The 2020 election not only resulted in a new president and vice president, but also 66 new Members of Congress. The 117th Congress will have 57 new U.S. Representatives from 28 states and 9 new Senators from 8 states.
With the conclusion of the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th, we thought it would be valuable to provide a level setting for the liver health advocacy community before we begin our collective efforts for 2021. Here is an overview of some of the highlight statistics of the new Congress, and how things can be expected to move forward in an evenly split Senate.
Finally, it will be important to understand how the many new faces in the U.S. Congress and Administration may impact the 2021 U.S. liver health policy priorities.
New Faces in the New Administration
Congress is not the only branch of the U.S. Government that will see many new faces. Nominating members for the cabinet as well as filling over 4,000 political appointees in the government is one of many tasks President Biden has already started completing.
Global Liver Institute (GLI) just recently submitted a letter applauding President Biden’s diverse Cabinet and administration selections and nominations. Each of his early choices recognize the value of collaboration, and willingness to listen to evidence-based science and medical professionals.
How Do So Many New Faces Impact the 2021 Liver Health Policy Priorities?
GLI will work to advance our core policy priorities no matter who is in charge. However, we can expect a slight switch in the tone, and presentation of these issues to this new Administration, and Congress. Based on the early executive orders, cabinet selections, and statements, it is clear that this new Congress and Administration understands the value of investing in public health along with scientific discovery to improve the nation’s health and economy in both the near- and long-term. It is also clear that the patient voice, and lived experiences will deservedly receive more attention.
There is also a sense of momentum tied to the global COVID-19 crisis, and the ongoing battle with health inequities. The new Administration and Congress are compelled to act on and advance critical health policy initiatives more than ever before. In response, GLI has developed the following 2021 policy agenda that encourages bipartisan collaboration, and promotes the development of far-reaching legislative and regulatory packages that are patient-centric for people living with liver diseases:
GLI’s 2021 Priority Policy Initiatives
- COVID-19 Response: Ensure funding for COVID-19 and liver disease public health programs, research, and vaccine dissemination; ensure that people living with liver disease are not disproportionately impacted and do not experience unnecessary or discriminatory health care or treatment disruptions
- Health Disparities: Address inequities in the care of people impacted by liver disease, especially the excess incidence rate of liver cancer in black men in America (According to the American Cancer Society, from 2012-2016 it was 17.9 for black men vs. 12.7 for all races.)
- Liver Health Policy: Advance the U.S. NASH Action Plan, and ensure patients with liver disease perspectives are represented in relevant legislative packages: COVID-19, diabetes, and obesity
- Liver Health Regulations: Work with regulators to establish logical pathways to consistently approve therapies for liver diseases, particularly rare liver diseases
GLI’s 2021 Engaged Policy Initiatives
- Research Funding: Advocate for funding that ensures meaningful growth of vital liver disease research and the improving of liver health
- Transplant: Urgently respond to the inequities that impact organ transplantation; modernize the U.S. organ donation system, improve care for transplant patients, and increase the number of available organs
- Viral Hepatitis B and C: Increase support for hepatitis programs and raise awareness of viral hepatitis; advocate for the the elimination of viral hepatitis
- Value: Advance health care policies that reflect each person’s unique needs and drive access to personalized, patient-centric care
- Patient Access and Reimbursement: Support policy solutions that curb patients’ health care expenses; advocate for the smoothing and capping of out-of-pocket costs in Medicare Part D
The harsh reality is that in 2020, we saw a continued rise of liver disease prevalence and mortality both directly and indirectly connected to the impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing impact of health inequalities on the world’s healthcare system. In response, the only way to meaningfully address the growing burden of liver disease is through collaboration. This is why we urge patients, families, and caregivers impacted by liver disease to join the Liver Action Network (LAN). Collectively we can respond to important issues like liver health disparities, access to care, policy, and more.
The Liver Action Network (LAN) provides a place where members can stay up to date on liver health policy issues, get a variety of advocacy tools to help grow advocacy efforts, and consistently learn about available advocacy opportunities.
Donna R. Cryer, JD
President & CEO
Global Liver Institute
COVID-19 Response Program for Liver Patients
This past month, GLI hosted a special GLI LIVE with the chair of the AASLD Public Policy Committee, Dr. Tamar Taddei. The discussion was focused on the outlook for liver health policy in 2021, along with opportunities for collaboration between AASLD and the liver health patient advocacy community. A full recording of this special GLI LIVE can be found here.
GLI continues to research and update information about COVID-19, specifically addressing the needs and concerns of liver patients, particularly those who are immuno-suppressed, immuno-compromised, and have chronic liver conditions. Please check here for all of our COVID-19 Response resources and join GLI LIVE weekly on Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. EDT on GLI’s Facebook page.
POLICY DEVELOPMENTS AT GLI
The 2021 COVID-19 Prevention and Awareness Act (CPAA)
GLI applauds the leadership of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) in introducing the COVID-19 Prevention and Awareness Act (CPAA). The current COVID-19 pandemic is putting unprecedented pressure on our nation’s health care system, by disproportionately impacting people with certain underlying medical conditions like liver disease and leading to stark disparities in health outcomes by race. The CPAA would play an integral role in empowering the communities that have been hit hardest by providing them with the means to protect their health and well-being amid a global crisis. Read our full statement.
Join the Liver Action Network to learn more how you can take action, and help us advance this bill and other critical 2021 liver health policy initiatives.
- GLI Signs Joint Letter in Support of the FAMILIES Act
- GLI Signs Joint Letter Supporting the Re-Introduction of the Safe Step Act
- GLI Signs Joint Letter Support the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act (S. 5051 and H.R. 8845)
- GLI Signs the Ad Hoc Group FY 2022 funding recommendation letter for the NIH
- GLI Collaborates with the Deadliest Cancers Coalition on a letter regarding funding totals and the list of diseases eligible for research funding through the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Congressional Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) in the final FY 2020 Defense Appropriations package
OPEN ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES
Join the GLI Liver Action Network (LAN)
GLI proudly supports and advances many liver health policy initiatives. If you are interested in taking a more active role with GLI on these critical issues, please join the GLI liver advocacy community and learn about upcoming opportunities to advocate on behalf of all individuals impacted by liver disease.
FOR YOUR CALENDAR
All in-person events and meetings for the month of February have been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please take the proper precautions, such as social distancing and limiting large gatherings, to remain healthy and safe! See more information on safety precautions from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
European Union (EU) Needs to Increase Vaccine Deployment to Meet Target of Commissioner
The EU Commission has proposed their goal for 70 percent of all adults in the EU to have received the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the summer. At the current pace, the EU would reach only 15 percent vaccinated of the total adult population during the proposed summer timeline. This target has been described by many as “ambitious”, and there needs to be a rapid increase in development and distribution for this goal to be a reality.
President Biden restores ties with World Health Organization (WHO)
On his first day in office, President Biden retracted a Trump administration decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO). He announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease expert, would be the head of the U.S. delegation to the agency’s executive board. The re-entry creates opportunities for the U.S. to coordinate a COVID-19 response with other nations.
U.S. Federal NEWS
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expected to extend Emergency Declaration through 2021
This week, acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran expressed in a letter to governors that the United States’ coronavirus public health emergency will likely last through 2021. This emergency declaration permits states to receive an increase in federal Medicaid matching funds, more extensive utilization of telehealth, and emergency use of drugs and tests, among other actions. Currently, the declaration has been extended for another 90 days into April.
President Biden Signs 15 Executive Actions on First Day in Office
On his first day in office, President Biden signed an array of orders, bypassing the total number of his four predecessors on their first days. The list includes an order requiring mask-wearing on federal property, and another coordinating a government-wide COVID-19 response through the creation of the position of response coordinator. There were some previously promised actions that were missing in this initial session, but top officials in the administration stress that there are additional announcements and actions to soon follow.
President Biden’s Proposed Emergency COVID Relief Package
President Biden has stressed the need for bipartisan support on his emergency legislative package to fund vaccinations, provide immediate relief to families bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, and support struggling communities. The $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package includes many facets that Biden campaigned on, but it is facing resistance from key Republicans, including moderates, who are voicing opposition to the overall sum.
Improving Social Determinants of Health Act (H.R. 379)
This legislation, introduced by Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), would create a Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Program at the CDC. The act has been endorsed by 330 organizations and the establishment of a SDOH Program would create avenues for public health departments and community organizations to actively participate in changing their communities and leading efforts to assemble partners across sectors. The goal is improvements in health and health equity through integrated and properly informed systems and programs.
U.S. NGO News
Multi-Parametric CT Offers Earlier Detection for NAFLD
A team of investigators from the University of Wisconsin has outlined the CT parameters that enable non-invasive NAFLD detection. In this study, they focused specifically on identifying patients with high-risk NAFLD, and concluded that the CT performed well for NAFLD detection, but was underwhelming in picking up evidence of NASH. The study provides insight into greater possibilities for CT use in the future as a faster and easier way to capture evidence of NAFLD than MRI or ultrasound elastography.
Mechanisms of Disparities in Chronic Liver Diseases and Cancer. Funding available from the NIH. Application Deadlines: April 1, 2022