HHS Announces Free PrEP For Those Without Health Insurance

The Department of Health and Human Services announced details Tuesday for applying for free PrEP medications through the federal government.

The new program – called Ready, Set, PrEP – will distribute pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications to help prevent people currently HIV-negative from becoming infected with the virus. 

Drugstore chains CVS Health, Walgreens and Rite Aid, which have a combined 21,000 locations across the country, will donate prescribing services for the program.

Folks can go to the new website GetYourPrEP.com to apply for the medications or call toll free 855-447-8410. In order to qualify, an individual must be HIV-negative, lack prescription drug coverage, and obtain a valid prescription for the medication.

Earlier this year, drugmaker Gilead Sciences announced it would donate 2.4 million bottles of Truvada to up to 200,000 uninsured people annually through 2030.

Gilead is the manufacturer of both Truvada and Descovy, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for PrEP use on October 3 this year. They are the only approved drugs for use as PrEP by the FDA.

In its announcement, Gilead said the offer would “transition to Descovy if it is approved for use as PrEP.” 

Gilead has also announced a generic version of Truvada will become available by 2020.

Ready, Set, PrEP is part of the current administration’s ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic Plan’ which was announced during President Trump’s State of the Union address this year. The plan has a goal of reducing the number of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. by 75 percent in five years and by 90 percent in 10 years.

Today’s news comes as the federal government is currently suing Gilead for patent infringement regarding PrEP.

In a press release on November 6, the Health and Human Services Department announced the United States had filed a complaint in federal district court alleging Gilead had profited from research funded by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and reaped billions from PrEP through the sale of Truvada® and Descovy®.

Currently, a month supply of Truvada in the United States sells between $1,600 to $2,000 for those without prescription drug coverage, while in other parts of the world it is available for as low as $70. In 2018 alone, Gilead amassed $3 billion in the sale of Truvada.

Equality Act Approved By House Judiciary Committee Along Party Line Vote 22-10

The Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

Although the legislation had been introduced in the House twice before, this is the first time Democrats have been able to see the bill move out of committee and on to the full House.

Even though recent polling shows nearly seven in ten (69%) of Americans support the measure, the vote was a straight party-line affair. All 22 Democrats on the committee voted yes, while all 10 Republicans voted no.

Should The Equality Act be passed into law, it would prohibit LGBTQ-based discrimination in areas like housing, employment, public accommodations and more on a nationwide level.

Currently, you can be fired from your job in 30 states for being gay.

In addition to the strong support by Democratic lawmakers, The Equality Act has been endorsed by 165 major businesses and 288 statewide and national organizations.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement, ‘It is time that the federal government recognizes that discrimination in any form is wrong and that we should move forward with these common-sense protections that simply build on existing statutes.’

The measure now heads to a vote by the full House, which could happen as soon as next week.

With 240 co-sponsors in the House, and strenuous support by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the legislation is expected to easily pass.

However, the odds don’t look so good for the bill in the Republican-led Senate where Senate Leader Mitch McConnell probably won’t even allow the legislation to come up for a vote.

And, while Donald Trump campaigned saying he would be ‘better for the gays’ than Hillary Clinton, since he took office his administration has waged a war against LGBTQ rights. His evangelical base would probably rise up were he to sign the bill into law.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch Announces Full Federal Benefits For All Married Same-Sex Couples

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch today announced that the U.S. government will now extend all federal rights and benefits of marriage to legally married same-sex couples:

“Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Obergefell that every couple has the same right to participate in the institution of marriage, whether the partners are of the same-sex or opposite sexes, I directed Justice Department staff to work with the agencies to ensure that the ruling be given full effect across the federal government. Thanks to their leadership and the quick work of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide. The agencies are currently working towards providing guidance to implement this change in law.

“Just over a year ago, Attorney General Holder announced that agencies across the federal government had implemented the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision by treating married same-sex couples the same as married opposite-sex couples to the greatest extent possible under the law as it then stood. With the Supreme Court’s new ruling that the Constitution requires marriage equality, we have now taken the further step of ensuring that all federal benefits will be available equally to married couples in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Territories. The department will continue to work across the administration to fulfill our commitment to equal treatment for all Americans, including equal access to the benefits of marriage that the Obergefell decision guarantees.”

Rep. Aaron Schock Reimburses Government $35,000 For Office Decor

Rep. Aaron Schock (L) talks with ABC News

USA Today is reporting that Congressman Aaron Schock has repaid the government $35,000 for office renovations after allegations of improper use of government funds.

“As he said he would, Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs of the 18th Congressional District office in Washington,” said a statement released by Schock’s office Friday. “Even though office expenses are often covered by the Member Representational Allowance, the Congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself as part of the office review process.”

USA TODAY has reported that Schock had spent more $100,000 than of his taxpayer-funded account on office renovations in prior years. The expenses included thousands for leather furniture, hardwood floors and marble countertops for his offices in his central Illinois congressional district.

According to the report, the government had apparently been paid $35,000 through Schock’s office. As the story now goes, his decorator refunded that $35,000 to the government and Schock then paid via his own personal funds.

Schock has drawn much attention lately for questionable real estate sales and expenses through his office.

He retained high powered ethics lawyers this week, and he’s announced full reviews of office spending to help ensure compliance with Congressional rules.

Jon Stewart rips GOP on government shutdown

Jon Stewart tore apart Republicans over threatening to shut the government down over Obamacare, using it to claim the GOP doesn’t really care about the Constitution that much to begin with, mocking their concern that Obamacare is “the end of America as we know it for reasons no one is able to clearly explain!

Stewart walked through how Obamacare was already upheld as constitutional, and offered a simple analogy: when football teams lose, they don’t say “If you don’t give us 25 points on Monday, we will shut down the fucking NFL!” He decried this “utter insanity” and berated the media for thinking both sides are equally at blame here, likening Republicans to an “asshole causing a head-on collision” on the highway.”

Stewart ended by calling out the GOP for the talking point that Obama negotiates with Iran but not them.

“You’re not helping yourself if it turns out that President Barack Obama can made a deal with the most intransigent, hardline, unreasonable, totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not with Republicans, maybe he’s not the problem!”

Growth of government spending slowest in 60 years under President Obama

Click pic for larger view

Mitt Romney says federal spending has accelerated under President Obama.

Actually, the facts bear out something quite the opposite: Federal spending under President Obama grew at the slowest pace in 60 years.  Click on the pic above to see rate of spending under the last 8 administrations.

From Politifact:

Obama has indeed presided over the slowest growth in spending of any
president using raw dollars, and it was the second-slowest if you adjust
for inflation. The math simultaneously backs up Nutting’s calculations
and demolishes Romney’s contention. The only significant shortcoming of
the graphic is that it fails to note that some of the restraint in
spending was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans. On
balance, we rate the claim Mostly True.

Budget agreement reached between Senate and House

I have to say I approve of the outcome of the budget negotiations that we’ve all watched unfold in the past few weeks.

Fiscally speaking, I’m pretty moderate. I believe in compromise between parties and chambers of the Federal government. I think we do need to make steps to reduce the national debt, but I think it needs to be done in a thoughtful, moderate manner. To make drastic, heavy handed cuts could negatively impact the slowly but surely improving economy.

What has emerged as the solution, for now, seems fair and a good step forward on many levels. AND it leaves social issues out of the equation – as it should be.

I applaud the work done to get the result the American people have been presented with. While I understand the “rock and a hard place” Speaker Boehner found himself, he made the right choices in jettisoning the social riders and got a good set of budget cuts for his caucus.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid did well for his caucus in standing up against the social issue riders but agreeing to substantial budget cuts.

It was a dramatic day, but in the end this was a good thing for America.

Not that anyone is asking me, but I approve of where this all landed.

Onward.