THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Feb. 4th – Friday, Feb. 8th

THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, February 4th – Friday, February 8th

Our fellow Americans, the state of our Viewpoints blog… is strong.

Headlining last week’s news was Tuesday’s State of the Union address, and healthcare was front and center on the list of topics President Trump wanted to address. After revisiting some of the administrations earlier health policy efforts (such as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate), President Trump also gave a preview of what is to come from his administration regarding healthcare. The President urged bipartisan action to tackle the issue of high drug prices, and asked for fairness and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry for American patients. He criticized recent laws introduced by New York (which passed) and Virginia (which failed) attempting to legalize abortions later in pregnancy. President Trump went on to ask Congress to pass legislation prohibiting these later trimester abortions, adding a few more gallons of fuel to fire in the nation’s longstanding debates about the right to life and women’s reproductive rights.

In terms of specific policy objectives, the President proposed two disease-specific goals worth noting. First, he requested Congressional appropriations of $500 million over the next ten years to help end pediatric cancer. Although many experts and opponents were skeptical about the sufficiency of the dollar amount of the pledge, everyone could agree about the merits of pledging federal support on this issue. Next, President Trump promised that his upcoming budget would request a bipartisan commitment to eliminating HIV in the United States over the next decade. Again, while feasibility was an issue for some, there was near universal support for the concept of increased investment in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Beyond #SOTU, there was plenty of other health policy news from the Hill last week. Democrats in the House of Representatives have united to campaign for the protection of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the months since December’s Texas Federal District Court ruling in Texas vs. United States which deemed the entire ACA unconstitutional, the Trump administration decided not to defend key provisions of the ACA, including the provisions protecting insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. So while Democrats remain divided over the push for Medicare-for-all, they have put these divisions aside to push in concert to protect those with pre-existing conditions. Of note, many in the Republican party have also voiced support ensuring protections for pre-existing conditions, however there is less agreement within the party as to how those protections should be framed.

Speaking of the parties, shouts out to the 116th Congress for an early moment of health policy bipartisanship. Both parties seem to be enthusiastic about new legislation to help kids with complex medical conditions who are enrolled in Medicaid. The Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act (ACE Kids Act), was introduced last Monday by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The bill would make it possible for providers to “coordinate care, lower costs, and improve quality outcomes” for children requiring specialized care. In addition, the bill promises to help families navigate the complicated health care system. Altogether, the authors of the bill hope that it promises an improved quality of life for countless children with the implementation of its measures.

Switching gears, we saw a lot of health policy action from the states last week. Stakeholders in Florida are currently campaigning to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2020. If successful, this measure would extend Medicaid coverage to an additional 700,000 low-income Floridian adults—the second largest group that could stand to gain coverage through Medicaid expansion behind the state of Texas. While stakeholders seek to receive a 60 percent approval to move forward in Florida, other states such as Utah and Idaho seek to scale back the voter-approved Medicaid expansions. A Medicaid work requirements bill is quickly gaining traction in Utah, and its passage could limit the number of people who would benefit from the Medicaid expansion. Similarly, legislation is being drafted in Idaho to add work requirements and monthly premiums for newly eligible adults. We’ll keep a close eye on this, as the state government reactions to the voter referenda in Idaho and Utah may affect how things ultimately play out in the burgeoning efforts of Florida voters.

Finally, we’ll end with a pair of parting shots (wait for it…). William McSwain, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, filed a suit last Wednesday to prevent Philadelphia from establishing the nation’s first supervised drug injection site. While the site—created by a nonprofit called Safehouse—has yet to open, McSwain decried the concept of safe injection sites as a way of normalizing drug use and an unsafe way to combat the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, safe injection site advocates argue that places like Safehouse will help keep people alive, connect them with resources, and ultimately increase the number of people pursuing treatment. Next, our final bit of news is also on the subject of injections. NPR reported this week that researchers are hard at work creating oral versions of some vaccines and other medications. For example, a group of scientists from Harvard and MIT have developed a pea-size digestible device to deliver insulin. These development should go a long way for increasing adherence to prevention and treatment recommendations among those with trypanophobia (that is, the fear of needles). Feel free to use that word at your next cocktail party.

That’s it from us! See you next week!

Student Contributors on this Article:
Avery Bullock, Annie Duncan, Cristalle Madray, Jo McClain, Nana Owusu, Morenike Oyebade, Allyson Paiewonsky and Tes Sabin