Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) wrote to Sundar Pichai – the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google – urging him to curb deceptive advertisements and ensure that users receive accurate information when searching for abortion services on the platform. This letter comes on the heels of an investigation that reveals how Google regularly fails to apply disclaimer labels to misleading ads by anti-abortion clinics. It also follows a successful effort by Sen. Warner and Rep. Slotkin who previously urged Google to take action to prevent misleading search results for anti-abortion clinics. This push ultimately led Google to clearly label facilities that provide abortions and prevent users from being misled by fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers.

“We are encouraged by and appreciative of the recent steps Google has taken to protect those searching for abortion services from being mistakenly directed to clinics that do not offer comprehensive reproductive health services. However, we ask you to address issues with misrepresentation in advertising on Google’s site and take a more expansive, proactive approach to addressing violations of Google’s stated policy,” wrote the lawmakers.

“According to an investigation by Bloomberg News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), depending on the search term used, Google does not consistently apply disclaimer labels to ads by anti-abortion clinics.  CCDH recently conducted searches that returned 132 misleading ads for such clinics that lacked disclaimers. Specifically, researchers found that queries for terms such as ‘Plan C pills,’ ‘pregnancy help,’ and ‘Planned Parenthood’ often returned results with ads that are not labeled accurately,” they continued. “Furthermore, the Tech Transparency Project found that some ads from ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ even when they were properly labeled, the ads themselves included deliberately deceptive verbiage aimed at tricking users into believing that they offer abortion services.  For example, ads for ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ were found to contain language such as ‘Free Abortion Pill’ and ‘First Trimester Abortion.’ Such deceptive advertising likely reduces the effectiveness of labels and may lead to detrimental health outcomes for users who receive delayed treatment.”

In addition to urging Google to rectify these issues, the lawmakers also requested answers to the following questions:

 

  1. What specific search terms does Google consider related to “getting an abortion”?
  2. What criteria does Google use to determine whether specific queries are related to “getting an abortion”?
  3. What additional steps will Google take to identify and remove ads with misleading verbiage that violates Google’s policies against misrepresentation?

A copy of the letter is available here and full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Mr. Pichai,

We write today regarding the responsibility that Google has to ensure users receive accurate information when searching for abortion services on your platform. We are encouraged by and appreciative of the recent steps Google has taken to protect those searching for abortion services from being mistakenly directed to clinics that do not offer comprehensive reproductive health services. However, we ask you to address issues with misrepresentation in advertising on Google’s site and take a more expansive, proactive approach to addressing violations of Google’s stated policy.

On June 17, 2022, we wrote to you, along with 19 other senators and representatives, regarding research that showed Google results for searches such as “abortion services near me” often included links to clinics that are anti-abortion, sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers.”   We were extremely concerned with this practice of directing users toward “crisis pregnancy centers” without any disclaimer indicating those businesses do not provide abortions.

We were pleased to see the changes you have made in response to our letter, such as the new refinement tool that allows users to only see facilities verified to offer abortion services, while still preserving the option to see a broader range of search results.  The steps you have taken will help prevent users from mistakenly being sent to organizations that attempt to deceive individuals into thinking they provide comprehensive health services and instead, regularly provide users with disinformation regarding the risks of abortion.  As many states are increasingly narrowing the window between getting a positive pregnancy test and when you can terminate a pregnancy, every day counts.

But we find ourselves again asking that Google live up to its promises with regards to preventing misleading ads on its platform. According to an investigation by Bloomberg News and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), depending on the search term used, Google does not consistently apply disclaimer labels to ads by anti-abortion clinics.  CCDH recently conducted searches that returned 132 misleading ads for such clinics that lacked disclaimers. Specifically, researchers found that queries for terms such as “Plan C pills,” “pregnancy help,” and “Planned Parenthood” often returned results with ads that are not labeled accurately.  We believe Google’s failure to apply disclaimer labels to these common searches appears to be a violation of your June 2019 policy that requires “advertisers who want to run ads using keywords related to getting an abortion” to go through a verification process and be labeled as a provider that “Provides abortions” or “Does not provide abortions.”

Furthermore, the Tech Transparency Project found that some ads from “crisis pregnancy centers,” even when they were properly labeled, the ads themselves included deliberately deceptive verbiage aimed at tricking users into believing that they offer abortion services.  For example, ads for “crisis pregnancy centers” were found to contain language such as “Free Abortion Pill” and “First Trimester Abortion.” Such deceptive advertising likely reduces the effectiveness of labels and may lead to detrimental health outcomes for users who receive delayed treatment. These ads appear to violate Google’s policy on misrepresentation, which prohibits ads that “deceive users.”  Your responsiveness to our first letter gives us hope that you are willing to see this issue through. We, therefore, would appreciate answers to the following questions:

  1. What specific search terms does Google consider related to “getting an abortion”?
  2. What criteria does Google use to determine whether specific queries are related to “getting an abortion”?
  3. What additional steps will Google take to identify and remove ads with misleading verbiage that violates Google’s policies against misrepresentation?

We urge you to take proactive action to rectify these and any additional issues surrounding misleading ads, and help ensure users receive search results that accurately address their queries and are relevant to their intentions.

Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to your timely response. 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after voting in favor of a resolution terminating the COVID-19 national emergency under the National Emergencies Act originally declared by President Trump in March of 2020:

“When COVID-19 hit, Congress acted with urgency under a number of emergency declarations to provide the flexibilities and funding needed to save lives, roll out a vaccine, and keep our economy afloat. We’ve come a long way since then, and while it might be easier to kick the can down the road, I think it’s time to have a bipartisan conversation about how we unwind from these emergency actions and move forward with the valuable lessons we’ve learned. Today’s resolution won’t affect critical flexibilities, such as the ones facilitating access to telehealth. Rather, this vote should serve as the beginning of a productive and bipartisan effort to examine which mitigation efforts and flexibilities are worth embedding permanently into our lives, and which are no longer relevant or necessary.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) published “Cybersecurity is Patient Safety,” a policy options paper, outlining current cybersecurity threats facing health care providers and systems and offering for discussion a series of policy solutions to improve cybersecurity across the industry.  

Over the last decade cyberattacks in the health care sector have risen exponentially, with attacks on providers reaching an all-time high in 2021. The white paper, assembled by Sen. Warner’s staff, drawing on input from health care and cybersecurity experts, argues that improving cybersecurity in the health care sector will require collaboration from both the public and private sectors, and calls for improving federal leadership, strengthening health care providers’ cybersecurity capabilities, and building a robust response system in order to efficiently recover from attacks.

“Unfortunately, the health care sector is uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks and the transition to better cybersecurity has been painfully slow and inadequate. The federal government and the health sector must find a balanced approach to meet the dire threats, as partners with shared responsibilities,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Divided in three parts, the white paper is organized as follows:

  1. Chapter one covers areas that the federal government needs to address to improve our national risk posture when it comes to cybersecurity in the health care sector. Specifically, it notes seven key challenges facing federal government agencies with jurisdiction over health care providers and cybersecurity, details the current state of play regarding cybersecurity threats, and outlines policy options for shoring up existing vulnerabilities.    
  2. Chapter two covers ways that the federal government can help the private sector meet this threat through a combination of potential mandates and voluntary incentives to adopt best practices.
  3. Chapter three covers policies that could help health care providers respond to attacks in the event of a cybersecurity failure. Specifically, it notes ways institutions can recover following successful cyberattacks, and how to limit the resulting impact on patients and systems.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in the cybersecurity realm throughout his time in the Senate, crafting numerous pieces of legislation aimed at addressing these threats facing our nation. Recognizing that cybersecurity is an increasingly complex issue that affects the health, economic prosperity, national security, and democratic institutions of the United States, Sen. Warner cofounded the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus with former Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in 2016.  A year later, in 2017, he authored the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act with Sen. Gardner. This legislation, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2020, requires that any IoT device purchased with federal funds meet minimum security standards. As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner co-authored legislation that requires companies responsible for U.S. critical infrastructure report cybersecurity incidents to the government. This legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in March 2022.

Sen. Warner has also examined cybersecurity in the health care sector specifically. In 2019, Sen. Warner sent a letter to several health care providers and industry trade associations – from large hospital networks to trade associations representing rural providers and medical technology vendors – asking a series of questions related to the steps their organizations and/or members had taken to improve their cybersecurity posture. Sen. Warner received a number of thoughtful responses to those questions that revealed a wide-range of cybersecurity capabilities and depth of understanding of the problems health care providers are facing.

Sen. Warner is releasing this policy options document with the intent of soliciting feedback from stake-holders on the potential options described within. Any individuals, researchers, businesses, organizations, or advocacy groups that are interested in submitting comments – specific to the content and questions outlined in this document or additional ideas or language for inclusion in eventual legislation – should send a letter or an email to cyber@warner.senate.gov.

A copy of full policy options paper can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) wrote to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing concern and requesting more information regarding Meta’s practice of collecting user’s health information through tracking applications.

In the letter, Sen. Warner highlighted the need for user privacy and increased transparency around how user data is collected online, which has become increasingly important as the use of telehealth appointments, online appointment booking, and electronic record keeping have risen exponentially over the course of the pandemic.

“As we increasingly move health care online, we must ensure there are strong safeguards in place surrounding the use of these technologies to protect sensitive health information,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Specifically, Sen. Warner called attention to Meta Pixel, a tracking tool that sends Meta a packet of data whenever a user clicks a button to schedule a doctor’s appointment – without the knowledge of the individual making the appointment.

He continued, “I am troubled by the recent revelation that the Meta Pixel was installed on a number of hospital websites – including password-protected patient portals – and sending sensitive health information to Meta when a patient scheduled an appointment online.  This data included highly personal health data, including patients’ medical conditions, appointment topics, physician names, email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and other details about patients’ medical appointments.”

Sen. Warner also noted allegations that this practice of data harvesting and collection has been used by Meta to target advertisements across their platforms. In August of this year, two lawsuits were filed against the company over the alleged unlawful collection and sharing of health data without consent.

To address these concerns, Sen. Warner requested Meta respond to the following questions:

  1. What information does Meta have access to or receive directly from the Meta Pixel, either currently or previously?
  2. How does Meta store information received through the Meta Pixel?
  3. Has information Meta received from the Meta Pixel ever been used to inform targeted advertisements on Meta’s platforms?
  4. How does Meta handle sensitive information that it receives from third parties that violate its business guidelines?
  5. What steps is Meta taking to safeguard sensitive health information, particularly with third-party vendors? Since the release of The Markup’s report in June, what additional steps have been taken?
  6. According to the report released by the New York State Department of Financial Services last year, Meta stated that the filtering system was “not yet operating with complete accuracy.” What improvements have been made to make the filtering system more effective? How is Meta testing and evaluating the filtering system’s ability to identify sensitive health information?
  7. Where required by law, does Meta always comply with any and all notification requirements when the Meta Pixel handles or transmits protected information, in the manner and time required by such laws?

Sen. Warner has been a leader in Congress pushing for increased transparency and protections surrounding user data and privacy. He introduced the DASHBOARD Act, which works to increase transparency around data collection; the DETOUR Act, which would prohibit companies like Meta from using deceptive dark patterns to manipulate users into handing over their data; and the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act, which would set strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

October 20, 2022

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

I write to you today to express my concern regarding Meta’s collection of sensitive health information through the Meta Pixel tracking tool without user consent.

As you know, I have long worked to protect user privacy and increase transparency around how user data is collected and shared. This mission is more urgent than ever as the last two years have shown us the importance of health care technology, with many relying on electronic health records, online appointment booking, and virtual patient portals to receive care during the pandemic. As we increasingly move health care online, we must ensure there are strong safeguards in place surrounding the use of these technologies to protect sensitive health information.

I am troubled by the recent revelation that the Meta Pixel was installed on a number of hospital websites – including password-protected patient portals – and sending sensitive health information to Meta when a patient scheduled an appointment online.  This data included highly personal health data, including patients’ medical conditions, appointment topics, physician names, email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and other details about patients’ medical appointments. Additionally, of particular concern are the recent allegations that Meta has used Meta Pixel data to inform targeted advertisements on Meta’s platforms.  The use of the Meta Pixel is widespread, as the tool was installed in the systems of 33 of the top 100 hospitals in the country and inside the patient portals of seven health systems at the time of the investigation.

Unfortunately, privacy issues involving the Meta Pixel are not new, as there has been previous scrutiny of the Meta Pixel outside of the health care context. Reports published earlier this year found that the Pixel sent personal information to Meta that was collected from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the website of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office within the U.S. Department of Education.  Data sent to Meta includes applicant first and last name, email addresses, and zip codes. Additionally, this is not the first time that your company has been involved in the wrongful collection of sensitive health information. In 2021, an investigation by the New York State Department of Financial Services found that Meta (then Facebook) collected user data from several health and wellness apps, including results from blood pressure and heart rate readings, menstruation and fertility tracking, pregnancy status, and other deeply personal information. 

Meta’s own business guidelines state that the company “[doesn’t] want websites or apps sending [Meta] sensitive information about people,”  including sensitive health information, which Meta identifies as medical conditions, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, details regarding medical devices and trackers, treatments, test results, body specifications or cycles, locations of treatment, and other health-related data.  Yet, in this most recent case and as we have seen previously, Meta is continuing to access this highly sensitive information.

It is critical that technology companies like Meta take seriously their role in protecting user health data. Without meaningful action, I fear that these continuing privacy violations and harmful uses of health data could become the new status quo in health care and public health.

To address the concerns raised in this letter, I request that you provide responses to the following questions by November 3, 2022:

  1. What information does Meta have access to or receive directly from the Meta Pixel, either currently or previously?
  2. How does Meta store information received through the Meta Pixel?
  3. Has information Meta received from the Meta Pixel ever been used to inform targeted advertisements on Meta’s platforms?
  4. How does Meta handle sensitive information that it receives from third parties that violate its business guidelines?
  5. What steps is Meta taking to safeguard sensitive health information, particularly with third-party vendors? Since the release of The Markup’s report in June, what additional steps have been taken?
  6. According to the report released by the New York State Department of Financial Services last year, Meta stated that the filtering system was “not yet operating with complete accuracy.” What improvements have been made to make the filtering system more effective? How is Meta testing and evaluating the filtering system’s ability to identify sensitive health information?
  7. Where required by law, does Meta always comply with any and all notification requirements when the Meta Pixel handles or transmits protected information, in the manner and time required by such laws?

I look forward to your prompt responses.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tina Smith (D-MN), joined by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS/CMS) leadership urging them to review and formally report on the adequacy of the Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefits (EHBs). The letter expressed the need for a review of telehealth flexibilities and the impact that scaling back these service options will have on those who rely on telehealth capabilities for treatment.

“As we begin to envision health care policies post-pandemic, we remain concerned telehealth services will be significantly pared back, hindering access to care for millions of Americans—especially those with complicated health conditions,” the Senators wrote.

When the Affordable Care Act was enacted, it required the Secretary of HHS to review EHBs and provide a report to Congress, and the public, that contains:

  • An assessment of whether enrollees are facing any difficulty accessing needed services for reasons of coverage or cost;
  • An assessment of whether the EHBs list needs to be modified or updated to account for changes in medical evidence or scientific advancement;
  • Information on how EHBs will be modified to address any such gaps in access or changes in the evidence base;
  • An assessment of the potential of additional or expanded benefits to increase costs and the interactions between the addition or expansion of benefits and reductions in existing benefits to meet actuarial limitations;

Despite this requirement, this formal review and report have never been undertaken or completed. The Senators stressed the need for this process in light of changes being made to care as the health care system shifts to a post-pandemic structure.

“We have heard from constituents who have concerns that coverage will start to vary based upon visit modality. For some specialized, complicated care—eating disorders, for example—it has always been challenging getting the most appropriate treatment covered, whether that’s because of parity or network issues,” the Senators continued. “We are concerned that modality will become one additional way barriers to treatment will be enacted, if arbitrary in-person requirements become one more way care is denied or delayed.”

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

Dear Secretary Becerra, Administrator Brooks-LaSure and Deputy Administrator Montz:

We thank you for your continued partnership in establishing and extending telehealth flexibilities to ensure Americans have access to vital health care services and supports over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin to envision health care policies post-pandemic, we remain concerned telehealth services will be significantly pared back, hindering access to care for millions of Americans—especially those with complicated health conditions.

According to federal statute, it is incumbent upon the Secretary to periodically review insurance plan Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) and provide a public report to Congress that contains 1) an assessment of whether enrollees are facing difficulty accessing needed services for reasons of coverage or costs; 2) an assessment of whether plan benefits need to be modified or updated to account for changes in medical evidence or scientific advancement; 3) information on how plan benefits will be modified to address any such gaps or changes in the evidence base; and 4) an assessment of potential of additional or expanded benefits to increase costs and the interactions between the addition of benefits and reductions in existing benefits.

We believe after 12 years of the ACA it is important that EHBs be formally reviewed and the mandated report be issued to the public and Congress, especially as your Administration is committed to maintaining and further strengthening the law’s protections. We urge you to undertake such a review and report, and in addition we urge you to ensure that visit modality is not one of the “reasons of coverage” for which “enrollees are facing difficulty accessing needed services.”

We have heard from constituents who have concerns that coverage will start to vary based upon visit modality. For some specialized, complicated care—eating disorders, for example—it has always been challenging getting the most appropriate treatment covered, whether that’s because of parity or network issues. We are concerned that modality will become one additional way barriers to treatment will be enacted, if arbitrary in-person requirements become one more way care is denied or delayed.

The Department addressed a delay in completing such a report to Congress in its 2019 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameter Final Rule, citing the need for further insurance market stabilization that the final rule would provide. Although we understand the difficulty of reviewing the markets as they continue to evolve, it is for that reason critical that the Administration review and report on EHBs so that we have an understanding of whether they continue to be adequate in an ever-evolving health care ecosystem. The health care system will not be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is an opportunity to renew our commitment to comprehensive, affordable and accessible health care coverage. We respectfully request this report be conducted and issued to Congress to inform future health policy to better serve Americans.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this very important issue.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2022 – legislation to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to carry out key infrastructure projects, including medical facilities, in order to better care for veterans across the country. Virginia has one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing concentrations of veterans, resulting in increased demand for the services and benefits provided by the VA.

“I have been working for years to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the high-quality medical care they deserve,” said Sen. Warner, who successfully spearheaded congressional efforts to approve new VA healthcare projects across the country, including outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. “Unfortunately, as a country, we’ve struggled to keep up with the needs of veterans seeking care and support through the VA, due in part to processes that are just too slow and too bureaucratic, leading to years of unnecessary delays in opening and remodeling needed hospitals, clinics, and benefits offices. This legislation will push the VA to modernize and improve its capacity to manage current and future infrastructure projects.”  

Specifically, the BUILD for Veterans Act would bolster and invest in VA infrastructure by requiring the Department to:

  • Develop relevant plans, metrics, infrastructure workforce hiring strategies, year-by-year budgets and oversight mechanisms to overhaul its capacity to accomplish new facility projects and provide Congress with its plans and performance data for enhanced accountability.
  • Implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings such as old maintenance sheds or warehouses to safeguard taxpayer dollars, and focus funding on new and productive infrastructure.
  • Examine infrastructure budgeting strategies, identify if reforms are required, and implement industry best practices.
  • Provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period so that Congress and VA can set about on the task of fully modernizing VA’s infrastructure in a strategic, comprehensive approach.

The legislation has been endorsed by The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

This effort comes on the heels of the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, legislation supported by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Biden to expand health care and resources for toxic-exposed veterans. The law also provided $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities across the country – including another outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads – and streamlines the process for the VA to execute on new leases, removing bureaucratic hurdles and cutting down on some of the frustrating delays to these facilities’ completion.

Sen. Warner has long fought to improve care for Virginia’s veterans.  In 2015, confronted with wait times in Hampton Roads 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. Sen. Warner also spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve long-overdue leases for more than two dozen VA medical facilities across the country, including two in Virginia. In October 2020, Sen. Warner successfully saw through the signing of his legislation to expand veterans’ access to mental health services and reduce the alarming rate of veteran suicide. 

Full text of the BUILD for Veterans Act is available here

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine—who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee—teamed up with 28 of their colleagues to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to safeguard women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially get the health care they need. Specifically, the Senators urged the Biden Administration to strengthen federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to broadly restrict providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without their explicit consent—particularly with law enforcement or in legal proceedings over accessing abortion care.

Since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion bans has caused widespread confusion among health care providers over whether they are required to turn over patients’ health information to state and local law enforcement. As a result, patients may delay or avoid seeking the care they need out of fear their sensitive health information could be weaponized against them.

In recent weeks, states have investigated and sought to punish patients and providers for seeking and providing abortion care. While abortion is not currently criminalized in Virginia, Governor Youngkin has said he would “happily and gleefully” sign “any bill” limiting reproductive freedom, and has tapped Virginia state legislators to introduce legislation to that effect in 2023. Should that legislation be signed into law, the Senators’ push could help prevent personal health data from being used against Virginia women in legal proceedings. This letter makes clear that additional privacy protections are needed to protect this data so it cannot be used by prosecutors or law enforcement seeking to enforce an abortion ban.

“Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care,” wrote the Senators.

In their letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Senators urge HHS to take immediate action to strengthen federal privacy protections under HIPAA, bolster enforcement of the protections, educate providers about their obligations, and ensure patients understand their rights. Shortly after the Dobbs decision, Becerra pledged to work to protect patient and provider privacy.

“To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information,” urged the Senators. “In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.”

Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in sending the letter were Senators Murray (D-WA), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

The Senators’ full letter is available below:

Dear Secretary Becerra:

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away the constitutional right to abortion, patients across the country have lost access to reproductive health care, and providers have scrambled to adapt to the immense confusion, fear, and upheaval this ruling has caused. In some states, legislators and prosecutors have already sought to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. To protect patients, and their providers, from having their health information weaponized against them, we urge you to take immediate action to strengthen education on and enforcement of federal health privacy protections, and to initiate the rulemaking process to augment privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Every day, health care personnel across this nation care for patients who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This care may include anything from an annual check-up to obstetrical visits to emergency care. In order for patients to feel comfortable seeking care, and for health care personnel to provide this care, patients and providers must know that their personal health information, including information about their medical decisions, will be protected. Recognizing this critical need, in 1996, Congress passed HIPAA, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue privacy regulations for personal health information. HHS issued corresponding privacy regulations (the “HIPAA Privacy Rule”) in 2000, with several subsequent updates over the years.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has caused widespread confusion among health care providers on health privacy protections, and whether they are required to turn over health information to state and local law enforcement. Stakeholders have told us about providers who have felt uncertain about whether they must turn over personal health information to state and law enforcement officials, including cases where providers believed they had to turn over information when doing so is only permitted—but not required—under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In other cases, providers did not know that certain disclosures are actually impermissible. Stakeholders have even described clashes between providers and health care system administrators on whether certain information must be shared. Many of these issues seem to arise from misunderstandings of what the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires of regulated entities and their employees.

This confusion is likely to grow as state lawmakers continue to implement a patchwork of laws restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. Already, some states have laws in effect criminalizing abortion providers, and some states have enacted laws that penalize anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, potentially exposing everyone from a referring provider to a receptionist to legal liability. Some state legislators have even proposed to bar women from traveling to another state for abortion care. And even before Dobbs, states had already prosecuted women following their abortions or miscarriages. In many cases, these laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize or surveil women of color for their pregnancy loss.

Actions to prohibit abortion access and undermine health privacy are likely to have devastating consequences for women’s health. Out of concern that their reproductive health information may be used against them, women may delay or avoid disclosing a pregnancy or obtaining prenatal care. They may fear initiating treatments for conditions like cancer or arthritis, where treatment could impact a pregnancy, even as health care providers may hesitate to provide them. And women who experience complications from a pregnancy or abortion may avoid seeking desperately needed emergency care, risking devastating health consequences and even death. These concerns are not without justification – in recent years, numerous medical providers have reported women to law enforcement for seeking care following an abortion, a miscarriage, or other pregnancy-related medical issue.

HHS has the tools to protect patients and health care providers, even in the wake of this devastating decision. For over twenty years, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has protected the privacy of individuals’ health information, laying out when health information may or may not be shared without a patient’s explicit consent. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has long recognized that stronger protections may be needed for particularly sensitive health information, such as psychotherapy notes. We commend you for the actions the Department has already taken to clarify privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including the issuance of additional guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, given the growing likelihood that women’s personal health information may be used against them, HHS must also take proactive steps to strengthen patient privacy protections.

To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information. In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.

In addition, while HHS moves forward with the rulemaking process, the Department should take the following steps to improve awareness and enforcement of current privacy protections in the HIPAA Privacy Rule:

  1. HHS should increase its efforts to engage and educate the health care community about regulated entities’ obligations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the difference between permissible and required disclosures, best practices for educating patients and health plan enrollees on their privacy rights, how HIPAA interacts with state laws (including those related to prescriptions), and potential legal consequences for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including civil and criminal penalties. As part of this effort, HHS should engage the full range of health care personnel, including providers, senior executives, and smaller health care organizations, as well as pharmacists, health plan administrators and sponsors, legal and compliance personnel, and entities that provide HIPAA training. These efforts should include listening sessions, additional guidance and FAQs with specific examples, webinars, and additional avenues for individuals at regulated entities to seek confidential advice.
  1. HHS should expand its efforts to educate patients about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including when information may be shared without patient consent, the ability to request additional restrictions or corrections, and how to file a complaint with HHS.
  1. HHS should ensure cases involving reproductive health information receive timely, appropriate attention for compliance and enforcement activities.

Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation to expand access to critical advance care planning (ACP) services in Medicare that allow people, especially those with serious illness, to plan for their care and have their choices honored when it matters most. The Improving Access to Advance Care Planning Act would help more Americans access critical ACP services by allowing social workers to provide ACP services, removing beneficiary cost-sharing, and promoting increased education for providers on current ACP codes, and improved reporting on barriers to providing ACP services and billing the corresponding codes. This legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

“Decisions about care planning are some of the hardest for a family to make, but they’re also some of the most important. One of my biggest regrets was not having early conversations about care planning with my own mom, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 11 years and was unable to speak for nine of those years,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this bill because folks with a serious illness deserve to have a say over what their care should look like, and families deserve the certainty of knowing they are honoring their loved ones’ wishes.”

“Unfortunately, most patients do not routinely make advance plans for their care in the event that they are diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness.  This can be a difficult topic for many families to address, but advance care planning has been shown to increase satisfaction and improve health outcomes because people with advance directives are more likely to get the care that they want, in the setting they prefer, and avoid the care that they don’t want,” said Sen. Collins. “The bipartisan bill we are introducing today would help provide an opportunity for patients to have a structured discussion with their health care providers about their goals and treatment options so that they can make their choices known and develop a plan of care in consultation with their loved ones.”

“I have been working to improve end of life care for well over a decade,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Despite what was rated as the PolitiFact lie of the year during the Affordable Care Act debate over so-called ‘death panels,’ we won. Medicare has finally started paying physicians to help families understand their choices. This legislation will make advance care planning more accessible, allowing more of these conversations to happen and ensuring people’s wishes are heard, respected, and enforced.”

Specifically, this legislation would codify Medicare coverage of ACP services – a longtime priority for Sen. Warner, who first introduced legislation to improve planning options for patients in 2015. Today’s bill would also expand eligible providers that can bill for such services to include clinical social workers with experience in care planning. It would also remove beneficiary coinsurance and deductibles for ACP visits – including those that happen outside of an annual Medicare Annual Wellness Visit – to ensure that beneficiaries are not deterred from seeking these services, and providers are not deterred from offering them. The bill would also require two reports: one that directs CMS to educate providers on the ACP codes and report to Congress on such activities, and one that directs MedPAC to study and report to Congress on (A) barriers to providing and receiving ACP services despite the ability to bill for them, and (B) barriers to billing the code itself.

Sens. Warner and Collins were joined in introducing this legislation in the Senate by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). 

Bill text is available here. 

This legislation has the support of a number of patient and family advocacy organizations, including the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), LeadingAge, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Respecting Choices, USAging, Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network, Smarter Health Care Coalition, Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care.

“Those of us working to improve care for those impacted by serious illness have known that high copays for Advance Care Planning were a barrier to equitable, patient-centered care. Thanks to the tenacity of our C-TAC team and members of congress passionate about our issue, we’ve been able to help remedy this technicality in the law that now increases access to critical conversations between patients and their clinicians by eliminating copays and including social workers who are now eligible to be reimbursed for these services as part of the care team. A sincere thank you to Sen. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR-3) for continuing to be the voice of the patient and family,” said Jon Broyles, CEO, The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC).

“The Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) strongly supports the inclusion of clinical social workers in the definition of eligible practitioners who can bill for Medicare Advance Care Planning counseling services. As key members of the interdisciplinary team, clinical social workers are already well-trained to have meaningful conversations around Advance Care Planning with patients and families. This bill would have a direct and immediate impact on the ability for clinical social workers to bill for these services, reducing an important barrier to care and greatly enhancing the provision of these conversations, said Jessica Strong, Executive Director, Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network.

“We applaud Senators Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Blumenauer (D-OR-3) for introducing the Improving Access to Advanced Care Planning Act. Advance Care Planning (ACP) is essential to ensuring that an individual’s care preferences are understood and honored during serious illness and at the end of life. The pandemic reinforced again how critical these conversations are for patients, families, and those that care for them. If enacted, this bill would bolster the health system’s ACP capacity by allowing properly trained clinical social workers to get reimbursed for these services, while also requiring a comprehensive provider education outreach campaign on the value of using Medicare’s ACP billing codes. Importantly, the legislation would also remove any beneficiary cost-sharing associated with these codes, a key equity-focused change that will address an oft-cited barrier to patient and provider willingness to engage in these discussions. NAHC is proud to support this thoughtful framework for improving our nation’s approach to advance care planning,” said William Dombi, President, The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). 

“NPHI is proud to stand with C-TAC and others in support of the Improving Access to Advance Care Planning (ACP) Act.” Said Carole Fisher, President of NPHI. “As a national collective of community-based advanced illness care providers, NPHI and its members understand the importance of ensuring all Medicare beneficiaries have genuine access to counseling regarding their choices and preferences at the end-of-life. As we know, hospice services are often dramatically underutilized due to late referrals and a lack of prior planning. Engaging in ACP conversations earlier in the disease progression can improve quality of life for beneficiaries and lessen the burden on caregivers. We look forward to working with C-TAC, Congress, and others to pass this important legislation,” said Carole Fisher President, National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI). 

“End of life issues are nuanced and complicated, which is why it’s so vital that older adults and families have good access to advance care planning. This bill is an important step toward greater, affordable access to planning that all Americans need. With members delivering care across all settings of aging services, LeadingAge recognizes the importance of acknowledging the preferences and beliefs of people and their families to deliver quality care. We hope greater access to these conversations will improve end-of-life and help providers meet unique patient needs,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge. 

“Including licensed clinical social workers as eligible practitioners, allowing them to bill for Medicare ACP counseling services, will address one of the major barriers to access to ACP services faced today.  Social workers are an important part of the healthcare system and have the appropriate training and skills to facilitate high quality ACP conversations. Providing reimbursement for them to do so will expand the pool of resources available to provide ACP counseling services, thereby improving access,” said Carole Montgomery MD, FHM, MHSA, Executive Medical Director, Respecting Choices. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and 28 colleagues in calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to safeguard women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially get the health care they need. Specifically, the Senators urged the Biden Administration to strengthen federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to broadly restrict providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without their explicit consent—particularly with law enforcement or in legal proceedings over accessing abortion care. The push from the Senators comes as legislators and prosecutors across the country have sought to enforce Republicans’ abortion bans by investigating women and doctors for seeking and providing abortion care.

“Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care,” wrote the Senators.

In their letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Senators urge HHS to take immediate action to strengthen federal privacy protections under HIPAA, bolster enforcement of the protections, educate providers about their obligations, and ensure patients understand their rights. In June, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, Becerra pledged to work to protect patient and provider privacy.

“To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information,” urged the Senators. “In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities  from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.”

Since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion bans has caused widespread confusion among health care providers over whether they are required to turn over patients’ health information to state and local law enforcement. This confusion fundamentally threatens women’s health, as patients may delay or avoid seeking the care they need out of fear their sensitive health information could be weaponized against them. In recent weeks, states have investigated and sought to punish patients and providers for seeking and providing abortion care.

Joining Sens. Warner and Murray in sending the letter were Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

The letter is available for download here and below:  

Dear Secretary Becerra:

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away the constitutional right to abortion, patients across the country have lost access to reproductive health care, and providers have scrambled to adapt to the immense confusion, fear, and upheaval this ruling has caused. In some states, legislators and prosecutors have already sought to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. To protect patients, and their providers, from having their health information weaponized against them, we urge you to take immediate action to strengthen education on and enforcement of federal health privacy protections, and to initiate the rulemaking process to augment privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Every day, health care personnel across this nation care for patients who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This care may include anything from an annual check-up to obstetrical visits to emergency care. In order for patients to feel comfortable seeking care, and for health care personnel to provide this care, patients and providers must know that their personal health information, including information about their medical decisions, will be protected. Recognizing this critical need, in 1996, Congress passed HIPAA, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue privacy regulations for personal health information. HHS issued corresponding privacy regulations (the “HIPAA Privacy Rule”) in 2000, with several subsequent updates over the years.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has caused widespread confusion among health care providers on health privacy protections, and whether they are required to turn over health information to state and local law enforcement. Stakeholders have told us about providers who have felt uncertain about whether they must turn over personal health information to state and law enforcement officials, including cases where providers believed they had to turn over information when doing so is only permitted—but not required—under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In other cases, providers did not know that certain disclosures are actually impermissible. Stakeholders have even described clashes between providers and health care system administrators on whether certain information must be shared. Many of these issues seem to arise from misunderstandings of what the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires of regulated entities and their employees.

This confusion is likely to grow as state lawmakers continue to implement a patchwork of laws restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. Already, some states have laws in effect criminalizing abortion providers, and some states have enacted laws that penalize anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, potentially exposing everyone from a referring provider to a receptionist to legal liability. Some state legislators have even proposed to bar women from traveling to another state for abortion care. And even before Dobbs, states had already prosecuted women following their abortions or miscarriages. In many cases, these laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize or surveil women of color for their pregnancy loss.

Actions to prohibit abortion access and undermine health privacy are likely to have devastating consequences for women’s health. Out of concern that their reproductive health information may be used against them, women may delay or avoid disclosing a pregnancy or obtaining prenatal care. They may fear initiating treatments for conditions like cancer or arthritis, where treatment could impact a pregnancy, even as health care providers may hesitate to provide them. And women who experience complications from a pregnancy or abortion may avoid seeking desperately needed emergency care, risking devastating health consequences and even death. These concerns are not without justification – in recent years, numerous medical providers have reported women to law enforcement for seeking care following an abortion, a miscarriage, or other pregnancy-related medical issue.

HHS has the tools to protect patients and health care providers, even in the wake of this devastating decision. For over twenty years, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has protected the privacy of individuals’ health information, laying out when health information may or may not be shared without a patient’s explicit consent. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has long recognized that stronger protections may be needed for particularly sensitive health information, such as psychotherapy notes. We commend you for the actions the Department has already taken to clarify privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including the issuance of additional guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, given the growing likelihood that women’s personal health information may be used against them, HHS must also take proactive steps to strengthen patient privacy protections.

To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information. In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.

In addition, while HHS moves forward with the rulemaking process, the Department should take the following steps to improve awareness and enforcement of current privacy protections in the HIPAA Privacy Rule:

  1. HHS should increase its efforts to engage and educate the health care community about regulated entities’ obligations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the difference between permissible and required disclosures, best practices for educating patients and health plan enrollees on their privacy rights, how HIPAA interacts with state laws (including those related to prescriptions), and potential legal consequences for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including civil and criminal penalties. As part of this effort, HHS should engage the full range of health care personnel, including providers, senior executives, and smaller health care organizations, as well as pharmacists, health plan administrators and sponsors, legal and compliance personnel, and entities that provide HIPAA training. These efforts should include listening sessions, additional guidance and FAQs with specific examples, webinars, and additional avenues for individuals at regulated entities to seek confidential advice.
  1. HHS should expand its efforts to educate patients about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including when information may be shared without patient consent, the ability to request additional restrictions or corrections, and how to file a complaint with HHS.
  1. HHS should ensure cases involving reproductive health information receive timely, appropriate attention for compliance and enforcement activities.

Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) celebrated $52.9 million in funding from the federal government for the Petersburg/Richmond region to support job creation and increase American independence from foreign drug manufacturers.

This funding was recently awarded through the Economic Development Administration and funded by the American Rescue Plan, which was supported by the three lawmakers and passed through the Senate by a vote of 50 – 49 and the House by a vote of 220 – 211.

“The American Rescue Plan is the gift that keeps on giving – this time with $52.9 million that will go towards establishing Central Virginia as a hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. This unparalleled federal investment will help boost American production of essential drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients while creating 21st century jobs for Virginians and tackling our nation’s dangerous overreliance on foreign supply chains for medicines,” said the lawmakers. 

The Virginia Advanced Pharma Manufacturing (APM) and R&D Cluster  –  led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority–  is one of 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge – the most impactful regional economic development competition in decades. The projects funded as part of this award include expanding a nascent pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor in Central Virginia through investment in new wet lab space, development of critical infrastructure to sustain industrial capacity in Petersburg, and engagement with local business to enhance the regional pharmaceutical supply chain. The project will also catalyze a new partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University to create new pathways for underserved residents to high-quality training and jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is an unprecedented competitive federal grant program that provides each regional coalition with significant investments to tackle a wide variety of projects – including entrepreneurial support, workforce development, infrastructure, and innovation – to drive inclusive economic growth. Each coalition’s collection of projects aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters – all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally. Projects span 24 states and include $87 million to two primarily Tribal coalitions and over $150 million for projects serving communities impacted by the declining use of coal.

Sen. Warner helped negotiate portions of the American Rescue Plan and directly advocated for this project. In March, he sat down with the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority and other pharmaceutical industry professionals for a roundtable discussion on the need to manufacture more prescription drugs in Virginia.

While on Richmond City Council, Sen. Kaine played a major role in the formation and growth of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, served on its board when he was Mayor of Richmond, and appointed board members while he was Governor. In addition to advocating for the American Rescue Plan, which provided the funding for the EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge, Sen. Kaine specifically advocated for this project to win this grant. He also visited the project’s facilities in Richmond and Petersburg in April of this year.

Rep. McEachin proudly supported the American Rescue Plan and engaged with the Biden administration throughout the BBBRC application and selection process in support of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority. He sent multiple letters to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo advocating for this project and held briefings with relevant stakeholders to keep them apprised of developments and receive timely updates.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today welcomed an announcement from Google that it will make changes to its search results to clearly label facilities that provide abortions so that users seeking abortions are not misled by anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers. Today’s action follows a bicameral June 17 letter led by Warner and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) 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 response to Warner and Slotkin’s letter, today Google announced that those who search for “abortion clinics near me” will only see facilities that have been verified to provide abortions in the Local Search results box on Google, unless they affirmatively choose to see additional, potentially less relevant results. Additionally, Google will clearly label results for searches such as “abortion clinics” to indicate whether the facility provides abortions.

“I welcome the changes that Google has announced today so that women seeking abortion services aren’t directed towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services. Importantly, this isn’t about silencing voices or restricting speech – it’s about returning search results that accurately address a user’s query and giving users information that is relevant to their searches,” said Sen. Warner today.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) asking the agencies to explain their plan to ensure continuity of care for patients being prescribed controlled substances via COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) telemedicine flexibilities. The current PHE declaration is set to expire on October 13, 2022 without intervention from the Biden Administration. Upon expiration current access to certain prescribed medications via telemedicine appointments will be stopped in order to remain in accordance with the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, DEA has waived certain requirements of the Haight Act, including in-person or Special Registration requirements in order to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 PHE, I was pleased to see the DEA act swiftly to ensure that patients could continue to access medically necessary controlled substances, including treatment for opioid use disorder, via telehealth by waiving the requirement that the patient have a prior in-person visit, regardless of their location, for the duration of the PHE,” wrote Sen. Warner.

He continued, “In the more than two years since that flexibility was put into place, patients have successfully continued and established treatment virtually, without reports of widespread harm. The pandemic has shown that telehealth is an appropriate modality for a great deal of health care services, and that health care providers and their patients should be at the center of modality decision-making.”

Sen. Warner posed a series of questions to ensure that there is a plan to continue to provide uninterrupted service:

  1. Does DEA plan to extend any current waivers or flexibilities regarding prescribing controlled substances over telehealth beyond the expiration of the PHE?
    1. If so, in what way(s)?
    2. If not, why not? Would additional authorities from Congress be needed?
  2. For patients who are under the care of a health care provider and are at risk of such care being interrupted or terminated upon PHE expiration, what flexibility or assistance will DEA provide such provider and patient to ensure appropriate continuity of care after the expiration?
  3. As opioid overdoses and deaths continue to impact our communities, is DEA considering continuing some of these telehealth flexibilities under the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis Public Health Emergency designation?
    1. If so, what are the agency’s plans?
    2. If not, why not?
  4. It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner pushed the DEA to finalize a special registration for providers to prescribe controlled substances over telehealth, which has been required by Congress for nearly 14 years. Following this push, the DEA has drafted a rule, which is currently waiting for White House approval.

Sen. Warner has been a consistent leader for expanding telehealth accessibility. In May of this year, Sen. Warner led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in legislation to expand telehealth services for patients undergoing dialysis. 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. 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 letter is available here and below.

Dear Attorney General Garland, and Administrator Milgram:

As we await release of the proposed rule to create the Special Registration for Telemedicine, as directed by Congress first in 2008 in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act and subsequently in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and appropriations legislation, I am writing today to request information about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to ensure continued patient access to care upon expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

At the onset of the COVID-19 PHE, I was pleased to see the DEA act swiftly to ensure that patients could continue to access medically necessary controlled substances, including treatment for opioid use disorder, via telehealth by waiving the requirement that the patient have a prior in-person visit, regardless of their location, for the duration of the PHE. In the more than two years since that flexibility was put into place, patients have successfully continued and established treatment virtually, without reports of widespread harm. The pandemic has shown that telehealth is an appropriate modality for a great deal of health care services, and that health care providers and their patients should be at the center of modality decision-making.

I am concerned for patients who are at risk of having their health care interrupted or terminated when DEA PHE flexibilities end. As you know, the goal of the Ryan Haight Act was not to stymie appropriate access to care, but to prevent illicit use and sale of controlled substances. To that end, it is critical that Congress understands what DEA’s plan is for the time between when the PHE expires and the Special Registration is implemented to ensure constituents receive the continued health care they need and deserve. Specifically, I would like to know:

(1)    Does DEA plan to extend any current waivers or flexibilities regarding prescribing controlled substances over telehealth beyond the expiration of the PHE?

  1. If so, in what way(s)?
  2. If not, why not? Would additional authorities from Congress be needed?

(2)    For patients who are under the care of a health care provider and are at risk of such care being interrupted or terminated upon PHE expiration, what flexibility or assistance will DEA provide such provider and patient to ensure appropriate continuity of care after the expiration?

(3)    As opioid overdoses and deaths continue to impact our communities, is DEA considering continuing some of these telehealth flexibilities under the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis Public Health Emergency designation?

  1. If so, what are the agency’s plans?
  2. If not, why not?

(4)    It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

It is critical that the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Congress work together to ensure Americans receive the health care they need, both during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards. I also urge you to expeditiously finalize the rulemaking for the Special Registration, as directed by Congress. Thank you in advance for your attention to this request and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

cc: The Honorable Shalanda D. Young, Director, Office of Management and Budget

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, the bipartisan senators from Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), pressing for additional assistance to combat drug-trafficking in the Appalachian region.

“In Appalachia, law enforcement struggles to stem the tide of substance abuse,” wrote U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (both R-TN). “In the words of then-Attorney General, William Barr, Appalachia has suffered the consequences of the opioid epidemic ‘more, perhaps, than any other region.’ In 2018, the overdose mortality rate for individuals ages 25-43 was 43 percent higher in Appalachia than the rest of the country. It is a region that needs the assistance that the HIDTA program was designed to provide.”

Since its creation in 1988, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) grant assistance program has provided for greater coordination and information sharing among federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies. These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. ONDCP has the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies.

Despite the enormous need, historically the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30 percent of petitions submitted. In the most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA – which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Southwest Virginia – received the sought-after designation.

“This fact, juxtaposed with the region’s manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding needs to be revisited,” the senators wrote in their letter to ONDCP. “Counties in the Appalachian HIDTA would benefit from the expansion of this program into their communities and it would be of immense help to the law enforcement agencies serving them and surrounding areas. As ONDCP reviews HIDTA designation petitions from Appalachia, we ask that you consider the devastating impacts of illegal drugs in the region in order to effectively disrupt and dismantle trafficking organizations and reduce drug-related crime.”

Concluded the senators, “We urge ONDCP to review its criteria to ensure that hard-hit regions like Appalachia remain competitive for HIDTA designations. We further request a written response describing the results of this review be provided in a timely manner.”

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Dr. Gupta:

We write today regarding the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program and certain deficiencies in the designation process for counties in the Appalachian region.

Since its creation in 1988, the HIDTA grant assistance program has provided for greater coordination and information sharing among federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies. These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences.

As you know, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) provides ONDCP the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies. HIDTA designation is determined by four criteria, which include an evidence based description detailing the extent of illegal drug activity, the impact on the area and the United States, existing efforts to curtail it, and the increased need for federal resources to respond adequately to the area’s drug-related activities.

In Appalachia, law enforcement struggles to stem the tide of substance abuse. In the words of then-Attorney General William Barr, Appalachia has suffered the consequences of the opioid epidemic “more, perhaps, than any other region.” In 2018, the overdose mortality rate for individuals ages 25-43 was 43% higher in Appalachia than the rest of the country.  It is a region that needs the assistance that the HIDTA program was designed to provide.

Yet, historically, the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30% of petitions submitted. And in this most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA received the sought after designation. This fact, juxtaposed with the region’s manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding the designation needs to be revisited.

Counties in the Appalachian HIDTA would benefit from the expansion of this program into their communities and it would be of immense help to the law enforcement agencies serving them and surrounding areas. As ONDCP reviews HIDTA designation petitions from Appalachia, we ask that you consider the devastating impacts of illegal drugs in the region in order to effectively disrupt and dismantle trafficking organizations and reduce drug-related crime.

We urge ONDCP to review its criteria to ensure that hard hit regions like Appalachia remain competitive for HIDTA designations. We further request that a written response describing the results of this review be provided in a timely manner.

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing the Right to Contraception Act, legislation that would codify Americans’ right to contraception, which the Supreme Court first recognized more than half a century ago in its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.

The introduction follows Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which overturned  Roe v. Wade—in which he urged the Court to reconsider its 1965 Griswold decision. Several states have already restricted access to contraception by cutting off public funding for it, erroneously defining abortion in such a way to include contraception.

“Americans should have access to comprehensive health care regardless of where they live,” said the senators. “Following efforts in several states to restrict access to contraception, this legislation is necessary to ensuring women have the freedom to access reproductive health care services.”

The Right to Contraception Act would uphold access to contraception by:

  • Creating a statutory right for individuals to obtain contraceptives and to engage in contraception;
  • Establishing a corresponding right for health care providers to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception;
  • Allowing the Department of Justice, as well as providers and individuals harmed by restrictions on contraception access made unlawful under the legislation, to go to court to enforce these rights; and
  • Protecting a range of contraceptive methods, devices, and medications used to prevent pregnancy, including but not limited to oral contraceptives, long-acting reversible contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, internal and external condoms, injectables, vaginal barrier methods, transdermal patches, vaginal rings, fertility-awareness based methods, and sterilization procedures.

Following the Dobbs decision overturning the right to choose, Warner and Kaine have strongly advocated for legislation to protect Americans’ access to reproductive health care. They are cosponsors of legislation to protect the right of women to travel across state lines for abortion services and help protect medical providers from being punished for providing patients with this care. They also cosponsored legislation to protect access to critical reproductive health care services like wellness exams, birth control, cancer screenings and more. Additionally, Kaine is a cosponsor of legislation to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control and legislation to protect access to medication abortions.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD),  Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Kathy Manning (NC-06), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Angie Craig (MN-02).

The Right to Contraception Act is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women’s Law Center, National Organization for Women, Power to Decide, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Reproductive Health Access Project, Catholics for Choice, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Upstream USA, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Partnership for Women & Families, Jewish Women International, Positive Women’s Network-USA, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Full text of the bill is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act. The bill would protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.

“For over 50 years, Title X has provided Americans with critical family planning and preventive health services, empowering them to make decisions that are best for their health and financial well-being,” said the senators. “This legislation will help ensure that women can continue to access the reproductive health care services they need.”

The Title X Family Planning Program is the only federal program dedicated to providing comprehensive family planning and preventive health services. It provides a range of services, including wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, education on contraception and birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and basic infertility services. In 2020, over 1.5 million patients received family planning services through Title X.

The Expanding Access to Family Planning Act would:

  • Provide $500 million in mandatory funding for Title X services for each of the next 10 fiscal years. Title X is currently funded through the annual appropriations process, which subjects the program to an unpredictable funding stream that is insufficient to meet the national need;
  • Deliver $50 million in mandatory funding for clinic construction, renovation, and related infrastructure enhancements for each of the next 10 fiscal years;
  • Reinstate regulations prohibiting discrimination of providers who deliver Title X services; and
  • Require that pregnancy counseling include information about prenatal care and delivery, infant care, foster care, adoption, and pregnancy termination, unless a patient does not have any interest in receiving such information. 

Following the Dobbs decision overturning the right to choose, Warner and Kaine have strongly advocated for legislation to protect Americans’ access to reproductive health care. They are cosponsors of legislation to protect the right of women to travel across state lines for abortion services and help protect medical providers from being punished for providing patients with this care. Kaine is a cosponsor of legislation to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control and legislation to protect access to medication abortions.

In addition to Warner, Kaine, Smith, Murray, and Warren, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The bill is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Catholics for Choice, the National Partnership for Women & Families, Power to Decide, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, ACLU, Advocates for Youth, National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Full text of the bill is available here. A summary is available here.

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WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in introducing the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022. This legislation would make it clear that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for abortion services and would empower the U.S. Attorney General and impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict a woman’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.
 

“In light of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization restricting access to abortion services, this legislation is critical to helping women, regardless of where they live, access the reproductive health care they need,” said the senators. “It will also help ensure medical providers in Virginia are not punished for providing patients with this care.”

Legislation introduced in Missouri and draft legislation proposed by anti-choice extremists make clear that interstate travel for reproductive health care is under attack. The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022 underscores the Constitutional protections for interstate travel and provides redress for women whose rights are violated. The legislation would also protect health care providers in pro-choice states from prosecution and lawsuits for serving individuals traveling from other states.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cortez Masto, Whitehouse, Murray, and Gillibrand, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Revered Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Sens. Warner and Kaine are cosponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would protect Americans’ right to choose and prohibit state governors or legislatures from imposing unreasonable restrictions on accessing abortion services, and voted to pass the bill in May 2022. Kaine also introduced legislation with his Senate colleagues to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control.

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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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