Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) and Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) issued the following statement in response to the release of a Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General report detailing failures at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, VA that led to a delayed cancer diagnosis during the period of 2019 to 2021:

“We are appalled and disheartened to learn that a series of failures at the Hampton VA Medical Center led to a veteran’s delayed cancer diagnosis. Veterans and their families must be able to trust that they are receiving high-quality, comprehensive, and timely health care whenever they turn to the VA — and it is the VA’s responsibility to provide that level of care to its patients. The findings outlined in the Inspector General report suggest a dangerous series of care coordination and communication failings, both at the individual and systemic level. We commit to engaging directly with the senior leadership at Hampton and pursuing appropriate accountability. We are also committed to conducting close oversight as the Hampton VAMC works to implement the Inspector General’s recommendations, and put in place processes to guard against future failings as happened here.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led a group of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure expressing their strong support for a CMS proposal that encourages hospitals to buy American products and bolsters American mask manufacturers to help prevent future shortages of lifesaving personal protective equipment. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortage of American made, medical use-approved masks that are essential for the protection of healthcare workers, and the proposed effort by CMS will help prevent future shortages and support American manufacturers.

“It is critically important now and moving forward for our country to possess a ready-supply of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators and raw material inputs that are wholly domestically made,” said the senators. “U.S. companies and their workers are ready to support this effort, and we applaud your work to ensure that hospitals and health systems have the resources needed to buy American-made masks.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

The full letter can be found here or below:

The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244

Dear Administrator Brooks La-Sure:

We write to express our strong support for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposal to bolster American mask manufacturers and encourage hospitals to buy American. Specifically, we appreciate CMS’ recognition of the need for a robust domestic supply of surgical N95 respirators in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule. It is critically important that the agency move forward with a final rule that would provide payment adjustments to support hospitals’ purchase of domestically produced NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, American hospitals faced severe shortages of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators. These surgical respirators are essential for the protection of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and those who provide care to patients, and we must do everything we can to prevent future shortages. Thankfully, for the past two years, American companies and American workers have retooled manufacturing lines to meet the need for this essential product. The entrepreneurship and patriotism of these companies has saved lives, and we now have dozens more manufacturers of N95 respirators, their components and raw materials, based here in the United States than we did before the pandemic, when less than 10 percent of N95 respirators were manufactured domestically.

Unfortunately, too many U.S.-based manufacturers are struggling to exist as hospitals and health systems continue to grapple with the choice between purchasing more expensive domestically-made N95s or cheaper masks made in China. We agree that implementation of a payment adjustment for purchases of wholly domestically made NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators would help sustain “a level of supply resilience for surgical N95 respirators that is critical to protect the health and safety of personnel and patients in a public health emergency.” Both approaches outlined by the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule would improve our nationwide preparedness for future threats, promote the safety of providers and patients, and bolster our domestic manufacturing supply chains by supporting our Made in America economy. Further, we encourage CMS to examine ways to incentivize purchases of other domestically manufactured PPE, including surgical and isolation gowns, face masks, face shields, and eyewear, during future rulemaking.

It is critically important now and moving forward for our country to possess a ready-supply of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators and raw material inputs that are wholly domestically made. U.S. companies and their workers are ready to support this effort, and we applaud your work to ensure that hospitals and health systems have the resources needed to buy American-made masks.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion in America:

“This decision jeopardizes the health and autonomy of millions of American women and turns back the clock on nearly 50 years of settled and reaffirmed law – reflecting a Court that has increasingly issued politicized rulings that undermine the fundamental rights of Americans. This decision will take control over personal health care decisions away from individuals and give it to politicians in state legislatures across the country. I am heartbroken for the generations of women who now have fewer rights than when they were born, many of whom will be forced into life-threatening or prohibitively expensive circumstances to access health care as a result of this radical decision. For them and for all Virginians and Americans, I will continue working to protect needed access to safe, legal abortion.”

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman's freedom to choose to have an abortion. The Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that after nearly 50 years, this freedom is no longer guaranteed nationwide, and more than half of states are expected to ban or harshly limit access to abortion following today’s ruling. In several states, there will be no exceptions for women who become pregnant through rape or incest or in cases where abortion is necessary to protect the health of the woman.

Overturning Roe v. Wade also opens the door for states to attempt to restrict or ban common birth control methods such as Plan B or intrauterine devices.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) led colleagues in a letter to the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Sundar Pichai, urging him to take action to prevent misleading Google search results and ads that lead to anti-abortion clinics.

In the letter, the lawmakers note that 37 percent of Google Maps results and 11 percent of Google search results for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in states with so-called “trigger laws” – laws that would effectively ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned – were for anti-abortion clinics. Additionally, 28 percent of Google ads displayed at the top of search results were for anti-abortion clinics. Amid a draft opinion of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe and the passage of several state laws that would curtail access to reproductive health care, the lawmakers are pushing for quick action to display accurate information.

“Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” wrote the lawmakers. “Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill.’ If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled.”

In addition to Sen. Warner and Rep. Slotkin, the letter was also signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tina Smith (D-MN). It was also signed by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Jason Crow (D-CO), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).

The lawmakers requested Sundar Pichai respond to the letter and provide:

1.      A plan to limit anti-abortion clinics in Google search results, ads, and Maps

2.      A plan to add disclaimers that clearly indicate whether a search result does or does not provide abortions

3.      Information on Google’s attempts to provide accurate search results pertaining to health care

Sen. Warner has been a longtime supporter of both abortion rights and increasing transparency online. He is a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade, and several pieces of tech legislation that would promote transparency and curb manipulative patterns.

Text of the letter is below. 

Dear Mr. Pichai,

We write today regarding disturbing new reports that Google has been directing users who search for abortion services towards anti-abortion ‘fake clinics,’ also known as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ or ‘pregnancy resource centers’ without any disclaimer indicating these businesses do not provide abortions and seek to steer women away from certain health decisions. In the wake of the leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, we find these reports especially concerning and would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.

According to research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a U.S.-based nonprofit that fights online hate and misinformation, 11% of results for searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in states with so-called ‘Trigger Laws’ – laws that would effectively ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned – were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results.

This problem is even more pronounced on Google Maps, where CCDH found that 37% of search results were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill.’ If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled.

CCDH also found that 28% of Google Ads displayed at the top of search results were for anti-abortion fake clinics. Since facing criticism over misleading ads related to anti-abortion fake clinics in 2019, Google has provided a disclaimer – albeit one that appears in small font and is easily missed – for ads from anti-abortion fake clinics. However, no such warning is present on non-sponsored search results on Google Search. The prevalence of these misleading ads marks what appears to be a concerning reversal from Google’s pledge in 2014 to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that engage in overt deception of women seeking out abortion information online.

Given this disturbing research, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:

1.       What steps will Google take to limit the appearance of anti-abortion fake clinics or so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ in Google search results, Google Ads, and on Google Maps when users search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill,” or similar terms?

2.       If Google will not take action to prevent anti-abortion fake clinics from appearing in search results, will Google add user-friendly disclaimers that clearly indicate whether or not a search result does or does not provide abortions?

3.       What additional steps will Google take to ensure that users are receiving accurate information when they search for health care services like abortion on Google Search and Google Maps when users search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill,” or similar terms?

We urge you to take action to rectify these issues and help ensure women seeking health care services are directed to the basic information they request. Many thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to your timely response.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) re-introduced the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act, which would provide nursing home operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – a national criminal background check system. This move would give employers greater ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history that would endanger the seniors they are employed to look after. Sens. Warner and Scott first introduced this legislation 2019.

“Our seniors are owed compassionate, qualified caregivers as they age and depend more and more on professional assistance,” Sen. Warner said. “This legislation will provide senior living facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the high demand for workers without sacrificing quality care.”

“South Carolina is home to around 200 skilled nursing facilities that serve thousands of individuals in their golden years,” Sen. Scott said. “At zero cost to taxpayers, this bill will help ensure these facilities hire the best candidates, improving the quality of care for seniors across the nation.” 

Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.

Additionally, the bipartisan legislation amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities – for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations.

Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

Specifically, the legislation would allow a senior living facility to reinstate its CNA training program if:

  • The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
  • The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
  • And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period;

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for nursing assistants and orderlies to care for the growing aging population is projected to rise 8 percent from 2020 to 2030. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs. However, the existing two-year lockout period can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing staff.

“We commend Senators Warner and Scott for reintroducing this important legislation at this critical moment for the long term care workforce. In the midst of a historic labor crisis, we need solutions like the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act to help nursing homes vet and train crucially needed caregivers. By allowing facilities the ability to offer CNA training programs and access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, we can ensure our nation’s seniors receive high quality care delivered by highly-trained and dedicated caregivers,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said.

“Our nation’s long-term care system is facing a dire workforce shortage that has only intensified in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge, said. “CNAs provide essential care in nursing homes across the country, and we need strong training programs to ensure older adults have access to critical long-term care services.  Without workers, there is no care, which is why every possible lever to build the direct care workforce must be pulled. LeadingAge applauds Senator Warner and Senator Scott for championing this much-needed legislation to address the nurse aide training lockout. We pledge to work with them to get this bill passed.”

“I started my career as a CNA in a facility training program. I know how important it is to keep this pathway for hands-on training open to ensure we have caregivers for seniors,” Derrick Kendall, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL) and President & CEO of Lucy Corr of Chesterfield, said. “The demand for CNAs has never been greater, so it’s time to end this barrier to training more, especially when a facility has addressed the reason for the lockout.”

“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states said. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.

“LeadingAge Virginia applauds Senators Mark Warner and Tim Scott for introducing legislation that will enable training of certified nursing assistants (CNAs),” Melissa Andrews, President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia, said. “A ‘CNA Training Lockout’ runs counter to a nursing home’s ability to provide the highest quality of care that their residents rightly deserve, and we appreciate the senators for introducing legislation that enables our dedicated professional caregivers to care for older Virginians adequately and properly.”

“Now, more than ever, the senior living care field depends on trained professional caregivers like certified nursing assistants to help deliver high-quality services and supports to our residents,” Joan Thomas, chief operating officer at Birmingham Green, Manassas, VA, and a member of the LeadingAge Virginia Board of Directors, said. “We know our residents thrive when they have the support and care of a well-trained staff, and we appreciate this legislation that allows us to give our certified nursing assistants the best tools and training they need to do their jobs.”

Full text of the bill is available here

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) with Sen. John Barrasso M.D. (R-WY) and Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), John Joyce M.D. (R-PA), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) introduced the bipartisan Kidney Health Connect Act to allow dialysis clinics to serve as originating sites for telehealth services and guarantee that patients are not responsible for additional costs.

“The pandemic showed us that telehealth is a critical tool in providing timely and safe access to health care while cutting costs for patients and providers,” Sen. Warner said. “After working to expand telehealth to home dialysis in 2018, I’m proud to build on those efforts by introducing legislation that would permanently increase telehealth flexibilities for the many Americans that rely on dialysis centers. As we move out of the pandemic, we must continue working to expand sensible protections that make health care work better for all.”

Over the course of the pandemic, patients have benefited from increased access to telehealth services. However, for patients insured through Medicare, these flexibilities are temporary and tied to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration. This legislation gives patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) continued access to connect with their providers by:

  • Allowing dialysis clinics to serve as originating sites for Medicare telehealth services.
  • Removing the 20 percent facility fee coinsurance obligation for patients accessing telehealth services in the clinic. 

This continues Sen. Warner’s leadership after successfully expanding telehealth to home dialysis services. Sen. Warner was also an original co-sponsor of the 2016 Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, reintroduced in 2021, and has been a longtime advocate for the expansion of telehealth in order to ease access to health care.  

Sen. Warner has consistently pushed for the permanent expansion of telehealth services, writing letters to congressional leadership in June 2020 and February 2022, among other efforts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, telehealth expansion allows individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available nearby.

A copy of the bill is available here.  

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded unanimous Senate passage of the Access to Baby Formula Act, which will help improve access to baby formula for families who participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The legislation passed the House of Representatives yesterday and now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“No one should have to worry about where or how they’re going to get formula to feed their child, and we’re glad Congress is taking action to address these shortages,” said the Senators. “This bill is an important step to ensuring our most vulnerable families have access to the formula they need.”

The legislation was introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. Specifically, the Access to Baby Formula Act will:

  • Establish waiver authority to address emergencies, disasters, and supply chain disruptions by ensuring states that contract with one formula manufacturer for the WIC program can secure supplies from additional manufacturers;
  • Grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to waive certain requirements that can slow down the process to get formula back on the shelves, without sacrificing safety standards; and
  • Facilitate coordination and information-sharing between the Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding any supply chain disruption, including supplemental food recalls.

 

According to USDA, Abbott Nutrition’s formula products serve 89% of WIC families.

Warner and Kaine sent a letter last week calling on infant formula manufacturers to increase production and make every effort possible to get formula on shelves.

Earlier this week, Warner spoke about the importance of addressing this shortage, calling for additional funding to address the issue as well as a thorough examination of the American and worldwide supply chain issues that have contributed to this shortage. Warner also praised Senate passage of the legislation on Twitter and pledged to continue pushing for initiatives that relieve this burden.

Kaine released a video statement after new steps to address the shortages were announced, including an FDA and Abbott agreement to reopen the shuttered plant and the FDA’s move to make it easier to import formula. Kaine called on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to help ramp up formula production—a call President Biden heeded shortly after. Kaine also sent a letter to President Biden urging him to appoint a White House coordinator to address current shortages, and implement a national strategy to increase the resiliency of the infant formula supply chain and protect against future contamination and shortages.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Senate Cyber Caucus, joined Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive health care, following the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The senators expressed their concern over reports that data brokers are selling location data that allow purchasers to see how many people sought abortion services and other family planning care.

“We write to express serious concerns regarding recent reports identifying data brokers buying and selling location data that includes personal data related to family planning and abortion services,” the senators wrote. “Recent reports highlight data brokers selling location data that allows the buyer to see how many people visit a certain location and when, including how many people are seeking care at reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood.”

“In light of reports that the Supreme Court is set to overrule Roe vs. Wade, we are concerned about the privacy of women making decisions that should be between them, their families, and their doctors, as they have for more than five decades. We appreciate your efforts to highlight the critical need for increased consumer privacy and danger of open data to further victimization. However additional measures need to be taken to protect personal data and ensure the privacy of women as they make decisions that should be between them and their doctors,” they continued.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Klobuchar, and Baldwin, the letter was also signed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Sen. Warner has been a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose. He recently cosponsored the Women's Health Protection Act, which failed to advance in the Senate last week. As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has worked to address problematic data collection practices, sending a letter in 2020 to the FTC urging the agency to take action to address the troubling data collection and sharing practices of the mobile app Premom, which helps users track their fertility cycles to determine the best time to get pregnant.

Sen. Warner has also introduced numerous bills demanding increased data accountability and transparency, such as the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit, and the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data and would prohibit these platforms from using features that result in compulsive usage by children.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Chair Khan,

We write to express serious concerns regarding recent reports identifying data brokers buying and selling location data that includes personal data related to family planning and abortion services. We respectfully request additional information on what steps the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking to ensure data brokers are not collecting, buying, or selling sensitive location data that put people, particularly those seeking medical attention, at risk.

We are concerned about online markets that sell and trade mobile phone location data. This data is often collected and sold by ordinary apps installed on a person’s smartphone, such as weather apps. The data is then bought and resold by data brokers. All of this information has historically been used to identify individuals. The estimated value of the location data market has been estimated at approximately $14 billion in 2021.

Recent reports highlight data brokers selling location data that allows the buyer to see how many people visit a certain location and when, including how many people are seeking care at reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood. One report identified the purchase of data showing the number of people that visited over 600 Planned Parenthood locations in a week for just over $160

In light of reports that the Supreme Court is set to overrule Roe vs. Wade, we are concerned about the privacy of women making decisions that should be between them, their families, and their doctors, as they have for more than five decades. Should the Court’s final decision match the leaked opinion, thirteen states could immediately ban abortion and over a dozen others are likely to criminalize it. Banning and criminalizing abortion in parts of our country could create added risks to those seeking family planning services in states where abortions remain legal.

We appreciate your efforts to highlight the critical need for increased consumer privacy and danger of open data to further victimization. However additional measures need to be taken to protect personal data and ensure the privacy of women as they make decisions that should be between them and their doctors. 

We respectfully request that you respond to the following questions by June 1:

  • What measures is the FTC taking to ensure individuals have the right to review and remove their information online, and assist them should their data be sold or they become victim to a breach? If so, please describe these measures.
  • How does the FTC plan to address mobile phone apps that are developed to collect and sell the location data? How is the FTC educating individuals about how to identify apps 

that collect and sell their location data?

  • What is the FTC doing to coordinate with the Department of Justice, states and localities, health care providers and private stakeholders to prevent data brokers and others from gaining access to the personal information of women and their healthcare decisions? 
  • Does the FTC need additional resources to better protect women from having their personal location data bought and disseminated by data brokers? 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to address this threat to privacy and safety.

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WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a pair of bills that would cement and build on the important progress that has been made to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s costs our nation an astonishing $321 billion per year, including $206 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. If we continue along this trajectory, Alzheimer’s is projected to claim the minds of 12.7 million seniors and nearly surpass $1 trillion in annual costs by 2050.  In 2021, family caregivers provided 16 billion hours of unpaid care for loved ones with dementia.  Nearly half of baby boomers reaching age 85 will either be afflicted with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.

The NAPA Reauthorization Act—authored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—would reauthorize NAPA through 2035 and modernize the legislation to reflect strides that have been made to understand the disease, such as including a new focus on promoting healthy aging and reducing risk factors.

The Alzheimer’s Accountability and Investment Act—authored by Sens. Warner, Collins, Markey, Capito, Moran, and Menendez—would continue through 2035 a requirement that the Director of the National Institutes of Health submit an annual budget to Congress estimating the funding necessary for NIH to fully implement NAPA’s research goals. Only two other areas of biomedical research – cancer and HIV/AIDs – have been the subject of special budget development aimed at speeding discovery.

“Consistent research and investment into Alzheimer’s disease is crucial to better understand and treat this illness and help patients, their families, and their caregivers,” said Senator Warner.  “I know all too well the pain and suffering associated with Alzheimer’s disease, as my own mother battled the illness for close to 10 years.  As co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I am proud to introduce these two pieces of legislation that will continue the transformative work being done to find effective ways to mitigate, treat and ultimately cure Alzheimer’s.”

“We have made tremendous progress in recent years to boost funding for Alzheimer’s research, which holds great promise to ending this disease that has had a devastating effect on millions of Americans and their families,” said Senator Collins, a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease.  “The two bills we have introducing today will maintain our momentum and make sure that we do not take our foot of the pedal just as our investments in basic research are beginning to translate into potential new treatments. We must not let Alzheimer’s define our children’s generation as it has ours.”

“More than a decade ago, I cosponsored, and Congress passed, the National Alzheimer's Project Act, which has since played an important role in ensuring Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are a priority at NIH and other federal agencies,” Senator Capito said. “Now, more than ever, as more Americans and their families are living with the effects of Alzheimer’s, we must keep up this momentum, continue to make critical research investments, and fight for all those impacted by this disease. Both of these bipartisan bills work toward our shared goals, and I’m proud to introduce them today with my colleagues.”

“More than a decade has passed since I first introduced the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) to create a federal framework to prioritize Alzheimer’s patients and direct billions of dollars in funding for medical research. More than seven years have gone by since my Alzheimer’s Accountability Act mandated the National Institutes of Health hold itself accountable to fulfilling the promises set forth in NAPA by submitting its research budget directly to Congress. While these landmark pieces of legislation have increased funding for Alzheimer’s research more than five-fold, the fight to prevent, treat, and cure this disease continues. Today, I am proud to partner with Senator Collins on legislation to reauthorize NAPA and extend the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act so that we can redouble our commitment to Alzheimer’s patients and their families and ensure that disproportionally impacted populations aren’t left behind in the groundbreaking research that will ultimately lead to a cure,” said Senator Markey.

“Our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and the development of new treatments has made significant progress since the National Alzheimer’s Project Act was first signed into law in 2011,” said Senator Moran. “In my role on both the HELP and Appropriations Committee, I remain committed to providing necessary resources so we not only maintain NAPA’s progress but expand it to help end this horrible disease.”

“In the years since I lost my mother to this devastating disease, I have only increased my commitment to fighting for other Alzheimer’s patients and their families by securing important programs and funding,” said Senator Menendez. “These bills are a bipartisan commitment to continuing our important and critical work to ensure we emerge victorious in this fight.”

“Thanks to the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), we’ve made tremendous progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The passage of the NAPA Reauthorization Act and the Alzheimer’s Accountability and Investment Act is the next important step to continue the work of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and ensure that the nation continues to prioritize addressing Alzheimer’s and all other dementia,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and AIM executive director. “On behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the sponsors for introducing this important bipartisan legislation to help improve the lives of those impacted by Alzheimer’s throughout the country. The Alzheimer’s Association looks forward to working with our tireless advocates and these congressional champions to advance this bipartisan legislation.”

“The passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act more than a decade ago was a turning point in our nation’s fight against Alzheimer’s, fundamentally changing the trajectory of disease research for the better,” said George Vradenburg, chair and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “UsAgainstAlzheimer’s is thankful to Sen. Collins for her leadership on behalf of patients living with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. We look forward to working with her and other members of Congress to reauthorize NAPA and continue driving toward an end to Alzheimer’s disease.”

 

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 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined HELP Chair Patty Murray and Senator Bob Casey, as well as 28 of their Democratic colleagues, in sending a letter to Mardi Mountford, President of the Infant Nutrition Council of America, calling on infant formula manufacturers to make every effort possible to get parents and families the formula they need to feed their kids. Over the past several months, and particularly in light of the massive recall following contaminated formula from Abbott Nutrition, a major supplier, it has become increasingly difficult for families to access infant formula.

“We write to express our concern about the infant formula supply shortage which is making it harder for parents and caregivers nationwide to get their children the nourishment they need. Formula is a critical source of nutrition for newborns and infants, and this supply shortage has put their health and development at risk. We are calling on you and your member companies to take immediate action and ensure that infant formula manufacturers are making every effort to mitigate this dangerous shortage and get children the nourishment they need,” wrote the senators.

In the letter to the Infant Nutrition Council of America today, the senators stressed how dire the situation is for families, and urged formula manufacturers to take action to increase infant formula production and distribution, and prevent future supply chain disruptions.

“This shortage has placed an unacceptable burden on parents and caregivers and has put the health of babies and infants at risk. For many families, infant formula is critical for ensuring their children receive the nutrition they need to grow healthy and well-nourished,” the letter continued. “This shortage has been especially challenging for some of the most vulnerable infants, with particularly acute shortages of specialty formulas to address health needs such as allergies, gastrointestinal issues, or metabolic disorders.  There is no easy substitute for infant formula, and this shortage has left families across the nation scrambling to figure out how they will safely care for their children.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear President Mountford:

We write to express our concern about the infant formula supply shortage which is making it harder for parents and caregivers nationwide to get their children the nourishment they need. Formula is a critical source of nutrition for newborns and infants, and this supply shortage has put their health and development at risk. We are calling on you and your member companies to take immediate action and ensure that infant formula manufacturers are making every effort to mitigate this dangerous shortage and get children the nourishment they need.

Over the past several months—and particularly in light of the massive recall following contaminated formula from Abbott Nutrition, a major supplier—it has become increasingly difficult for families to access infant formula. According to a recent report, between November 2021 and early April 2022, the national out-of-stock rate for infant formula rose to 31 percent—an 11 percent increase. These numbers varied significantly across the country, with some metropolitan areas seeing out-of-stock rates of over 50 percent. In several states, more than half of their infant formula supply was sold out by the last week of April] Major retailers are implementing nationwide restrictions on infant formula purchases.

This shortage has placed an unacceptable burden on parents and caregivers and has put the health of babies and infants at risk. For many families, infant formula is critical for ensuring their children receive the nutrition they need to grow healthy and well-nourished. This shortage has been especially challenging for some of the most vulnerable infants, with particularly acute shortages of specialty formulas to address health needs such as allergies, gastrointestinal issues, or metabolic disorders. There is no easy substitute for infant formula, and this shortage has left families across the nation scrambling to figure out how they will safely care for their children.

We urge the Infant Nutrition Council of America and your member companies to do all you can to increase infant formula production and distribution, and prevent future supply chain disruptions.

Sincerely,

 

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 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,642,519 in federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Virginia State Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). This funding will go towards improving call and text response rates at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

he last two years of the pandemic, we have seen an increased demand for mental health services,” the senators said. “We are pleased that this funding will allow the Commonwealth to provide more timely assistance to those who are in crisis and in need of help.”

Currently in Virginia, the DBHDS has an in-state answer rate of 83 percent. The goal of this funding is to increase answer rates at call centers to 90 percent by the end of the grant period. In addition, SAMSHA has a stated goal of answering 90 percent of calls within 15 seconds and 95 percent of calls within 20 seconds by the end of the grant period.

This funding comes ahead of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s July transition from the current 10-digit number to a three-digit, 988, dialing code. With the switch, SAMHSA is expecting an increase in calls. 

In February of last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine announced funding for the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority to help expand access to and improve the quality of mental health and substance use disorder programs.

This funding was provided through the American Rescue Plan which was supported by both Sens. Warner and Kaine.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, were joined by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today in raising concerns with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding its draft National Coverage Determination (NCD) decision memo for the drug Aduhelm and other similar Alzheimer’s treatments.

In the January 11, 2022 proposed decision memo, CMS groups together an entire class of Alzheimer’s drugs, despite the fact that many are in different stages of the testing and approval pipeline. It also proposes to cover them only if beneficiaries are enrolled in a randomized control trial conducted in an outpatient hospital setting.

“Monoclonal antibody treatments that target amyloid plaques in the brain are the therapies farthest along in their potential for treating certain individuals with Alzheimer’s disease,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that by including the entire class of drugs in this coverage decision—before final data on safety and efficacy are even released on other therapies in the pipeline—CMS may limit future access to treatments.”

The senators continued, “Although all in the same class, no two drugs work exactly the same for all individuals. Further, the evidence gathered from Aduhelm’s FDA confirmatory trial as well as additional evidence gathered by CMS may inform coverage decisions of potential future drugs. Each new medicine, in our view, should be reviewed on its own merits and not as a class.”

Noting that Black and Latino populations have higher incidences of Alzheimer’s, the Senators also called on CMS to ensure that any clinical trial requirements do not inadvertently limit access to treatments for people of color.

“On behalf of people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, thank you Senators Warner, Markey and other Senate leaders for sharing your concerns with CMS about the national coverage determination proposed decision and encouraging them to expand coverage of FDA-approved treatments for people living with Alzheimer’s. As it stands, the current draft would sharply limit access to an entire class of drugs. For the individuals living with this fatal disease, delaying and limiting access to treatment could mean further progression of their cognitive decline. We appreciate your continued leadership on issues important to the Alzheimer’s community,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) executive director.

“It is critically important to the Alzheimer’s community that CMS understand what many members of Congress already do: it’s wrong for Medicare to deny access to FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments. This would not happen with cancer, and it must not happen with Alzheimer’s,” said George Vradenburg, chair and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “I applaud the senators for working on behalf of patients to increase access to this class of drugs, particularly among people of color. Every day 1,000 Americans slip from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and out of the disease stage targeted by this class of drugs. We do not have time to wait. And we will not stop our campaign until this injustice is corrected.”

As Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease Sen. Warner has been a longstanding advocate in Congress for improving access and quality of medical care for some of our country’s most vulnerable patients. Last week, Sens. Warner and Markey celebrated the addition of $3.5 billion for Alzheimer’s and related dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus spending bill. In 2018, Sen. Warner led colleagues in calling on the Trump administration to continue investing in Alzheimer’s research.  Previously, he introduced bipartisan legislation designed to give people with advanced illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, new tools to plan for their care and empower them to have those choices honored.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure:

We’re writing to share concerns about the recently proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) decision memo for Aduhelm and similar drugs, released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on January 11, 2022. Although more data is needed on Aduhelm’s impact on Alzheimer’s disease, we urge you not to include in the NCD the whole class of similar drugs that have not yet been considered by the Food and Drug Administration. Further, we ask that CMS work to ensure that in any studies required by CMS, robust and representative participation by communities of color are prioritized.

As CMS notes in its decision memo, more than 6 million people in America have Alzheimer’s disease and this is expected to rise to 14 million by 2060. Monoclonal antibody treatments that target amyloid plaques in the brain are the therapies farthest along in their potential for treating certain individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. We are concerned that by including the entire class of drugs in this coverage decision—before final data on safety and efficacy are even released on other therapies in the pipeline— CMS may limit future access to treatments.

As you know, there is a large unmet need for treatments for those with Alzheimer’s, a devastating and fatal disease. In Aduhelm’s class of drugs, three drugs are working their way through the FDA approval process. Although all in the same class, no two drugs work exactly the same for all individuals. Further, the evidence gathered from Aduhelm’s FDA confirmatory trial as well as additional evidence gathered by CMS may inform coverage decisions of potential future drugs. Each new medicine, in our view, should be reviewed on its own merits and not as a class.

Additionally, CMS should ensure that its final NCD does not make it more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries of color to both obtain these treatments if trials are required by CMS and also for us to obtain needed data on Alzheimer’s treatments in such trials, as Black and Latino populations have higher incidences of Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites. The draft NCD proposes to limit coverage only to drugs administered in hospital outpatient settings. This will make it significantly more difficult, if trials are required, to enroll beneficiaries of color, as aggressive outreach and the use of disparate sites is often needed to meet diversity targets. The draft NCD’s requirement for randomized controlled trials could also limit inclusion of people of color, as these populations are often underrepresented in such trials.

Alzheimer’s patients and their families have been waiting 20 years since the last therapy was approved, and this class of therapies holds the promise that those living with the disease may soon have multiple disease-modifying therapies from which to choose. Time is not on the side of those with Alzheimer’s, and we urge you to issue a final NCD that puts patients and their loved ones first by examining each potential new treatment on its own.

Thank you for your commitment to ending Alzheimer’s disease, and we look forward to continuing our work with you in this crucial area.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Co-chairs of Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), commended the inclusion of $3.5 billion for Alzheimer’s and related dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus spending bill. This funding is a $289 million increase over the previous year’s appropriations, and above the funding level that the NIH estimates–pursuant to Senator Markey’s Alzheimer’s Accountability Act– it will need to effectively treat or prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025. Currently, more than 6.25 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2060, that number is expected to double.

  “I am proud to co-chair the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, which has been instrumental in increasing the awareness of and advancing research in Alzheimer’s,” said Senator Warner. “In 2010 I lost my mother to Alzheimer's after her 10-year battle with the illness. I saw firsthand the challenges of this terrible disease. That is one reason why I am committed to supporting clinical and medical research into Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses. Investments like this $3.5 billion are crucial to better understanding, treating and ultimately curing Alzheimer’s disease.”

“As a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, I have long championed increased investments for Alzheimer’s research, which hold great promise for putting an end to this disease that has a devastating effect on millions of Americans and their families,” said Senator Collins. “We have made tremendous progress in recent years to boost funding for biomedical research, and this legislation builds on that momentum. I am encouraged by the bipartisan commitment to reaching the national goal of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s by the year 2025.”

 “Consistent and robust investment in medical and clinical research for Alzheimer’s disease puts us on the path to defeating this devastating disease,” said Senator Markey. “Since my mother passed from Alzheimer’s in 1998 and I co-founded the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease, I have worked on a bipartisan basis alongside Alzheimer’s patients advocates, and caregivers to push for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research.  I am proud these efforts have successfully brought billions of federal research dollars to this disease. This year’s funding increase is another positive example of the work that must continue until we effectively prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter requesting the funding can be found here.

In Fiscal Year 2021, the Senators helped to secure $3.2 billion for Alzheimer’s and related dementia research at NIH.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, joined Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Chris Murphy, and Jeanne Shaheen, as well as 35 of their Senate colleagues, in a letter urging Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to limit the sale and availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI) plans, also known as “junk plans.” These plans fail to provide adequate, comprehensive health insurance coverage and weaken provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and comprehensive health care coverage. In order to strengthen that commitment, HHS must act quickly to limit the proliferation and promotion of STLDI plans, and undue the sabotage caused by the previous administration,” said the Senators.

In 2018, the Trump Administration made junk plans more widely available to consumers in an effort to sabotage the ACA. Since then, the plans have continued to proliferate. However, they are not required to adhere to important standards, including prohibitions on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, coverage for the 10 essential health benefit (EHB) categories, and annual out-of-pocket maximums.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Charles Schumer (D-NY), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to protect the ACA and expand access to quality health care. In 2020, they sent a letter led by Kaine calling on the Trump Administration to end efforts to sabotage the ACA. In 2019, they introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution  led by Warner, which would have prevented the Trump Administration from pushing junk health plans to 3 million Virginians with pre-existing conditions. Later that year, Sen. Warner successfully filed a discharge petition to force the Senate to vote on the CRA, which was ultimately defeated by Senate Republicans.  

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Secretary Becerra:

This year, 14.5 million Americans signed up for comprehensive health insurance coverage during Open Enrollment, a new record. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, four out of five consumers who receive health insurance from the marketplace are finding quality coverage for less than $10 per month, and a majority of those enrollees are also receiving subsidies to decrease their co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket spending. We write to congratulate you and your entire department for this significant achievement and encourage you to take additional steps to ensure that even more Americans are protected from substandard plans that do not provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. Now is the time to issue new regulations limiting the sale and availability of short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI) plans, also known as “junk plans” because of their failure to provide adequate coverage.

Despite the important gains that we have made in providing comprehensive and affordable coverage for more Americans, STLDI plans continue to sow confusion and cause harm to patients. These plans, which are not required to adhere to important standards, including prohibitions on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, coverage for the 10 essential health benefit (EHB) categories, and annual out-of-pocket maximums, have continued to proliferate. In 2018, the Trump administration issued a rule to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by promoting STLDI plans and that same year all Senate Democrats and one Republican Senator voted to block the rule. Unfortunately, this effort to undermine critical patient and consumer protections has yet to be undone.

We were pleased to see the Biden administration include amending regulations concerning STLDI plans in the Fall 2021 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan, and are proud of the historic coverage gains that we have seen as a result of President Biden’s and your leadership. However, it is past time for us to take action. STLDI plans undermine the integrity of the ACA and put those with pre-existing conditions at risk. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should immediately restore the three-month duration limit for plans, limit plan renewability, and reduce the ability to purchase back-to-back STLDI plans. We also urge you to consider additional efforts to protect patients and consumers such as banning sales during Marketplace Open Enrollment, limiting internet and phone sales, establishing a prohibition on retroactive coverage rescissions, and requiring additional consumer disclosures about plan coverage.

It is our responsibility to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and comprehensive health care coverage. In order to strengthen that commitment, HHS must act quickly to limit the proliferation and promotion of STLDI plans, and undue the sabotage caused by the previous administration.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Following a January announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DoL) Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) launching a Miner Vaccine Outreach Program to deliver free vaccinations and provide educational outreach to mining communities in Kentucky and Arizona, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are calling on the DoL to include Southwest Virginia in the plans.

In a letter to the MSHA, the senators highlighted that while the Commonwealth has a high vaccination rate as a whole, many mining counties in Southwest Virginia are vaccinated at much lower rates and would greatly benefit from increased vaccination efforts.

“Virginia’s counties vary widely in terms of vaccinations rates, and mining communities in Southwest Virginia are quite similar to the neighboring counties in Kentucky that the Miner Vaccine Outreach Program is serving. In Virginia, mining communities are centered in Dickenson, Buchanan, Wise, Tazewell, Lee, and Russell counties, where the adult population has a fully-vaccinated rate of less than 57%. It is clear that these communities are in critical need of targeted outreach to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been leaders in the push to get Virginians vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes securing $8.8 million in federal funding to support the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

In addition, Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which included $7.5 billion in funding for the CDC and public health departments to expand vaccine distribution and administration.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Acting Assistant Secretary Galanis:

Thank you for your work to provide safety protections and health services to our miners in Virginia and nationwide. As the Biden administration continues to ramp up efforts to get more Americans vaccinated, we are writing to request that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) expand its newly launched Miner Vaccine Outreach Program into Southwest Virginia mining communities.

On January 25, 2022, the Department of Labor announced MSHA’s Miner Vaccine Outreach Program to deliver free COVID-19 vaccinations and provide educational outreach to mining communities. In selecting Kentucky and Arizona, MSHA notes the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that vaccination rates are below 60 percent in two states where a substantial number of mining operations exist.”

Mining communities in Virginia are seeing similar challenges increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates. Virginia’s counties vary widely in terms of vaccinations rates, and mining communities in Southwest Virginia are quite similar to the neighboring counties in Kentucky that the Miner Vaccine Outreach Program is serving. In Virginia, mining communities are centered in Dickenson, Buchanan, Wise, Tazewell, Lee, and Russell counties, where the adult population has a fully-vaccinated rate of less than 57%. It is clear that these communities are in critical need of targeted outreach to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.  

Miners have been essential workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and MSHA’s Miner Vaccine Outreach Program is one critical way to support their health and safety. We urge you to expand this program into Southwest Virginia so that coal miners there receive the medical services and support they need and deserve. Thank you for the consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers in calling for the extension of expanded coverage of telehealth services to be included in must-pass legislation in February. Provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act, reintroduced by Sen. Warner in April 2021, were included in previous COVID-19 relief legislation to allow Medicare beneficiaries to utilize telehealth services and to expand the types of health care providers eligible to provide telehealth. However, these provisions will expire following the pandemic unless congressional leaders act to extend those measures or make them permanent.

“We strongly support permanently expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth and removing other barriers to the use of telehealth because of its ability to expand access to care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes. While Congress prepares to enact permanent telehealth legislation, we urge you to include an extension of the pandemic telehealth authorities in must-pass government funding legislation in February,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Sen. Warner was an original co-sponsor of the 2016 Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act and has been a longtime advocate for the expansion of telehealth in order to ease access to healthcare. In June 2020, Sen. Warner called for the permanent expansion of telehealth services in a letter to congressional leadership. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY.), Tina Smith (D-MN), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), John Boozman (R-AR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), James Langevin (D-RI), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Michael Guest (R-MS).

A full copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

Telehealth has been a critical tool during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that patients continue to receive the health care they need while keeping health care providers and patients safe.  Congress recognized the importance of telehealth and included provisions in COVID-19 legislation to increase access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic.  We strongly support permanently expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth and removing other barriers to the use of telehealth because of its ability to expand access to care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes.  While Congress prepares to enact permanent telehealth legislation, we urge you to include an extension of the pandemic telehealth authorities in must-pass government funding legislation in February.  

An extension to maintain expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services for a set period of time would provide much-needed certainty to health care providers and patients.  Ramping up telehealth requires significant costs and resources from health care providers. However, the pandemic telehealth authorities are temporary and tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, which is renewed in three-month increments.  Without more definitive knowledge about the duration of the pandemic and Medicare’s long-term coverage of telehealth, many organizations have been hesitant to fully invest in telehealth.  An extension of the telehealth authorities would provide assurance that the investments will be sustainable over the long term.  It would also reassure patients that their care will not end abruptly. 

In addition, since the use of telehealth in Medicare was very low before the pandemic, an extension would provide additional time to collect and analyze data on the impacts of telehealth.  This data could help inform Congress’s next steps on permanent telehealth legislation and appropriate program integrity and beneficiary protections.  In the meantime, it is crucial that an extension not include unnecessary statutory barriers in accessing telehealth services during this data collection and analysis period. 

Telehealth has become an essential part of the health care system.  The permanent telehealth reforms included in the CONNECT for Health Act, which has bipartisan support from over 170 members of Congress, as well as other telehealth bills, are imperative to increase access to care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes.  In February, Congress should extend the authorities that have expanded coverage of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to maintain access to telehealth and provide necessary certainty for Medicare telehealth coverage. 

We appreciate your collaboration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $1,558,976 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand access to high-speed internet, health care, and educational services in rural Virginia. 

“Teleservices are essential in today’s world, especially in rural areas where folks have to travel long distances to access resources. These investments will help close the digital divide across our Commonwealth and extend valuable educational and health opportunities to many Virginians,” the Senators said.

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • Bristol Virginia Public Schools will receive $993,840 in federal funds to purchase interactive video conferencing equipment to deliver distance learning and telehealth services to 21 schools in eight rural Virginia communities.
  • University of Virginia will receive $267,036 in federal funds to purchase telemedicine equipment to serve a Tribal Nation, a Critical Access Hospital, a new Opioid Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder clinic, and two federally qualified health centers serving the Appalachian region of Virginia. This equipment will help address urgent health needs, including those related to COVID-19, severe respiratory disease, the opioid crisis, and Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that over 3,000 patients will receive treatment from this project.  
  • Mountain States Health Alliance will receive $298,100 in federal funds to expand virtual access to behavioral health, urgent care, and specialty care in Rural Appalachia. An estimated 33,000 patients will benefit from the telemedical care available facilitated by this project.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia health centers will receive $28,545,390 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to better serve vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Health centers are vital to the communities they serve, and too often they are lacking the resources they need to provide the care Virginians need. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senators said. “These funds will give care centers the ability to adequately treat patients and continue their lifesaving work during the global pandemic.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • Stony Creek Community Health Center in Stony Creek will receive $98,988
  • Central Virginia Health Services Inc. will receive $1,003,679
  • Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems Inc. will receive $663,636
  • Free Clinic of The New River Valley Inc. will receive $556,210
  • Greater Prince William Area Community Health Center Inc. will receive $711,255
  • Southern Dominion Health Systems Inc. will receive $637,313
  • Blue Ridge Medical Center Inc. will receive $594,380
  • Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness will receive $552,591
  • Clinch River Health Services in Dungannon will receive $529,689
  • Daily Planet Inc. in Richmond will receive $575,000
  • Kuumba Community Health & Wellness Center Inc. in Roanoke will receive $603,873
  • Rockbridge Area Free Clinic in Lexington will receive $573,612
  • Johnson Health Center in Lynchburg will receive $776,265
  • Highland Medical Center in Monterey will receive $520,658
  • Tri-Area Community Health will receive $609,340
  • Neighborhood Health will receive $821,057
  • St. Charles Health Council in Jonesville will receive $689,013
  • Piedmont Access to Health Services Inc. in Danville will receive $712,311
  • Eastern Shore Rural Health System Inc. will receive $848,194
  • The City of Richmond will receive $657,135
  • Loudoun Community Health Center in Leesburg will receive $637,808
  • Harrisonburg Community Health Center Inc. will receive $671,611
  • Portsmouth Community Health Center in Portsmouth will receive $641,603
  • Bland County Medical Clinic Inc. in Bastian will receive $570,455
  • Horizon Health Services Inc. will receive $551,062 

In addition, the Virginia Department of Health will receive $12,738,652 from the Ryan White Title II Formula Grants Program.

The funding was awarded through the American Recue Plan, which both Senators voted in favor of, and will help modernize, renovate, and expand health centers that have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in introducing a bipartisan resolution to support the designation of September 19-25 as “Telehealth Awareness Week.” The resolution recognizes that telehealth has helped millions of patients access quality health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it will continue to be essential beyond the public health emergency.

“Telehealth makes it possible for more people to safely get the care they need, where and when they need it,” said Senator Schatz. “This is an opportunity for Congress to demonstrate its broad, bipartisan support for telehealth and help more people learn how to access these important services.”

“Telehealth services have brought quality health care to more Americans in more places during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Wicker said. “This Telehealth Awareness Week, I am glad to join my colleagues to celebrate the importance of telehealth and commit to making these services available to more Americans permanently.”

The resolution recognizes the bipartisan support in Congress for telehealth and encourages expanded access to telehealth services for all individuals, including members of rural and underserved communities. It concludes that “Telehealth Awareness Week” will unite the efforts of patients, caregivers, health care providers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to advance the role of telehealth in health care.

In addition to Senators Warner, Schatz, and Wicker, the resolution is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss).

To read the full resolution, click here.

 

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WASHINGTON Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 47 Democrats in the Senate and 188 in the House in filing a bicameral amicus brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, urging the Supreme Court to uphold nearly 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade and protect the constitutional right to abortion care. The amicus brief was led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate.  In the House, the brief was led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA).

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In addition to Senators Warner, Schumer, Murray, Durbin, and Blumenthal, the amicus brief was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Ossoff (D-GA), Padilla (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warnock (D-GA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR).

Alexandria, Va. (August 5, 2021) — Today, the National Home Infusion Association (NHIA) applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that will ensure Medicare patients maintain access to home infusion therapies that require the use of an infusion pump. The Preserving Patient Access to Home Infusion Act — introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) — would ensure patients with serious viral and fungal infections, heart failure, immune diseases, cancer, and other conditions can receive the intravenous (IV) medications they need while at home.

“Medicare’s home infusion therapy benefit provides increased access to care for patients with immune diseases, cancer, serious infections, heart failure and other conditions that might otherwise force them to receive their care in a more expensive and less convenient hospital or nursing home setting,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will ensure that patients in need of home infusion therapy can get the care they need in a more affordable and commonsense way.”

“Americans deserve the flexibility needed to seek medical treatment from the comfort of their own home,” said Sen. Scott. “As we progress through the pandemic, high-risk patients who are more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus and other diseases should not be limited to hospital visits that could further risk their health. With the introduction of this bill, millions of Americans will be one step closer to having peace of mind as they seek life-saving treatment in their own homes.”

Home infusion pharmacies have been safely and effectively providing a wide range of IV medications to patients in their homes for over 40 years. This proven model of care is overwhelmingly preferred by patients while also being cost-effective compared to other sites of care. Research shows that up to 95% of patientswho are dependent on IV medications prefer to be treated at home, and nearly 98% of patients recently indicated they are highly satisfied with their home infusion services.

LEGISLATIVE BACKGROUND

Congress included provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to create a professional services benefit for Medicare Part B home infusion drugs. The intent in establishing this benefit was to maintain patient access to home infusion by covering professional services including assessments, education on administration and access device care, monitoring and remote monitoring, coordination with the patient, caregivers and other health care providers, and nursing visits.

Despite Congress’ intent — as detailed in multiple letters to the agency — the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) improperly implemented the benefit by requiring a nurse to be physically present in the patient’s home in order for providers to be reimbursed. As a practical matter, the current home infusion therapy benefit only acknowledges face-to-face visits from a nurse and fails to account for the extensive clinical and administrative services that are provided remotely by home infusion clinicians. As a result, provider participation in Medicare’s home infusion benefit has dropped sharply and beneficiaries have experienced reduced access to home infusion over the last several years.

The Preserving Patient Access to Home Infusion Act provides technical clarifications that will remove the physical presence requirement, ensuring payment regardless of whether a health care professional is present in the patient’s home. The legislation also acknowledges the full scope of professional services provided in home infusion — including essential pharmacist services — into the reimbursement structure.

“Home-based health care services stand out as high-value resources that can improve patient quality of life and add capacity to the health care system while keeping vulnerable patients away from the threat of infectious disease,” said NHIA President & CEO Connie Sullivan, BSPharm. “Passage of the Preserving Patient Access to Home Infusion Act is critical to ensuring the Medicare program maintains access to home infusion, allowing beneficiaries to safely receive treatment in the setting they overwhelmingly prefer: their homes.”

Preliminary analysis of the legislation from The Moran Company suggests that the measure will create savings for patients and taxpayers by moving care into more cost-effective home settings. “Our model estimates on balance that the legislation would produce more savings than costs—with an estimated savings over 10 years of $93 million,” the report concludes.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to help lower the costs of needed medical care and prescription drugs for children. The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the ability to purchase prescription drugs at the lowest price possible, reducing the cost of prescription drugs for children who receive coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and generating immediate savings for states and the federal government.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that in one of the richest nations in the world, families still face a steep price tag for their child’s lifesaving prescription drug,” said Sen. Warner. “This commonsense bill would cut through bureaucratic red tape and give states the ability to secure the best possible price – something that is currently forbidden under current law.” 

“Skyrocketing health care costs – including prescription drug costs – have left many families unable to afford critical life-saving medication for their children,” said Sen. Booker. “Our bill will make important changes to the CHIP program, lowering drug prices for over 4 million children and helping states save money. Health care is a fundamental right and this legislation is critical to ensuring that more of our nation’s children have access to quality, affordable care.” 

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to low-income children who would otherwise be uninsured. Currently, states can either have a standalone CHIP that is separate from Medicaid, or they can expand Medicaid eligibility to achieve the same goal of providing health insurance to low-income children. States can also have a combination program. 

However, states that have a standalone CHIP are not allowed to participate in the Medicaid Drug Rebate program (MDRP), which allows state Medicaid programs to purchase products from drug manufacturers at “Medicaid best price” – the lowest price offered to any other commercial payer. This means that these states are forced to pay higher prices for the same prescription drugs, which can result in higher costs for families and reduced access to medicines and other forms of needed care. In the most recent report released by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, there are more than 4 million children nationally enrolled in a separate CHIP program.

The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act would give states the option of purchasing prescription drugs for their standalone CHIP through the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. This would generate immediate savings for individual CHIP programs and the federal government, opening the door for states to use those excess dollars to ensure even more families and children have access to essential medical care and prescription drugs.

The Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act is endorsed by numerous organizations, including the Little Lobbyists, Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, First Focus Campaign for Children and the Children’s Hospital Association. In addition, the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families included this cost-savings concept in their January 2019 report, “How to Strengthen the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program to Address Rising Medicaid Prescription Drug Costs.”

“We are grateful to Senators Warner and Booker for reintroducing the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act, which will extend Medicaid’s best price provisions so all CHIP programs get the medication patients need at the lowest possible price,” said Sarah Kaminer Bourland, Legislative Director at Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “States and families across the country need relief from the burden of high drug prices and this legislation is an important step towards providing that relief to many of those who need it most.”

“We are pleased to support the Fair Drug Prices for Kids Act. We thank Senators Warner and Booker for this bill that will help lower costs for stand-alone CHIP programs and allow states to cover more kids,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus Campaign for Children

A copy of the bill text can be found here. A copy of the one-page summary can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the reopening of the Lee County Community Hospital in Pennington Gap, Virginia. This morning, Senator Warner attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the new Lee County Community Hospital. In April, Kaine toured the construction site of the hospital, which was being renovated by Ballad Health. While there, Kaine met with Ballad Health officials to discuss the reopening and health needs facing the region, including efforts to respond to COVID-19 and strengthen Virginia’s rural health care system. 

“As many rural hospitals across the nation are closing due to lack of resources, we hope Lee County Community Hospital serves as an example of how these vital facilities can reopen and effectively serve their communities,” said the Senators. “We are very pleased to see the hospital fully open, and we will continue working to ensure Virginians have access to reliable and affordable health care services, regardless of their zip code.” 

In 2013, the Lee County Regional Medical Center closed abruptly. Not only did this closure leave the residents of Lee County without access to a nearby hospital, but it also hindered opportunities for economic development in the area. In February of 2019, Lee County Hospital Authority partnered with Ballad Health to begin plans to reopen the hospital.

Senators Warner and Kaine have long supported the reopening of this facility. In March, the senators introduced the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 to provide additional financial support for rural hospitals that are already operating on very thin margins. Reporting indicates that rural hospitals are now closing at an alarming rate, with more than 130 rural hospitals across the nation having closed in the last decade. Lee County Community Hospital is rare among these hospitals for having reopened. Warner and Kaine have also introduced the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021,legislation to promote health care access for low-income Americans and support Medicaid expansion nationwide. It is estimated that the SAME Act would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. 

Flickr photo album of Senator Warner’s visit today can be found here.

Flickr photo album of Senator Kaine’s visit in April can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) that it has selected a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and is the result of a successful bipartisan effortoriginally spearheaded by Sen. Warner in 2016 to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including another outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“This new outpatient facility is long-overdue in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country, and where veterans often battle traffic and long wait times to access the care they’ve earned,” said Sen. Warner today. “After years of delays, I’m pleased that a site for this new VA clinic in Southside Hampton Roads has finally been selected, and look forward to working with local and federal officials to make sure that it opens its doors as soon as possible.” 

High demand has often meant long wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, where enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent over the next 20 years, and outpatient workload is expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Sen. Warner has been pushingunder three different presidents to get the long-planned Southside clinic up and running to alleviate demand in the region. While the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next several years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Warner has fought to reduce wait times for veterans in Hampton Roads. In 2015, confronted with wait times that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today sent a letter urging congressional appropriators to include $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer free and confidential health screenings to coal miners at risk of developing black lung disease. Specifically, the funding would go towards the purchase of a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and towards needed maintenance for the two existing units that serve the Appalachian region – one of which is nonoperational and the other of which is set to be retired in the next few years. 

“Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung,” wrote the Senators to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies. 

A 2019 report by the CDC – commissioned by Sens. Warner, Kaine, Manchin, Casey, Brown, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – identified that a lack of accessibility to health screenings and fear of discrimination or retribution prevents many miners from being screened for black lung disease. Currently, the national participation rate in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP) is approximately 35 percent among active miners and even lower among retirees. In their letter, the Senators underscore that providing this critical funding to activate more screening units will make it easier for Americans to access this free health screening program in an effort to detect black lung disease early. 

“The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units,” they concluded.

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:  

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education & Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, we are writing to urge you to provide at least $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer confidential health screenings to coal miners as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP). 

NIOSH mobile testing units offer confidential and accessible screenings that improve public health by providing early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly referred to as black lung disease. Unfortunately, there are only two NIOSH Mobile Testing Units in the Appalachian region. One of these units is not currently operating and one unit is expected to be defunct within a couple of years.  

Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung. 

In June 2019, your committee was sent a report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailing that only about 35% of active coal miners participate in the CWHSP program because of several concerns. These concerns included: 

1. Lack of confidentiality and fear of discrimination resulting from participation, and 

2. Costly travel expenses and using limited time off to access screenings at black lung clinics. 

The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. 

To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units. Thank you for your consideration of our request. Should you have any questions for need additional information please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  

Sincerely,

 

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