THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Apr. 8th – Friday, Apr. 12th

April 12, 2019 by B. Cameron Webb, MD, JD

THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, April 8th – Friday, April 12th

This week started with a tense battle in the court…or we should say on the court…

The UVA Men’s Basketball triumphed in dramatic fashion, winning the National Championship on Monday. <Cue Queen> WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. <Cue screaming>. We fully intend to bring this up at random during the next 12 months. Such is our right as champions. Is it obvious that this is our very first March Madness win?

Ok, enough about that (for now)…we start off our health policy updates with the good ol’ Affordable Care Act (ACA). New U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended the Department of Justice (DOJ) and their recent support of December’s Texas district court ruling to invalidate the entire ACA. House Democrats are eager to hear more about who was involved in the Trump administration’s decision and are requesting more information from the DOJ, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the White House. Many questions remain: what will the ultimate fate of the ACA be? How will it affect the Trump administration’s health care agenda? Will we ever stop talking about the ACA? (The answer to the last one is a hard no…for now)

Why some Democrats double down on protecting the ACA, progressive members of the party press forward, trying to go out with the old and in with the new. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)—also a Democratic presidential candidate—introduced his updated Medicare for All Act to the Senate on Wednesday. The plan mirrors his 2017 bill of the same name, except that this new, improved version includes long term care services, which are currently not covered by Medicare. The White House called the plan a “total government takeover,” and the Trump Administration notes that they are actively working on solutions to address the deficiencies of the ACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that as long as Republicans control the Senate, Medicare for All would not pass, stating it was the first step down the path to Socialism. It’s clear that this political debate won’t let up anytime soon.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has used Sanders’ Medicare for All bill as a chance to showcase Democrats’ move farther to the left on healthcare in the 2020 campaign cycle. Three Democratic Senators who are up for re-election in red states have distanced themselves from Medicare for All, one of whom is Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) who believes there are better ways to achieve universal healthcare coverage. With the debate focused on Medicare for All, other proposals—such as creating a public option have taken the back burner in many blue states. The legislation has been stalled due to rising healthcare costs, the dominance of the Medicare for All plan, and the need to address President Trump’s intentions to repeal the ACA. We’re starting to see more nuance to the battle lines on which the 2020 Presidential election will be a fight for the future of healthcare in the United States.

On the subject of public programs, senior health officials in the Trump Administration appealed a recent federal court ruling that effectively blocked work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. The move comes two weeks after federal Judge James E. Boasberg struck down Medicaid work requirements in those two states. Meanwhile, legislators in New Hampshire have sought to push-back on the state’s controversial work-requirements. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-NH), would suspend work requirements if more than 500 people lost coverage. And so, the back-and-forth rages on in the Trump Administration’s efforts to “Make Medicaid Great Again.”

While some states are focused on Medicaid this week, new bans on abortions are sweeping other parts of the nation. On Wednesday, Ohio lawmakers passed what Republicans and Democrats, alike, are calling the “strictest abortion law in the nation.” Now awaiting Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R-OH) signature, this bill would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, except when it is to save the life of the woman. Also on Wednesday, Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) signed a bill criminalizing second-trimester abortions that are performed using certain instruments (i.e., clamps, scissors, and forceps) to remove the fetus. While the woman having the abortion would not face charges under this bill, the performing doctor would be charged with a felony that is punishable by up to 5 years with a $10,000 fine. Similar laws banning abortion procedures are on the books in other states, so click here for a quick review of the rising abortion bills in the country.

In other states news, New York declared a public health emergency on Tuesday in response to an ongoing measles outbreak with 285 confirmed cases and 21 hospitalizations. This led to an order requiring unvaccinated residents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to receive the MMR vaccine. If a person is noncompliant with the order, they may be subject to a $1,000 fine. If you ask us, we think the fine would hurt a lot more than the shot.

Now, we know it’s Friday and you may be looking forward to plopping yourself down in a comfortable chair to relax and unwind, but you might want to reconsider your (seated) position. A new small study from the Journal of Applied Physiology confirms what most of us already know: sitting isn’t doing your body any favors, even if you are exercising regularly. So as the weather starts to warm up a bit, be sure to take time to get up, get out, and get some sun.

See you next week!

 


This Week’s Viewpoints Writing Team:
Avery Bullock, Cristalle Madray, Jo McClain and Tes Sabin


 

Filed Under: Viewpoints - Week in Review, Viewpoints: Health Policy Blog