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3. Political Cartoon: 'An Apple A Day'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'An Apple A Day'" by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Are you expecting?
There’s a new cause for worry:
Contracting Zika.

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Summaries Of The News:

Capitol Hill Watch

4. Senate Vote To Fund $1.1B Zika Plan Sets Stage For Showdown With The House

The key difference between the competing versions of the bills is that House GOP conservatives insisted that spending cuts accompany the measure so that its cost isn't added to the budget deficit.

The Associated Press: Senate Vote Sets Up Tricky Talks Ahead On Anti-Zika Bills
The Senate on Thursday approved its $1.1 billion plan to combat the Zika virus, setting the stage for difficult negotiations with House Republicans over how much money to devote to fighting the virus and whether to cut Ebola funding to help pay for it. The 68-30 vote added the Zika measure to an unrelated spending bill and follows party-line passage of a separate $622 million House bill on Wednesday. The White House has signaled that President Barack Obama would accept the Senate compromise measure but has issued a veto threat on the House bill, saying it doesn’t provide enough money. (Taylor, 5/19)

Reuters: Senate Approves $1.1 Billion To Fight Zika Virus
An election-year fight over addressing the spreading Zika virus intensified in the U.S. Congress as the Senate on Thursday approved $1.1 billion in emergency money one day after the House of Representatives voted $622.1 million financed through cuts to existing programs. The two chambers would have to reach agreement on a spending level before they can send it to President Barack Obama, who in February requested $1.9 billion. The White House has called the House measure "woefully inadequate" and has threatened to veto it. (Cowan, 5/19)

The Huffington Post: Senate Passes Zika Bill That Will Go Nowhere Fast
The Senate added emergency Zika funding to a larger spending bill Thursday, all but guaranteeing it will go nowhere soon. The Senate voted earlier to waive budget rules and add the cost of the $1.1 billion Zika measure to the deficit. It then passed it, 89-8, along with a massive appropriations measure that includes funding for transportation programs, the VA, housing programs and military construction. (McAuliff, 5/19)

NPR: Health Departments Cut Programs While Awaiting Zika Funding
While Congress fidgets over whether and how to pay for the fight against the Zika virus, state and local health departments are scrambling and slimming down. That's because these front-line public health agencies have already seen their budgets chopped because of the debate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April cut $44 million from its fund that helps state and local governments prepare for public health emergencies. It was part of the $589 million the White House moved from other programs – mostly money allocated for domestic and international responses to the Ebola virus – to combat Zika as it awaited action on Capitol Hill. (Kodjak, 5/19)

5. Clock Is Ticking On House GOP Mental Health Bill

Meanwhile, lawmakers reach an agreement on efforts to overhaul chemical safety laws, and two GOP senators advance legislation to reform the agency that provides health care to Native Americans.

The Hill: Time Runs Short On House GOP Bill Tackling Mental Health, Mass Shootings
House Republicans are circulating a revised draft of long-stalled mental health legislation. The controversial bill from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has been cast as the Republican response to mass shootings, but it has long been delayed. Republicans now are trying to jump-start it as time runs out in an election year. "We're pretty close, I think, to coming up with some movement in the near future, knowing that the legislative window is closing,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Upton has been working with Murphy to smooth over some of the bill’s more controversial provisions, and to bring its costs down. (Sullivan, 5/19)

The Washington Post: Congress Is Overhauling An Outdated Law That Affects Nearly Every Product You Own
Congress has reached agreement on the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. chemical safety laws in 40 years, a rare bipartisan accord that has won the backing of both industry officials and some of the Hill’s most liberal lawmakers. The compromise, which lawmakers unveiled Thursday, will provide the industry with greater certainty while empowering the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain more information about a chemical before approving its use. And because the laws involved regulate thousands of chemicals in products as diverse as detergents, paint thinners and permanent-press clothing, the result also will have a profound effect on Americans’ everyday lives. (Eilperin and Fears, 5/19)

The Associated Press: Congress Reaches Deal To Overhaul Chemical Regulation
A bipartisan agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators would set new safety standards for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, including tens of thousands that have gone unregulated for decades. A bill to be voted on as soon as next week would offer new protections for pregnant women, children, workers and others vulnerable to the effects of chemicals such as formaldehyde and styrene used in homes and businesses every day. (Daly, 5/19)

Reuters: U.S. Bill Proposed To Reform Native American Health Agency
Two Republican Senators introduced a bill on Thursday aimed at improving the Indian Health Service, the embattled federal agency that provides healthcare to Native Americans on reservations. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who introduced the legislation with Senator John Thune of South Dakota, said in a statement that it was "an important first step" toward ensuring tribal members receive proper healthcare. (Dwyer, 5/19)

Administration News

6. EPA Introduces Stricter Guidelines On Cancer-Causing Chemical Found In Water

The agency says the new limits were prompted by recent scientific studies linking perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate to testicular and kidney cancers, as well as birth defects and liver damage.

The Associated Press: EPA Suggests Tighter Limits For Industrial Chemical In Water
Federal regulators announced tighter guidelines Thursday for human exposure to an industrial chemical used for decades in such consumer products as non-stick pans, stain-resistant carpets and microwave popcorn bags. The cancer-causing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, has been found in the tap water of dozens of factory towns near industrial sites where it was manufactured. DuPont, 3M and other U.S. chemical companies voluntarily phased out the use of PFOA in recent years. (Biesecker, 5/19)

The Wall Street Journal: EPA Issues New Health Advisories For Chemical Found Near Some Plastics Plants
In recent months, state investigators in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire have found high levels of the chemical, known as PFOA, in drinking-water wells and groundwater near former and current chemical plants, alarming residents and raising concern about PFOA contamination in other parts of the country. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based advocacy group that assesses chemicals in consumer products and the environment, sent a letter in late April to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agency to set an enforceable drinking-water standard for the chemical and to force former manufacturers to disclose all sites in the U.S. where they used, made or dumped PFOA. (McWhirter, 5/19)

WMUR: EPA Sets New Level For Contaminant Found In Drinking Water
The Environmental Protection Agency has set new advisory levels for a contaminant that has been found in drinking water supplies in parts of New Hampshire. The state Department of Environmental Services said Thursday that the EPA set a lifetime drinking water health advisory level for perfluorooctanoic acid at 70 parts per trillion. (Enstrom, 5/19)

New Hampshire Public Radio: EPA Announces Lifetime PFOA And PFOS Advisory Level
The EPA has announced a lifetime health advisory level for two chemicals that have contaminated water in Southern NH and at the former Pease Air Force Base. PFOA and PFOS are slippery, stable chemicals used since the 1940s in products like nonstick cookware. A major class action lawsuit against DuPont brought to light links between the chemicals and health affects including cancer back in 2005. (Corwin, 5/19)

Health Law Issues And Implementation