MomsRising is urging people to write to their Members of Congress and tell them to return to Washington and pass the emergency funding bill. There is currently no cure for the Zika virus and now, in some places, there are local mosquitoes carrying it, so the health threat is greater than ever. Without a vote from Congress to appropriate the needed funds, the Administration has been forced use money that was supposed to fund efforts to find treatments for cancer and diabetes, treat Ebola, support substance abuse programs, and provide heating oil subsidies for low-income families.
And it's nowhere near enough money. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell has said that this additional money will last only through September and then, with no action from Congress, federal agencies will have to significantly scale back efforts to fight the virus when funds run out.
JB: It sounds like a clear no-brainer to me. We're all at risk; it's beyond scary that our representatives are gambling with our health. Why did Congress adjourn without taking this up? Has Zika become a political football like so much else?
K R-F: It's hard to say why some leaders in Congress made such a bad decision. Leading health officials, including experts in infectious disease and people at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed that we were facing a serious health threat and predicted that the disease would spread to other states. And already, there's a report of the virus in South Dakota, which is a long, long way from Florida.
Whatever the reason for refusing to fund the president's emergency request, key leaders in Congress need to set aside all politics and address this serious and deadly disease. Our nation's public health system cannot be expected to prevent and treat a disease without adequate funding and it's not prepared for an outbreak of the magnitude that's expected. If this is just political opportunism, we need to be sure to let our representatives know that it's outrageous that they would endanger the lives and health of Americans for cynical political gain.
MomsRising members at a news conference calling for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus
(Image by MomsRising.org) Details DMCA
JB: I recently read some quite disturbing news about EpiPen. Then, this week, I saw that MomsRising is on that issue as well. Can you bring our readers up to date, please?
K R-F: Of course! Mylan, the manufacturer of this live-saving emergency allergy drug, has been regularly increasing the price of the EpiPen, since 2009, when it acquired it. The most recent increase was 450 percent over the price just three years ago, to more than $600 for a set of two pens. That puts the cost of this crucial drug out of reach of many families that have either no insurance or insurance that requires them to pay out-of-pocket on the front end or to pay for a significant part of the drug's price.
I have a son who has severe, life-threatening food allergies and was astonished when I went to pick up two EpiPens for him and saw that the out-of-pocket cost at my local pharmacy was $730!