Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Zika Update

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed that mosquitos in Miami have infected at least 15 residents with the Zika virus. In response to a request from Governor Rick Scott, the agency has sent eight experts to the area for the purpose of lab testing, vector control and Zika prevention for pregnant women. The Florida Department of Health will also be providing Zika testing to pregnant women at no cost. The CDC has warned against pregnant women traveling to the affected Miami neighborhood, marking the first time it has advised against traveling a part of the continental U.S. The agency also announced last week the release of $16.4 million in additional funds to combat the Zika virus. The grants will be awarded to 40 states and territories for the purpose of rapid detection of microcephaly. In a letter to senior appropriators in both chambers, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell confirmed that funding on hand for domestic Zika response would be exhausted by the end of September. The remaining funding will be spent on activities such as the deployment of emergency response teams, testing Zika specimens, state and local grants to combat mosquitos, and studying the health effects of the virus. In the letter, the Secretary highlights the need for Congress to provide additional dollars toward Zika, or risk a funding lapse that would put critical Zika response efforts – like mosquito surveillance, studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and phase II Zika vaccine trials – on hold. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are becoming increasingly anxious about the lack of funding to fight Zika as the number of cases in Florida continue to increase. Senate Democrats reiterated their support for ending summer recess early to return to Washington and pass a Zika funding package. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requesting that the chamber pass a $1.1 billion emergency funding bill without offsets through a pro-forma session during the congressional recess. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wrote an op-ed for USA Today defending the House-passed funding package that was blocked by Democrats in the Senate. President Obama also criticized lawmakers for their failure to act and for politicizing the public health crisis. The current number of confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and territories is up to 7,373 – an increase of nearly 1,000 cases since last week.

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