the public health emergency as a result of the continued consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Should Clarify Agency Roles for Emergency Return of U.S. Citizens during a Pandemic
The GAO recently released the report "COVID-19: HHS Should Clarify Agency Roles for Emergency Return of U.S. Citizens during a Pandemic." The agency made the following recommendations to the Secretary of HHS: (1) revise or develop new emergency repatriation response plans to clarify agency roles and responsibilities during a pandemic; and (2) plan and conduct repatriation exercises with relevant stakeholders— including federal partners and state, local, and territorial governments—to test repatriation plans in response to a pandemic.

Developing & Testing Multilevel Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Health & Well-being
This Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) has been issued by the Office of Disease Prevention to encourage innovative translational research to understand how to increase and maintain health-advancing physical activity using interventions for specific population groups, including and especially persons with disabilities. We know that the impact of physical activity to improve the health of persons with disabilities has been a longstanding priority of several DRRC members, and we have referenced the importance of research in this area in a number of our comments to NIH over the last few years. For more information, see the full NOSI.

If you haven't already, we recommend that you visit ARN's COVID-19 Resource page on the ARN website for the latest information and resources for rehabilitation nurses.

Did you see something recently that would impact rehab nurses and/or patients? Share your health policy/advocacy news by email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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