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Week ahead: FDA may lift ban on blood donation by gay men

Advisers for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet this week to decide whether gay men should be allowed to donate blood, the agency’s biggest step yet toward changing the 30-year-old policy.

If the FDA accepts the recommendation, it would roll back a policy that has been under strong pressure from LGBT advocates and some members of Congress for more than four years.

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“We’ve got the ball rolling. I feel like this is a tide-turning vote,” said Ryan James Yezak, an LGBT activist who founded the National Gay Blood Drive and will speak at the meeting. “There’s been a lot of feet dragging and I think they’re realizing it now.”

Groups such as the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers also voiced support of the policy change this month, calling the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

The FDA will use the group’s recommendation to decide whether to change the policy.

“Following deliberations taking into consideration the available evidence, the FDA will issue revised guidance, if appropriate,” FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Rodriguez wrote in a statement.

On Capitol Hill, the House might take up the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, designed to ease the financial burden for people with disabilities by allowing them to create tax-exempt savings accounts for health-related expenses.

The measure has broad bipartisan support and 380 House co-sponsors. It is expected to pass midweek without a hiccup and, with 74 supporters in the Senate, has a good chance of becoming law.

Lawmakers have scheduled only a few hearings for the second-to-last week of the legislative term.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will examine the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The event is important for advocates of CHIP, who are pushing for lawmakers to extend the program’s funding past its expiration date next year. Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) introduced legislation this summer to guarantee funding through 2019.

Witnesses from the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission will testify.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which requires the Treasury Department to disclose federal spending using open, standardized data posted online.

The hearing could touch on the cost of implementing the Affordable Care Act, an issue where GOP lawmakers have called for greater transparency.

The Center for American Progress will step up its effort to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as the nation’s surgeon general during the lame-duck sessio, despite still-strong Republican opposition.

Advocates will hold a lobby day Dec. 2 with doctors, nurses and medical students to urge the confirmation, which campaign director Emily Tisch Sussman said could be “the one last productive thing the Ds can do, before going on the defensive, next Congress.”

The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing on Medicare Advantage for congressional staffers on Friday.

 

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