RNS Advocacy: Capitol Update – April 2024

In April, RNS endorsed the Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act (S.2815/H.R.7002), bipartisan legislation that would establish a Nurse Faculty Grant Program to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty. The program would be administered via the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which would enter agreements with accredited schools of nursing to establish student loan funds and award grants to enhance faculty salaries. The latter policy – grants to enhance faculty salaries – is especially important. Currently, practicing nurses must be willing and able to take significant pay cuts in order to trade in active practice for teaching. Not surprisingly, that poses a major barrier to the ability of nursing schools to attract faculty. The grant program created by the legislation would have grants awarded for up to three years to supplement existing faculty salaries and seeks to prioritize schools with the greatest need. Importantly, the bill also mandates a report to the congressional committees of jurisdiction to evaluate the program’s impact, which will enable Congress to determine whether this targeted solution has the desired impact. The bill authorizes an appropriation of $28.5M for fiscal year 2024 through 2028 to get the program funded and off the ground.

In the Senate, this legislation is led by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Murkowski R-AK), while its House companion is led by Representatives Bonamici (D-OR-1) and Joyce (R-OH-14). Additional cosponsors include Rep. Underwood (D-IL-14) and Rep. Kiggans (R-VA-2) – both nurses by background. On the Senate side, the bill was incorporated into a larger workforce bill that was voted out of the Senate HELP Committee, which is a key procedural step. RNS is currently conducting a survey on the rheumatology nursing workforce, which will provide us with data that we can use in future advocacy days to advance legislation such as this. This month, RNS also had the opportunity to join several initiatives from its coalition partners, including a letter from the All Copays Count Coalition to insurance commissioners, urging them to enforce a ban on copay accumulators in large groups and self-insured plans.

In other Capitol Hill news, the CEO of UnitedHealth, Andrew Witty, appeared before two congressional committees to discuss the cyberattack on its subsidiary Change Healthcare, which paralyzed claims submissions and payment across much of the healthcare system and led to the compromise of large amounts of private data. Members of Congress asked tough questions about United’s response to the cyberattack and subsequent outage but did not confine themselves to that topic: several Members also raised the incredible amount of market power consolidated in United, which has had detrimental effects on the ability of community pharmacies to survive, among other issues. Given the widespread fallout from this cyberattack, Congress’ response will likely include additional actions, up to and including legislation to prevent this scenario from occurring again. In the lead-up to the hearing, RNS joined a letter by the PBM Accountability Project, urging Congress to act on PBM reform and the various issues resulting from industry consolidation. As a reminder, if you’d like to become more involved in our advocacy work, please drop us a line: advocacy@rnsnurse.org