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HEALTH POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Health Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with women’s health, the Affordable Care Act, Head Start, child care and child support services, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and federal food and drug policy. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the department of Health and Human Services, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Latest Health Posts

 

UPDATE : Coronavirus

UPDATE : Coronavirus

This fourteen-day period has been dubbed the most critical point of this pandemic, where if the Americans efficiently limit the spread of the coronavirus, an anticipated crash of the healthcare system can be avoided. The commonly heard “flattening of the curve” refers to the wave of cases, where the high wave is a surge in cases. Flattening this curve is the result of the community doing their best to lower the peak, thereby preventing an onslaught of new patients. This crucial step can provide healthcare officials the much-needed reprieve in order to take care of those suffering from COVID-19, without burning through their already limited resources. With COVID-19 reaching all 50 states, cases are soaring as people do not adhere to the concept of social distancing or other safe practices.

The most effective way to prevent the spread is by practicing social distancing, which has been defined as simply keeping 6 feet way from people and by limiting your interaction with people outside of your home. With nearly a third of the globe’s population under movement restrictions, governments are somewhat in

Figure 1 Cases in the United States as of March 25, 2020

agreement that this approach can halt the spread, as predicted by experts. This practice is likely going to need to be in place until the pandemic subsides, but for now, it is important to do it for at least 14 days, ensuring those who have coronavirus or have been exposed to coronavirus, have time to fight the disease and not pass it along.

In response to the current crisis, US lawmakers agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus package early morning on March 25th to kickstart the struggling economy. While a final vote is expected later in the day, the creation and agreement of the bill is a momentous feat. It is expected that the bill will include $250 billion for direct payments to Americans and their families, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits, and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies. An additional $27 billion is to go to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to develop COVID-19 vaccines and countermeasures. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control will get an additional $4.3 billion through the fiscal year 2024 to combat the virus.

Again, below are best practices to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading the coronavirus:

  • Wash you hand thoroughly and frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If you cannot wash your hands, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Cough into your elbow or a tissue, immediately throw the tissue away and wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Keep a safe distance from others, 6 feet is recommended
  • Stay home if you can and avoid going out unless it is necessary
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces.

The Policy

Recent US policies:

  • 30-day travel ban to and from EU- except the United Kingdom for non-Americans.
  • Closures of restaurants and eateries. Majority are only permitted to provide takeout and delivery, some states, like Virginia, are limiting restaurants to only serving 10 guests at a time.
  • State-wide lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have been put in place across the country.
  • Both a national stimulus and a relief package are being developed in congress, with an estimated ~$1000 going to adults and $500 per dependent to all Americans, expected to reach Americans by April 6th.
  • State Department officials say that terrorism charges may apply to individuals who intentionally spread COVID-19.

Analysis:

The severity of this pandemic is not being felt by all, with reports of college students still traveling for spring break, or people taking advantage of the rock-bottom prices of international flights. Nevertheless, this is a key time in this pandemic, and it could determine the success of healthcare workers and the duration of life under quarantines.

Critics of the proposed stimulus plan argue that it does not do enough for Americans and caters to businesses and corporations. With details still undisclosed, it cannot be effectively commented on. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a press conference, said the stimulus bill would fall very short of the needed assistance for New York. However, there is a provision within the bill that prevents Donald Trump, his family, and other top officials from getting loans or investments from the package. Supporters have praised the bill’s proposal of funding the recently defunded science led by the CDC and other public health services.

Engagement Resources:

For concerns about COVID-19, please seek assistance with the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or local health officials.

Subscribe HERE to stay up to date with COVID-19

Numbers as of March 25, 2020 – Consult the CDC or Johns Hopkins for an update in numbers.

Top Ten Nations with Cases

Nation Confirmed Cases

Mar 25

Deaths
Globally 454,398 20,499
China (Mainland) 81,661 3,281
Italy 74,386 7,503
United States 61,167 809
Spain 47,610 3,434
Germany 37,066 205
Iran 27,017 2,077
France 22,654 1,100
Switzerland 10,897 153
South Korea 9,137 126
United Kingdom  8,365 435

 

UPDATE : Coronavirus

UPDATE : Coronavirus

COVID-19 has continued to wreak havoc on the health of thousands, now officially being called a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Conflicting information from the US government, specifically Donald Trump, and the Center for Disease Control has prompted confusion and panic across the US. With numbers climbing daily, the severity of this virus can no longer be ignored. After close monitoring for the past three months, it appears to be more fatal for older people and people with chronic diseases, specifically, autoimmune diseases. Even with this information, a cure is still at least a year away. The best course of action while a cure is still being developed is to prevent the spread, mitigate the symptoms, and take care of those suffering from COVID-19.

How do you protect yourself and others from the coronavirus and COVID-19?

  • Avoid exposure to the virus by avoiding coming in contact with people who have the virus. It is thought to spread through person to person contact, through respiratory droplets.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public space, or after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If soap is not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth (entire face to be safe) with unwashed hands.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people; neither you nor that person may know if they are sick, best practice is to stay six feet away.
  • Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care and be mindful when seeking treatment to not spread whatever you may have.
  • Use your elbow or a tissue to cover your cough or sneeze, immediately dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Only wear a face mask if you are sick, if you are not, please do not wear one unless you are caring for someone who is sick. Face masks are in short supply and should be saved for care givers and medical professionals.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly and frequently touched surfaces.

While many understand to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms, many are reporting feeling little solace due to the lack of available testing. There are presumptive positives across the country, but confirmation is difficult when test availability is low. Instead, people who are sick wait indefinitely for an administered test that may come after their 14-day quarantine, only to be told after, yes, they have COVID-19 or succumb to the virus.

With a coronavirus and COVID-19 finding its way to every American, there have been reports of citizens stockpiling in preparation for quarantines. Stores like Target are rationing hand sanitizer, Lysol, and toilet paper, as people are buying in bulk. Canned items and pasta are also flying off the shelves, notably, provinces in Italy too report empty aisles as the country grinds to a halt.

The Policy

Recent policies that have been enacted by the US have been directed at preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • World Health Organization officially announces the outbreak of coronavirus as a pandemic.
  • Trump announced a 30-day travel ban on US flights to Europe, excluding the United Kingdom on March 11, 2020.
  • Italy’s nation-wide quarantine and travel ban. All stores and restaurants, except supermarkets, have been ordered to close after an already nation-wide lockdown. No flights are permitted in or out of Italy.

Analysis:

The current pandemic is testing the abilities of healthcare systems across the globe. With health care professionals also falling sick, resources are diminishing without much hope of an end in sight. As mentioned in a previous brief, the Administration has repeatedly announced conflicting information regarding the virus which does nothing, but ensure panic and confusion.

Current state of the economy

Markets have plunged as fears of the pandemic have taken hold in every avenue of life. Fears of a wider economic downturn loom as the virus spread across the globe and affects other markets. However, the Federal Reserve announced March 12th, that there would be multiple cash injections, totaling more than $1.5 trillion, to fund struggling markets.

Additional outcomes of this outbreak

  United States Internationally
State of Emergency Washington state, New York, Massachusetts announce March 10th China, Italy, Iran, Japan (some regions).
Cities or regions on lockdown New, Rochelle, NY – National Guard to deliver food Initially just northern Italy, now the entire country is restricted
Prohibition of gatherings Cancellation of political rallies, conferences, concerts; changes in how religious groups worship; the NBA has cancelled the rest of the season after Utah Jazz player contracts the virus. Futbol matches have been played without fans, large sports events have done the same or cancelled all together
Restriction on travel Amtrak Acela train cancellations from DC to NYC, Travel ban from US to Europe (excluding UK) All European flights to Italy have been cancelled, some nations considering curtailing international travel.
Schools cancel classes and go online Entire state of Washington has sent students home, many universities are following suit Nations have taken the precaution of keeping school children home
Notable Quarantines Multiple US GOP leaders, Actor Tom Hanks and Wife test positive Brazilian press secretary Fabio Wajngarten, Iran’s vice president and ministers.

 

Most recently, and seemingly most drastically, is the Trump Administration’s implementation of a 30-day travel ban to Europe, except for the UK. It is likely that cancellation of large events and the closing of education institutions will continue until the virus is under control. The stock market has repeatedly been rocked by the virus, prompting concern and insecurity. With little hope in sight, experts predict and economic downturn and a mild level of chaos, as people stop working.

The drastic changes that have happened as a result of COVID-19, outside of the health effects, have hurt people’s wallets, as they cannot work and are less likely to be spending money. Schools and students have and will continue to suffer through online courses replacing in-person ones, having to navigate quickly moving out of dorms, and for some losing access to food. These measures are drastic and will certainly have wide-ranging affects. Only time will tell if officials are making the right decisions in preventing the spread of the virus.

Engagement Resources:

For concerns about COVID-19, please seek assistance with the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or local health officials.

Subscribe HERE to stay up to date with COVID-19

Updated from Feb 27, 2020-

Numbers as of March 12, 2020 – Consult the CDC or Johns Hopkins for an update in numbers. (NOTE: numbers now include “presumed positives” which are defined as cases that have been confirmed through state provided test kits or recommendations by physicians; where the results are waiting for confirmation from the CDC through their own tests.)

Nation Confirmed Cases

Feb 27/Mar 12

Deaths
Globally 127,800 4,718
Afghanistan 1/7 0/0
Albania -/15 -/1
Algeria 1/24 0/1
Andorra -/1 -/0
Argentina -/19 -/1
Armenia -/1 -/0
Australia 23/128 0/3
Austria 2/302 0/1
Azerbaijan -/11 -/0
Bahrain 33/195 0/0
Bangladesh -/3 -/0
Belarus -/12 -/0
Belgium 1/314 0/3
Bhutan -/1 -/0
Bolivia -/2 -/0
Bosnia & Herzegovina -/11 -/0
Brazil 1/52 0/0
Brunei -/11 -/0
Bulgaria -/7 -/1
Burkina Faso -/2 -/0
Cambodia 1/3 0/0
Cameroon -/2 -/0
Canada 11/117 0/2
Chile -/23 -/0
China (mainland) 77,658/80,932 2,744/3,172
Colombia -/9 -/0
Costa Rica -/22 -/0
Croatia 3/19 0/0
Cuba -/3 -/0
Cyprus -/6 -/0
Czech Republic -/94 -/0
Democratic Republic of Congo -/1 -/0
Denmark 1/615 0/0
Dominican Republic -/5 -/0
Ecuador -/17 -/0
Egypt 1/67 0/1
Estonia 1/16 0/0
Faroe Islands -/2 -/0
Finland 2/59 0/0
France 18/2,284 2/48
Germany 27/2,078 0/3
Greece 1/99 0/1
Georgia 1/24 0/0
Gibraltar -/1 -/0
Guyana -/1 -/1
Honduras -/2 -/0
Hong Kong 92/129 2/3
Iceland -/85 -/0
India 3/73 0/1
Indonesia -/34 -/1
Iran 245/ 10,075 26/429
Iraq 6/71 0/8
Ireland -/34 -/1
Israel 2/127 0/0
Italy 453/12,462 12/827
Ivory Coast -/1 -/0
Hungary -/13 -/0
Jamaica -/2 -/0
Japan 894/1,316 3/21
Jordan -/1 -/0
Kuwait 26/80 0/0
Latvia -/10 -/0
Lebanon 2/61 0/1
Liechtenstein -/1 -/0
Lithuania -/3 -/0
Luxembourg -/19 -/0
Macau 10/10 0/0

 

Malaysia 22/149 0/0
Maldives -/8 -/0
Malta -/6 -/0
Mexico -/12 -/0
Moldova -/3 -/0
Monaco -/1 -/0
Mongolia -/1 -/0
Morocco -/6 -/1
Nepal 1/1 0/0
Netherlands -/503 -/5
New Zealand -/5 -/0
Nigeria -/2 -/0
Norway 1/632 0/0
North Macedonia -/7 -/0
Oman 4/18 0/0
Pakistan 2/20 0/0
Panama -/11 -/1
Paraguay -/5 -/0
Peru -/15 -/0
Philippines 3/52 0/2
Poland -/47 -/0
Portugal -/59 -/0
Qatar -/262 -/0
Reunion -/1 -/0
Romania 1/49 0/0
Russia 2/28 0/0
San Marino -/69 -/3
Saudi Arabia -/45 -/0
Senegal -/4 -/0
Serbia -/19 -/0
Singapore 93/178 0/0
Slovakia -/10 -/0
Slovenia -/57 -/0
South Africa -/17 -/0
Spain 13/2,277 0/55
Sri Lanka 1/2 0/0
Sweden 2/500 0/1
Switzerland 4/652 0/4
Taiwan 32/49 1/1
Thailand 40/70 0/1
The Republic of Korea 1,766/7,869 13/66
Togo -/1 -/0
Tunisia -/7 -/0
Turkey -/1 -/0
Ukraine -/1 -/0
United Arab Emirates 13/74 0/0
United Kingdom 15/456 0/8
United States 41/1,269 0/37
Vatican City -/1 -/0
Vietnam 16/39 0/0
West Bank & Gaza -/26 -/0

 

The Coronavirus and an Inevitable Global Pandemic

The Coronavirus and an Inevitable Global Pandemic

What is Coronavirus?

International panic has ensued as a result of an outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus (CoV). The virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now spread internationally to all continents except Antarctica.

The specific virus is named “SARS-CoV-2” and the respiratory disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (“COVID-19”). As previously mentioned, the origin of the virus is Wuhan City, likely from a live animal market, where multiple people became infected through contact with the animals. Transmission then occurred via person to person contact, spreading throughout China and internationally.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are flu-like, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear from two to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. There is still some uncertainty on how exactly the virus spreads.

With a growing 80,067 confirmed cases and 2,764 deaths COVID-19 is becoming a global pandemic with little confidence of a near end in sight. The infection percentage has been fatal in 2-4% of cases in Wuhan, but less than 1% across the globe, according to the World Health Organization. Currently, there no cure for COVID-19.

The Chinese authoritarian regime’s use of censorship has been blamed for its rapid spread during Chinese Lunar New Year. The lack of information shared with citizens and the rest of the globe likely was to portray the Chinese government as in control of the virus and to mitigate panic. However, by attempting to reduce its severity, COVID-19 spread unabated. One of the Chinese doctors who attempted to warn the public of the impeding epidemic reportedly died on February 6, 2020. He was threatened by police in the early stages of this outbreak, and later contracted the virus. Other outspoken citizens who tried to warn others were also silenced.

The Policy

Recent policies that have been enacted by the US have been directed at preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern external icon” (PHEIC).
  • On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.

Analysis:

Is the US Prepared

Being the global power that the US is, it can be assumed COVID-19 is certainly managible. In tandem with the Health and Human Services’ announcement of a public emergency concerning, the recent steps hospitals have taken in preparing for an outbreak, and the preventative measures taken with infected Americans trying to get back into the US, the US seems to be on the right path. However, the Health and Human Services Department has dissolved the Pandemic Preparedness Office, leaving no point person managing the American crisis. Additionally, significant funding cuts for the Center for Disease Control occurred during the Trump Administration resulting in a lack of resources for preparedness. Analysts and officials have made statements pointing towards the inevitability the US experiences a pandemic and that the US is simply not prepared to take on the onslaught of COVID-19, while government officials have contradicted scientists’ findings and predictions.

Is the rest of the world prepared?

China appears to be getting the virus under control, with daily confirmed cases on the decline, but infections are spreading rapidly in South Korea, Iran and Italy.  The world is not prepared for a major outbreak, World Health Organization officials said on Monday. As a result, it is imperative for nations to have sufficient educational programs informing citizens of the risks and ways to mitigate the spreading of COVID-19. While the likelihood of a global pandemic is high, the largest looming concern is what happens once it reaches Sub Saharan Africa? With Algeria and Egypt reporting the first cases on the continent, it is apparent that containment efforts have failed and the risk of a catastrophic outbreak on African soil could be on the horizon. Overall, it can be said that the globe is not prepared for COVID-19, but nations are learning from the Chinese response to the virus, which received praise by both the CDC and WHO.

What does this epidemic mean for the global economy and trade?

Markets have plunged as fears of an imminent pandemic are becoming more apparent. The Dow has lost more than 1,400 points in the last three trading days, eliminating all gains for the year so far. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also fell, and Asian markets have been suffering due to the virus. Fears of a wider economic downturn loom as the virus spreadas across the globe and affects other markets. Due to widespread infections, quarantines, and preventions of mass gatherings, manufacturing companies in China have had to halt production. As one of the top manufacturing countries, this has delayed or even halted production in other countries like the US, who depends on China for providing parts for electronic devices and cars. Tourism and travel sectors have suffered as well, as fears of being confined to a space with someone infected has been exemplified with the quarantining of the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

Additional outcomes of this outbreak

  • Widespread panic and fears
  • Increase in racism and xenophobia towards those of Asian decent
  • Decrease in international travel
  • Delayed key political meetings
  • Dips in stock markets and global economy
  • Concerns over large gathering for sporting events, like FIFA and Olympics

Engagement Resources:

Nation Confirmed Cases Deaths
Globally 80,067 2,764
Afghanistan 1 0
Algeria 1 0
Australia 23 0
Austria 2 0
Bahrain 33 0
Belgium 1 0
Brazil 1 0
Cambodia 1 0
Canada 11 0
China (mainland) 77,658 2,744
Croatia 3 0
Denmark 1 0
Egypt 1 0
Estonia 1 0
Finland 2 0
France 18 2
Germany 27 0
Greece 1 0
Georgia 1 0
Hong Kong 92 2
India 3 0
Iran 245 26
Iraq 6 0
Israel 2 0
Italy 453 12
Japan 894 3
Kuwait 26 0
Lebanon 2 0
Macau 10 0

 

Malaysia 22 0
Nepal 1 0
Norway 1 0
Oman 4 0
Pakistan 2 0
Philippines 3 0
Romania 1 0
Russia 2 0
Sri Lanka 1 0
Singapore 93 0
Spain 13 0
Sweden 2 0
Switzerland 4 0
Taiwan 32 1
Thailand 40 0
The Republic of Korea 1,766 13
United Arab Emirates 13 0
United Kingdom 15 0
United States 60 0
Vietnam 16 0

 

Trump Administration Proposes More Obama-Era School Lunch Rollbacks —Post Your Comments

Trump Administration Proposes More Obama-Era School Lunch Rollbacks —Post Your Comments

The Policy

The Department of Agriculture proposed new rules for school lunches and meals, actively targeting policy spearheaded by Former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Currently, it is mandated that schools offer high quantities of nutritious red and orange vegetables. With this change, schools will have more discretion in the amount and variety of vegetables. Another change is that students will be able to purchase more entrée items as a la carte selections. The proposal builds off the Trump administration’s 2018 policy that rolled back whole grain and sodium regulations, allowing schools to provide white breads and saltier foods.

Such a proposal has gained support through concerns over school lunch costs and  restrictions on school administration to make changes in what is served to kids. The  Department of Agriculture says its goals are to “simplify” nutritional guidelines and combat waste.  According to the USDA, the goal of this new rule is to give school administrators more flexibility in what they serve in school cafeterias.

This new rollback in key nutritional standards puts approximately 30 million children, including nearly 22 million low-income children at a higher risk for health issues.

Analysis:

While the Nutritional School Lunch Program is not entirely cancelled, this is a significant blow to the program aimed at combatting childhood diseases and providing school kids with nutritional meals. Critics of the proposal argue the changes will result in children eating less fruits and vegetables and more unhealthy options like pizza, burgers and fries.

Another large concern is that the new  rule now allows students to purchase full entrées as a la cart items, which creates a loophole in the standards set in place. Such loophole allows students to exceed the recommended caloric intake and saturate their diets with foods that should be eaten in moderation.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue supported the changes by highlighting the common pickiness of kids, stating “if kids are not eating what is being served, [because they don’t like healthier options compared to unhealthy ones) then they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted”. Such a statement also tapped into fiscally conservative supporters keen on cutting government budget costs in a variety of areas, even school lunches.

With nearly 14 million obese children in the US, healthy foods are an imperative in protecting them against risks like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, in addition to associated complications. The new Trump administration rules directly  challenge the standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Previous rollbacks on the National School Lunch Program have resulted in a lawsuit by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), organizational partners of CSPI, and attorneys generals. It is expected that with the large outcry over previous ammendments, this proposal will also be challenged in the courts.

The 60 day commenting period ends March 23rd, 2020, post your public comment to this proposal here!

Engagement Resources:

  • Center for Science in the Public Interest – An independent and science-based consumer advocacy organization committed to improving the food system and to support healthy eating.
  • ParentsTogether – A national and parent led organization created to keep parents informed and active in policies that impact kids and families.
  • Feeding America – America’s largest hunger relief organization.

Reach out to your senators and representatives to take action!

More Restrictions are Set Up for SNAP Beneficiaries

More Restrictions are Set Up for SNAP Beneficiaries

The Policy

In early December, the Trump Administration proposed a final rule making work requirements stricter for those getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This rule builds off the initial proposal mentioned in August.

Under SNAP’s current work requirements, able-bodied adults are not supposed to receive benefits for more than three months during a three-year period unless they have a job or are enrolled in education and training programs for 20 hours a week. Additionally, regulations stipulate states can waive the time limit of beneficiaries if  the unemployment rate within the state was 20% above the national rate of unemployment.

The new rule moves the threshold of unemployment to 6%, meaning a state must have an unemployment rate higher than 6% to be permitted to waive the three-month limit. At the announcement of this rule, Alaska was the only state with an unemployment rate higher than 6% and therefore the only state qualifying for the waiver.

Nearly 700,000 adults are to be deemed ineligible for SNAP as the rule targets able-bodied adults between 18-49 years of age, without children or dependents. The estimated savings of no longer having these beneficiaries is nearly $5.5 billion over 5 years. This rule is set to go in effect April 1st, 2020; however, 14 states have banded together to challenge the attack on food security.

Analysis:

The lawsuit, brought by a coalition of attorneys generals across 14 states, is suing the Agricultural Department for its rule threatening hundreds of thousands. Main arguments are that the Administration unlawfully limited states’ discretion to exempt certain adults from work requirements. These restrictions are a continuation of Trump’s April 2018 executive order titled “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility”, with a goal of creating more work programs, limiting overall public assistance, and reducing federal costs. However, the limiting of access will not increase employment, instead, it will increase hunger. This change denies vulnerable Americans acces to the vital SNAP benefits, this rule challenges their safety as the likely outcome of this rule will be an increase in economic uncertainty, health care costs, and hunger.

The groups who will be the most-hard hit are black and Hispanic households, women, and the LGBT+ community members.

The states that are suing are: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

Resistance  Resources:

  • CLASP : A national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty nonprofit advancing policy solutions for low-income people.
  • Feeding America : A national organization whose goal is to provide food access to millions through food banks and food panties.

Reach out to your senators and representatives to take action!

Photo by NeONBRAND

Ohio Anti – Abortion Bill Proposes an Impossible Procedure and Creates New Crimes

Ohio Anti – Abortion Bill Proposes an Impossible Procedure and Creates New Crimes

The Policy

In late November, Ohio House Bill 413 was proposed by Representatives Candice Keller and Ron Hood, raising concern amongst reproductive rights activists and doctors. The bill mandates doctors to re-implant ectopic pregnancy or face “abortion murder” charges. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Such a pregnancy is not viable and requires emergency treatment due to potentially fatal ruptures and hemorrhages. This bill is requiring that a doctor take the embryo that is in an inhabitable space, without a possibility or survival, and place it into the uterus with the impossible expectation that the egg makes it to full term. Such a procedure is not possible.

Within the bill, were newly created crimes “abortion murder”, which is punishable by life imprisonment, and “aggravated abortion murder” resulting in the death penalty for doctors who terminate a pregnancy. Those also at risk include women and children as young as thirteen to be charged with “abortion murder” for receiving an abortion, a crime punishable by 15 years to life.

There is no exception for instances of rape or incest. According to the bill, someone who obtains an abortion can only avoid punishment by proving they were “compelled by force, fear, duress, intimidation, or fraud to get an abortion” and have filed a police report certifying in writing the previous qualifications. The bill has 19 co-sponsors, a fifth of Ohio’s House.

HB 413 builds off House Bill 182, sponsored by John Baker in April, whose main goal was to limit insurance coverage for abortion procedures. 413 includes the prohibition of coverage for medication and devices that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, notably intrauterine devices (IUDs). However, the previously mentioned treatment that simply does not exist, re-adhering an ectopic pregnancy to the uterus, is covered by insurance.

Analysis:

Outside of the egregious encroachment on the liberty of reproductive rights, this proposed procedure simply is not possible. Standard procedure for an ectopic pregnancy is removal of the fertilized egg from the inhabitable space, often the fallopian tube, before it creates life-threatening complications for the mother. The bill is asking for the impossible, there simply is no procedure for such an idea. Now while many will say countless surgical procedures were thought to be impossible until someone tried, but doctors have tried. It is a complex, incredibly dangerous, and ineffective procedure, often resulting in the mother suffering severe complications. This concern for women’s safety and the proposed procedure’s efficacy were highlighted by numerous obstetricians, gynecologists and researchers when the bill was first announced. The penalty faced by doctors places them in a predicament to both violate the Hippocratic oath and create a miracle, if they would like to avoid jailtime or death. Additionally, the insurance component will threaten the willingness of providers to cover procedures and will ultimately limit coverage for women.

Both HB 182 and 413 spread misinformation regarding a dangerous, life threatening condition affecting pregnant women and about general reproductive health. The notion that this condition is not as complicated and can be solved by simply moving an egg to the “right” place, is a severe minimization. Additionally, the language within the bill has been criticized as it repeatedly defines a fertilized egg as an unborn child, which it is not. Such language and misinformation are dangerous for women and the future of reproductive rights.

While the bill very well could pass, it is blatantly unconstitutional and would most certainly be challenged in the courts, just as the six-week abortion ban known as the “heartbeat bill” was, and will never go into effect. With Roe v. Wade still in effect, HB 413 does not stand a chance. However, should one of the recent anti-abortion bills make its way to the Supreme Court, they pose a severe risk to the landmark case with the current conservative judges in place.

Engagement Resources:

  • Planned Parenthood : Reproductive rights advocacy group that provided affordable and accessible health services to women across the US.
  • National Abortion Federation : Advocacy group which respects women’s ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health.
  • ACLU of Ohio : A national organization working to defend civil liberties across the United States.
  • Center for Reproductive Rights : Legal group ensuring the protection of reproductive rights for every woman around the world.
  • Naral : A pro-choice women’s organization with a chapter in Ohio.

Photo by Chris Boese

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Unveils Her Long-Awaited Plan to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Unveils Her Long-Awaited Plan to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Policy

Last month, Nancy Pelosi announced the Lower Drug Cost Now Act, which was previously led by Representative Elijah Cummings, before his passing in October. The bill aims to tackle the current crisis plaguing Americans, astronomically high drug prices. Within H.R 3 is permission for the Health and Human Services Secretary to negotiate the prices of up to 250 brand-name drugs in Medicare that do not have competitors. Additionally, the secretary would then be able to impose harsh financial penalties on drug companies that fail to come to an agreement on lowering those prices. While the drugs within Medicare are the targets of lower pricing, Americans with private insurance, too, would be able to reap the benefits of this bill, not just Medicare beneficiaries.

The Lower Drug Cost Now Act also would cap out-of-pocket prescriptions costs for those covered under Medicare at $2,000 a year. A requirement of pharmaceuticals whose prices have surpassed inflation rates to reduce their prices, or to rebate the excess to the United States Treasury Department is one of the main goals of the bill.

Also included in the H.R. 3 is the creation of an international price index and reinvesting innovation. This International Price Index would be a reference tool to ensure that drugs sold internationally would be priced at the same rate in America as it is across the globe, to prevent the American population from being taken advantage of. The current state of pharmaceuticals is that a drug is being sold to another country and the people of that country pay far less for an identical medication. Such an index will create a maximum price for negotiated drugs, called the Average International Market (AIM) price, with the intention of increasing transparency and providing accountability. As mentioned, the bill also puts a new focus on reinvesting in research and innovations to pursue cures for diseases, disorders, and conditions. One of the main reasons why Big Pharma continues to make so much money is due to the fact that few cures have been found, therefore, the American population suffering from diseases, conditions and disorders will continue to line the pockets of Big Pharma for the duration of their lives, if nothing changes. When a focus is placed on finding cures, medications will no longer be necessary, and the crippling impact of drug prices will loosen the grip on Americans and their wallets.

Analysis:

This bill has been created to tackle the challenges faced by many Americans when filling prescriptions. The high price of drugs has left Americans stranded, some forgoing necessary medications, rationing medication to last longer, buying medication intended for pets as a supplement, or attempting to buy from outside the country, all with potentially deadly outcomes. Pelosi points to the price of insulin, a life-saving drug necessary in regulating sugar in people with diabetes, as the poster child for the outrageous price hikes of prescription drugs. Since its invention in 1922, insulin’s price has tripled between the 1990s and 2014, and the cost has nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, from $2,864 to $5,705 annually. With this new bill, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates H.R. 3 would save the federal government $369 billion over 10 years.

With this saving, it seems as though few people can be displeased with this bill. However a majority of Senate Finance Committee Republicans opposed it in a committee vote, where it still passed. Republican and Senate FC Chairman Chuck Grassley is supporting a bill that crosses party lines in pursuit of lowering drug prices. Should Pelosi’s bill stall, Grassley has teamed up with Senator Ron Wyden in creating legislation to limit out-of-pocket costs for seniors in Medicare’s Part D to $3,100 annually. The Trump administration has its own proposal that would base the price of some Medicare drugs on an average of the lower prices paid by other countries, a common principle in Pelosi’s bill.

The American people have spoken and have made it clear that drug prices are too high, and something must be done. With many legislatures putting this issue at the forefront, it is likely a policy addressing these high prices will be passed shortly.

Engagement Resources:

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Taylor Jazmine-Smith

Photo by unsplash-logoJoshua Sukoff

Opioid Pharmaceutical Companies Reach 11th Hour Settlement and Avoid Taking Responsibility

Opioid Pharmaceutical Companies Reach 11th Hour Settlement and Avoid Taking Responsibility

The Policy

The morning of what would be a historic opioid trial, four of the biggest U.S. drug manufacturers and distributers reached a $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties, preventing the commencement of the landmark trial.

Distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp. pledged to pay $215 million, while manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals will pay $20 million in cash and an additional $25 million in addiction and overdose treatment drugs. This comes from the co-lead attorney, Paul Farrell Jr., representing the Ohio counties Summit and Cuyahoga. Under this deal, there is no admission of wrongdoing on the companies’ part, but the distributors have agreed to change internal policies to prevent over-distribution in the future.

Monday’s settlement announcement means that only Walgreens remains as one of the original defendants for the Ohio trial, due to most of the defendants, notably, Johnson & Johnson and Mallinckrodt, already reaching settlements with the two counties a week prior. Walgreen’s trial is now postponed until next year, with the potential to be joined by other companies.

Additionally, just hours after the Ohio settlement was announced, a group of bipartisan attorneys general announced that they had reached an agreement with the previously mentioned four companies and Johnson & Johnson in a larger nation-wide lawsuit. This “global resolution” greatly surpasses the Ohio settlement with $22 billion paid in cash over 18 years and $26 billion in anti-addiction and drug treatment medication, totaling a massive payout of $48 billion.

Analysis:

While this settlement halts the federal case out of Ohio, it does not impede any further progress by other lawsuits outside of Summit and Cuyahoga, the two counties in the case. This case was intended on being a landmark case, where it would be used as a glowing example of how to attack the large pharmaceuticals and attribute blame and responsibility for their roles in the opioid crisis. At this stage, it appears as though another case will have to take lead. There are still thousands of counties, cities and towns who have filed cases, this federal one only represented some two thousand across the country.

Although the settlement will provide necessary funding and compensation for the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic, critics would have preferred a trial. By avoiding going to trial, there is no jury to find companies guilty. Notably and most disappointingly, the settlements intentionally did not include admission of wrongdoing or an apology, something people affected by the crisis so desperately want. All companies have maintained that the drugs in question passed intense FDA scrutiny and had labels explaining the risks of addiction.

Engagement Resources:

Photo by unsplash-logoanaluisa gamboa

Healthcare proposals by the 2020 Democratic CandidatesHealthcare proposals by the 2020 Democratic Candidates

Healthcare proposals by the 2020 Democratic CandidatesHealthcare proposals by the 2020 Democratic Candidates

As we reach 56 weeks before the 2020 elections, candidates have detailed their proposals for improving the health of the nation and have discussed them during the recent debates. Voters have understandably placed healthcare in their top concerns when choosing a candidate. The top five candidates rank in the order of Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg.

  • Elizabeth Warren MA Senator

Warrens stance on healthcare is in defense of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid from republican attacks. Warren supports Medicare for All, which would provide all Americans with a public health care program.

Other Focus Areas:

  • Lower the cost of prescription drugs through Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to manufacture generic drugs to combat drug prices that have spiked due to high demand and limited producers.
  • Prioritize mental health through the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act where insurance companies would be held accountable for providing adequate mental health services and ensure American’s rights are protected as guaranteed by law.
  • Fighting the opioid crisis with the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, investing 100 billion in federal funding to fight the epidemic by providing funds for addiction treatment in affected communities.
  • Protecting access to healthcare in rural areas by increasing funding to community health centers, fighting hospital mergers that primarily push rural hospitals out of business, and investing in future healthcare workforces with well-established apprenticeships.

 

  • Joe Biden Former Vice President

Former Vice President Joe Biden has put two areas at the core of his health care platform: Insurance and drug prices.

Biden wants to protect and build on Obamacare/ACA by adding a public option. The key component to his healthcare proposal revolves on Obamacare, not creating drastic structural changes, stating that the ACA was a historical feat. His main additions to the ACA are to give Americans more choice in the form of a public option like Medicare, reducing healthcare cost, and making the healthcare system less complex to navigate through.

Biden vows to stop the abuse of drug companies and to cut drug prices. One key step in fighting the high prices is by repealing the laws that ban Medicare from negotiating lower prices with pharmaceuticals. With such an action, companies will be forced to regulate the drug prices and prevent manufacturers with no competition from placing prices so high. Additionally, Biden proposes allowing consumers to buy lower priced medications from other countries.

  • Bernie Sanders VT Senator

Bernie Sanders is another candidate who has healthcare at their core and also supports Medicare-for-all. While Bernie has been seen as the farthest left-leaning candidate in many cases, many support his approach to ensuring all Americans have access to medical treatment and healthcare.

Sanders also wants to tackle the important issue of drug prices, he proposes lowering prices through negotiating with pharmaceuticals with the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, by allowing low-cost prescription drugs to be bought from Canada and other countries through the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, and by fixing drug prices to an average based off of five major nations (Canada, UK, France, Germany and Japan) through the Prescription Drug Relief Act.

Sanders is currently taking a step un unchartered territory by proposing to eliminate existing past due medical debt, which currently stands at $81 billion nationally.

  • Kamala Harris CA District Attorney

Harris believes healthcare is a right, not a privilege and wants all Americans to have access to healthcare. The California DA has proposed a version of Medicare for All. This plan expands on the established policy enacted by Obamacare and would eventually transition to a nationwide Medicare system over the next ten years. Both public and private options will be available for all.

Other Focus Areas:

  • Tackling the pharmaceutical companies and lowering prescription drug prices through mandating the Department of Health and Human Services to set a fair price for drugs based on OECD countries. Harris is even willing to take executive action should congress hesitate in ensuring the American people have access to lower prescription medications.
  • Ensure the women’s reproductive rights are protected and extended by nominating Justices that agree with Roe v. Wade, securing Plan Parenthood’s ability to function, and addressing racial disparities in the healthcare system.

 

  • Pete Buttigieg South Bend, Indiana Mayor

Buttigieg’s proposal for healthcare come 2020 centers on “Medicare-for-all who want it”, a memorable phrase from the debate stage. The Medicare for All Who Want It plan will allow everyone to opt in to an affordable, comprehensive public alternative plan, without mandating people to buy in. This affordable public plan will incentivize private insurers to compete on price and bring down costs and would eventually lead to a single-payer health care system.

Other Focus Areas:

  • Improving mental health and combatting addiction by reaching a mental health parity, where mental health and substance abuse disorders are treated with the same priority as physical conditions. Buttigieg would see that health plans providers and insurance companies will face fines and penalties should they violate meeting these standards. Regarding addiction, Buttigieg pledges a $100 million grant for affected communities, to hold companies that exacerbated the opioid crisis accountable, and to expand naloxone programs to all 50 states.
  • Focus on healthcare in rural states by reducing care shortages in rural areas by training homegrown healthcare workers, invest heavily in telehealth, and expand transportation services to Americans in need.
  • Make medicine affordable by cutting out of pocket spending for seniors, capping monthly prescription spending under the proposed healthcare policy to $250, and reduce the cost of life saving drugs like naloxone and insulin.

 

Engagement Resources

Photo by unsplash-logoNatasha Spencer

Purdue Pharmaceuticals Turbulent Dealings with the Opioid Crisis

Purdue Pharmaceuticals Turbulent Dealings with the Opioid Crisis

The Case
The multiple lawsuits against arguably the biggest contributors to the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma and the company’s founders the Sackler family, claim that both entities participated in massive false advertising. (Other companies targeted in the lawsuit include companies Johnson & Johnson, Teva. )Purdue should have known  that their products weren’t safe or effective, yet they advertised their drugs were both. With this knowledge, company executives pushed addictive and ineffective drugs to the masses and therefore caused the current crisis the US finds itself in today.

This behavior by Purdue is not new, in 2007, Purdue and three of its top executives paid more than $630 million in federal fines for misleading marketing, and three executives were criminally convicted, each sentenced to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service. Nevertheless, it is being argued Purdue has continued their false advertising and this new case is requesting more fu8nds from the pharmaceutical giant for those harmfully affected by its products.

Settlement
Purdue Pharma has negotiated a new billion-dollar settlement with the state of Oklahoma  to prevent it from going going to court in a large federal case next month. This conglomerate lawsuit is comprised of thousands of cities, states and communities who have been negatively impacted by the opioid crisis and are seeking to hold Purdue accountable. The tentative deal would relaunch the Purdue company under non-Sackler ownership, where the family entirely removes themselves. The newly formed company will be managed by a group of trustees and while the company will still exist, all Oxycontin profits will be used towards the settlement.

Though Purdue Pharma’s tentative settlement would bring some relief to communities, a growing number of state attorneys general are lining up against the deal. They want the Sackler family to pay far more out of their personal fortune, roughly $13 billion.

{UPDATE} Sep 16

On September 16th, Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This filling also includes a restructuring of the company into a for-profit “public benefit trust”. This trust would include more than $4 billion in treatment drugs to help members of the affected communities treat their addiction by weaning them off of opiates and reaching a life after opiates. The trust is intended to last for ten years. The anticipated bankruptcy filing, which could be worth up to $12 billion over time, occurred to avoid the onslaught of court cases that was on the horizon for Purdue. The sum of the $12 billion bankruptcy filing comes from the settlements paid by Purdue and the Sackler family to the communities and individuals filing suit, the larger the payout, the more money thousands of communities get to repair.

Analysis
Even with this bankruptcy filing, Purdue may not be off the hook, there are still current trials pending, in addition to the possibility that proposed settlements can be rejected. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain (NY) will have discretion over the case, specifically on whether or not the multiple states that do not agree with the settlement can continue with their lawsuits. Purdue announced that the bankruptcy filing is intended to “facilitate an orderly and equitable resolution of all claims against Purdue, while preserving the value of Purdue’s assets for the benefit of those impacted by the opioid crisis”.

Opponents of the filing and deal point to the findings by experts that the pay out would not reach the goal of $13 billion and that the company avoids true accountability by avoiding liability charges by a judge or jury. New York Attorney General Letitia James said the settlement shows the Sacklers’ “attempting to evade responsibility and lowball millions of victims of the opioids crisis.” There have been over 700,000 drug overdose deaths in the US since 1999. Officials are fighting for what they believe pays for those deaths and restores their communities to the healthy state before Purdue Pharma wreaked havoc. At this time, the fate of the company and the crisis-stricken communities, are still developing.

Engagement Resources:

 

Photo by unsplash-logoDan Meyers

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