NCL applauds President Biden’s landmark AI executive order 

October 31, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

Washington, DC – Yesterday, President Biden signed an executive order to establish the most comprehensive standards to date regarding artificial intelligence (AI). The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League (NCL) Chief Executive Officer Sally Greenberg:

“NCL applauds the Biden Administration for centering consumers and workers in its landmark executive order addressing AI. It is critical that the development of artificial intelligence aligns with our democratic values, preserves civil rights, and protects consumers’ health and safety as well as our privacy. Importantly, the Biden Administration has made clear that there is no exception for AI from the law as it continues to model how policymakers should tackle this issue. While the president’s order is a critical step forward, Congress must pass a robust bill to ensure lasting and comprehensive federal law governing AI.”

As part of the sweeping executive order, federal agencies are to provide clear guidance to landlords, federal benefits administrators, and federal contractors to ensure that AI does not discriminate against consumers and beneficiaries. The president also addressed the potential harms to workers from the use of AI in workplace surveillance, job displacement, union-busting, and discriminatory hiring practices.

NCL has been advocating for consumers and workers in our push for AI regulation, including requiring the labelling of AI-generated content to minimize deception to users.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit nclnet.org.

 

NCL statement on PBMs and new GAO report

September 18, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) today released a statement following a recently released U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) report on Medicare Part D rebates.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Chief Executive Officer, Sally Greenberg:

“Investigation after investigation, report after report, and study after study prove that pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs’) do not provide benefits to consumers. To the contrary, we believe PBMs, who are middlemen, drain billions of dollars that should be going into the pockets of patients and consumers and help them defray their healthcare costs. The evidence mounts that PBMs, which once had a noble purpose, have lost their way and become profit centers unto themselves, adding costs to our drug supply system at the expense of patients. This latest report by GAO underscores that our nation’s seniors – often our most vulnerable patients who rely most on medications – pay the highest price for PBM practices.

“In just one year, GAO found that the PBMs collected almost $50 billion in rebates from prescription drug manufacturers under the Medicare Part D program alone. These savings should go directly to Medicare beneficiaries, but for the nearly 80 of the highest rebated drugs analyzed, GAO found that seniors paid more than $20 billion, while their plan sponsors — often vertically integrated with PBMs — paid only $5.3 billion. PBMs are able to enrich themselves because they control access to prescription drugs, block competition, conduct business in the shadows, and pocket discounts meant for patients. PBMs simply driving up out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to the tune of millions of dollars.

“Congress has an opportunity to enact meaningful PBM reforms to prevent such behavior. We urge our leaders in Congress to closely examine the findings of the GAO report, and put a stop to the practices of PBMs to profit off of vulnerable patients. In doing so, our elected representatives will put money back in the pockets of patients and help them to better afford the medications they need.”

Learn more about NCL’s work to address the PBM problem at nclnet.org/pbms.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit nclnet.org.

NCL and 36 leading patient organizations urge Congress to protect access to essential laboratory tests

June 7, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

Washington, D.C.— June 7, 2023 The National Consumers League (NCL) today sent a letter signed by 37 leading advocacy organizations, including groups that represent patients with common and chronic conditions who depend on laboratory testing to manage their health, urging Senate and House leaders to protect access to clinical laboratory services by enacting the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act (SALSA / H.R. 2377 / S. 1000) this year.

“Without congressional action this year, Medicare reimbursement cuts scheduled for January 2024 could limit access to essential tests that 65 million American seniors rely on to diagnose and manage disease,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Chief Executive Officer. “The Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act would help ensure robust access to laboratory services that improve patient health.”

Highlights from the letter include:

  • “Without congressional action, Medicare reimbursement cuts – a fourth round scheduled to begin January 1, 2024 – could jeopardize access to many clinical laboratory tests that are used to diagnose, monitor, prevent, and manage common diseases for Medicare beneficiaries.”
  • “Clinical diagnostic tests play a critical role in health care by informing 70 percent of medical decisions doctors and other health care providers make to care for patients. For example, in 2020 care for Medicare beneficiaries was supported by more than 17 million hemoglobin A1C tests that assessed diabetes risk, 28 million tests that diagnosed and monitored heart disease, and 90,000 tests that diagnosed leukemia and hereditary breast and colon cancer.”
  • “A strong, national laboratory infrastructure is critical to ensuring that testing can be rapidly developed and made widely available when pathogens of concern are identified. Simply put, clinical laboratories strive to be prepared for whatever the next infectious disease outbreak may be and in times of emergency are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”
  • “Between 2017 and 2022, payment for some common tests for diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease were cut by 27 percent. The next round of Medicare cuts would lower reimbursement up to another 15 percent for about 800 laboratory tests widely used to screen and manage many serious diseases. It is essential that Congress protect patients by acting this year to fix the Medicare payment model for clinical diagnostic tests.”
  • “Because of the serious implications for patients who rely on routine as well as advanced diagnostic laboratory services, Congress has acted three times to delay these cuts in recent years, but permanent reform is needed now. Fortunately, the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act would update Medicare’s payment system, which would help protect access to clinical laboratory testing, support investment in innovation, and strengthen America’s clinical laboratory infrastructure.”

Below is the list of signatories:

  • A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation
  • AliveAndKickn
  • Alliance for Aging Research
  • Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention
  • American Association of Kidney Patients
  • American Sexual Health Association
  • AnCan
  • Black Women’s Health Imperative
  • CancerCare
  • Cancer Support Community
  • Caregiver Action Network
  • Caring Across Generations
  • Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation
  • Chronic Disease Coalition
  • Community Liver Alliance
  • Down Syndrome Association of Orange County
  • FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered
  • Global Liver Institute
  • GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer
  • HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ)
  • Healthcare Leadership Council
  • Healthy Men Inc.
  • HealthyWomen
  • ICAN, International Cancer Advocacy Network
  • International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis
  • The Latino Coalition
  • LUNGevity Foundation
  • Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc.
  • Men’s Health Network
  • Minority Health Institute
  • The National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration
  • National Alliance of State Prostate Cancer Coalitions
  • National Consumers League
  • The National Grange
  • RetireSafe
  • Triage Cancer
  • Vasculitis Foundation

Click here to view the full letter.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL applauds the FDA for renewing its focus on infant formula

July 14, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for taking strong steps to assure consumers that infant formula coming from overseas has been properly inspected and is free from contaminants or adulterants and therefore safe for infants.

“Consumers should have confidence that the infant formula that is being imported to the U.S. … involved a thorough review of the information provided by the companies, including details about the product’s nutritional adequacy and safety, microbiological testing results, labeling information, and importantly, details about the manufacturing facility’s food safety production practices and inspection history,” according to a press statement posted on FDA.gov.

Over the past few months NCL, the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, has issued several statements on the infant formula shortage. The shortage was caused primarily by the unconscionable and unsanitary practices at Abbott’s Michigan infant formula facility when it failed to follow safety protocols, falsified documents to the FDA, and then shipped contaminated formula resulting in babies contracting foodborne illnesses and as many as nine infant deaths, according to FDA documents. Abbott’s reckless actions – coupled with the FDA’s slow response to the outbreak – finally lead to both parties issuing a recall of the faulty formula and ultimately triggered a nationwide shortage of powdered infant formula.

As FDA renews its focus on infant formula, NCL applauds the agency’s determined outreach to keep parents informed about how to read food labels from products made abroad. These labels use metric measurements that consumers in the United States may not easily comprehend. Most importantly, FDA has ramped up inspections of the products to ensure good and safe manufacturing processes.

Below are several statements on the infant formula crisis issued by NCL in the past few months, one of which includes our June 16 testimony before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

https://nclnet.org/ncl-applauds-fda-response-formula-shortage/

https://nclnet.org/senate-testimony-consolidation-harms-consumers/

https://nclnet.org/baby-formula-shortage/

 

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL denounces today’s SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade

June 24, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2831

Washington, DC— Almost 50 years since the Supreme Court ruling in 1973, Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the protections provided by Roe were overturned today by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The ruling is a devastating blow to women, girls, and their families who have long fought for equal access to reproductive health services – health services which includes access to safe abortion, says the National Consumers League (NCL).

“Many women will suffer and will suffer unnecessarily from this egregious ruling by SCOTUS,” says Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “This decision is an attack on poor women or low-income woman, who represent 75% of abortion patients,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

The final opinion is strikingly similar to the draft that was leaked in May of this year and authored by Justice Samuel Alito. In the opinion, Alito writes, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

In the wake of this June 24 ruling, 26 states are expected to ban all or nearly all abortions.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, laid out a vision that fomented fears about what other rights could disappear: the same rationale that the Supreme Court used to declare there was no right to abortion, he said, should also be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.

In their joint dissent, the three liberal justices of the court, argued that the ruling will affect “countless life decisions.” They also noted that, “It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.”

“NCL applauds responses from many employers, including JPMorgan Chase, which is clarifying its health care benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, saying that abortion has long been a covered service for the bank and starting in July will be included under the company’s health care travel benefit,” says Greenberg. “We applaud Levi Strauss & Co — the 169-year-old jean company — stands strongly against restricting access to abortion and said it will continue to protect employees — making sure they have access to the care they need regardless of where they live.

NCL also thanks officials in many states and the District of Columbia that have pledged to provide abortion access and safe havens including New Hampshire, Michigan, New York governors along with New York Attorney General Letitia James and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

In his address to the nation today, President Joe Biden expressed his disappointment over the SCOTUS ruling: “This is a sad day for the country in my view, but it doesn’t mean the fight is over.” He also added that his administration will use all its appropriate lawful powers and that “Congress must act.” He went on to say, “with your vote, you can act.”

NCL believes that women’s reproductive rights is fundamental and must be protected; this radical decision by the Supreme Court is vastly out of step with American public opinion and a disastrous for women’s rights and freedoms.  We will continue to advocate for federal, state and local protections for women across the country, in keeping with NCL’s long history of championing the rights of women and children, especially those among us who are most vulnerable.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL leads effort to encourage FDA to adopt safer standards for OTC hearing aids

March 10, 2022 

Media Contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC – Today, National Consumers League (NCL), along with 29 not-for-profit, public health organizations from across the country, sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the agency’s ongoing process to establish regulations that will soon allow hearing aids intended for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss to be sold over-the-counter (OTC) without any involvement of a medical professional. As the FDA finishes developing its final OTC hearing aid regulation, we urge the agency to include stronger measures to better protect consumers affected by this new category of medical devices.  

We applaud the FDA for its efforts to provide increased access and affordability through the creation of this new category of hearing aids. At the same time, the FDA must ensure these devices are safe, particularly given that many consumers will purchase OTC hearing aids without knowing their clinical level of hearing loss and not having any support from a medical professional. In addition to hearing loss, many OTC hearing aid users may also have other medical challenges impeding their ability to recognize and/or react to loud or uncomfortable sounds produced by these hearing aids. Under such circumstances, the need to ensure OTC hearing aids fulfill their intended purpose without risking unintended harm cannot be understated. 

The letter states: “To ensure the safety of consumers, we believe the FDA should implement the recommendations of the nation’s leading associations of hearing care professionals, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Audiology, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and International Hearing Society. These associations are urging the FDA to lower the maximum sound output to 110 decibels and establish an amplification (or gain) limit of 25 decibels. These associations, as well as respected entities like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have made clear that allowing sounds to enter the ears of consumers at the proposed levels can cause serious and permanent hearing damage within mere seconds.” 

Importantly, these recommendations will not have any impact on the FDA’s goal of providing increased access to affordable hearing devices, compromise the effectiveness of OTC hearing aids, or discourage innovation—they will only make them sufficiently safe for consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss.  

Read the full letter HERE. Learn more about the issue here: OTC Hearing Aids- Gain and Output 

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.