Health Policy

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Judge Strikes Down Ban on Unvaccinated Kids in Public

On Friday a state judge ruled that a New York county could not ban unvaccinated children from public gathering places in light of a measles outbreak there.

 

In late March, Rockland County Executive Ed Day issued an emergency declaration prohibiting children who had not received a vaccination against measles from attending schools, daycare centers, malls, or other enclosed places where the public gathers. The ban would last for 30 days.

 

Executive Day issued this ban due to a high number of measles cases confirmed in the county. He said it was necessary to stop the spread of the disease. Last week a judge disagreed, placing an injunction on the order, stopping it for now. Families opposed to the ban argued that it was an improper use of the executive’s emergency power.

 

Do you think that unvaccinated children should be banned from public places during disease outbreaks?

House Pushes Trump to Defend Obamacare in Court

The legal fight over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is currently raging in court. This week, the House of Representatives condemned the Trump Administration’s efforts to see this law invalidated by court order.

                                 

On April 3, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 271, which condemns the Trump Administration’s legal actions against the ACA. That resolution calls on the Trump Administration to reverse its course and defend the law from legal challenges. It passed by a vote of 240-186, with 8 Republicans joining all but one Democrat in backing it.

 

In February 2018, attorneys general and governors from 20 states filed a lawsuit arguing that a portion of the ACA was unconstitutional and the entire law should be invalidated because of that. Initially the Trump Administration took a stance that the portion of the law in question, the minimum essential coverage mandate, was indeed unconstitutional, but that this portion could be ruled so without overturning the entire law. A federal judge in December 2018 agreed with the plaintiffs, finding this part of the law unconstitutional and saying that the entire law had to go because of it.

 

After that ruling, the Department of Justice changed course, saying that this ruling should be upheld and that the entire ACA was unconstitutional. The case is still being litigated, but this new position from the Trump Administration weakens the argument in favor of the law. In most cases, the Justice Department defends federal law when they are being challenged in court.

 

While the resolution passed by the House of Representatives urges the Trump Administration to once again defend the ACA, this is unlikely to have any effect. The Department of Justice is expected to continue arguing that the law should be invalidated. It remains to be seen how the courts will decide, especially since this case is likely to make it to the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that the Trump Administration should defend Obamacare in court?

Time to End Prescriptions for the Pill?

Birth control has emerged as a contentious issue in the wake of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Now two senators want women to be able to buy birth control pills without a prescription.

 

Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, and Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, have introduced S. 930. This legislation would not directly remove the current Food and Drug Administration rule requiring a prescription to access the drug, since Congress does not have the power to do this. It would, however, expedite the process of moving the drug to over-the-counter usage.

 

Currently, the process could take up to five years. There is some interest among drug companies for applying to petition the FDA to do this. If this legislation becomes law, it would give priority to such applications.

 

Some states currently allow pharmacists, rather than doctors, to write a prescription for birth control pills. That makes them easier to get, but not as easy as if they were approved for over-the-counter sales.

 

Do you think that the federal government should allow birth control pills to be sold over the counter?

Bill Would Limit Opioid Prescriptions to 7 Days

Patients who use opioids to treat their pain would not be able to receive more than a 7-day supply under legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate.

 

Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Kristin Gillibrand of New York have introduced S. 724. This bill would require that when physicians register with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, they pledge not to prescribe opioids in excess of a 7-day supply and not to offer a prescription refill.

 

Supporters of the bill contend that this would limit the amount of leftover opioids that may fall into the hands of addicts or potential addicts. They argue that evidence indicates that there is little need for longer opioid prescriptions for pain management. Opponents counter that this is a decision that should be left to doctors, not government bureaucrats. They also say that some people need longer prescriptions for chronic pain management, so a 7-day limit is cruelly depriving those patients of needed medication.

 

Fifteen states have similar laws limiting opioid prescriptions.


Do you think the government should limit opioid prescriptions?

Washington May Tighten Up Measles Vaccination Requirement

Washington state is facing its worst measles outbreak in two decades. Some legislators think that the state’s lax requirement for measles vaccination is to blame. They are considering legislation that could close loopholes that have led to that state having one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

 

With 55 people in Washington and across the border in Oregon sick with measles, Governor Jay Inslee has declared a public health emergency. Most of those infected are unvaccinated children, with the epicenter of the outbreak in a county that has a large unvaccinated population.

 

Washington’s immunization law allows people to enroll their children in school without receiving a measles vaccination if they have a philosophical objection to it. The state also has a large anti-vaccination community that questions the safety of vaccines. Public health officials say that this is the exact scenario that will lead to a larger measles outbreak.

 

Those in the anti-vaccination community contend that vaccines are not safe and that measles is not much of a health threat. Experts counter that the safety of vaccinations has been well proven, and that studies questioning this safety are flawed or fraudulent. They also point out that measles is highly contagious and can be deadly to the unvaccinated, which can include infants and those with compromised immune systems.

 

A legislator has introduced a bill that would only allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for religious and medical reasons. Such legislation has failed in past years to advance in the legislature. In lightof the recent outbreak, advocates for the bill hope that they will see success in this year's legislative session.

 

Do you think that parents should be able to refuse vaccinations for their children based on philosophical objections? Or should they be allowed to skip vaccinations only if they have religious objections or there is a medical reason?

Illinois May Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

The minimum age for buying tobacco products in Illinois may soon go up to 21. After failing with a similar proposal last year, legislators are back with a bill that would increase the tobacco purchase age in that state.

 

Currently someone who wants to buy tobacco in Illinois must be 18. That is the same minimum purchase age for tobacco that exists in most states. However, public health advocates and some lawmakers think that 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds should be prohibited from purchasing or possessing tobacco.

 

These advocates argue that allowing young adults to purchase tobacco sets them up for an addiction that lasts a lifetime. They say that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 will help protect these young adults’ health and contribute to a reduction in the smoking rate. Opponents counter that adults should be free to buy tobacco products if they want. They say that politicians should not be making this choice for adults who know the risks that come from using tobacco.

 

A handful of other states already restrict tobacco purchases to individuals 21-years-old or older. These include California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine. A few states, such as Alabama and Utah, set the minimum age for tobacco purchases at 19.

 

Do you think that the legal age for tobacco purchases should be raised to 21?

Massachusetts AG Places Opioid Crisis Blame on Oxy Maker

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey thinks she knows who is to blame for America’s opioid crisis: the pharmaceutical companies that make OxyContin and other opioids.

 

In a filing this week, Healey argued that the Sackler family, who owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, pushed doctors to prescribe heavy doses of the drug even after it knew the dangers it posed. Her efforts are part of a wider legal strategy by state and local governments to sue opioid manufacturers. These suite are seeking money from these companies for these governments’ expenses in dealing with the opioid crisis.

 

According to the legal theory being put forward by Healey and other plaintiffs, opioid manufacturers made and marketed these drugs knowing that they were addictive and dangerous. They encouraged doctors to prescribe the drugs regardless of the harm it would cause to users. They say that the high rates of opioid addition and overdoses we are seeing today is a direct result of these companies’ actions.

 

This legal argument is being resisted by the companies and others. They note that opioids are tightly controlled by the federal government. They said that the companies complied with federal laws and regulations regarding opioids, and should not be blamed for people who misuse their products. They point out that the vast majority of overdoses are due to heroin or fentanyl, not prescription opioids.

 

A federal judge in Ohio is overseeing most of the legal cases against opioid manufacturers. It is unclear when he will make a final judgment in the case.

 

Do you think that opioid manufacturers are responsible for creating the opioid crisis? Should state and local governments sue these companies to recoup costs they incur due to heroin or fentanyl addiction and overdoses?

New York City Promises Health Care for All – Even Illegal Immigrants

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants every New York City resident to have health care coverage. He recently pledged $100 million to provide that coverage to uninsured New Yorkers – including any undocumented immigrants who want to sign up.

 

The program as envisioned by the mayor will be called NYC Care. Uninsured city residents can apply for the program and be assigned a doctor and access to a variety of health care services. It will be offered at no cost to those with lower incomes, but city residents with higher incomes will have to pay on a sliding scale.

 

In presenting the plan, Mayor de Blasio argued that it is both morally and fiscally responsible to offer this program. He said that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, deserves health care. He also said that providing this coverage would be more cost-effective than when the uninsured use emergency rooms or let serious conditions go untreated.

 

Critics counter that that taxpayer dollars should not be used to provide services to people in the country illegally. They also say that this program will likely be more expensive than predicted, leading to higher taxes for the city’s residents.

 

Do you think that New York City should offer health care coverage to all uninsured residents, even those who are in the country illegally?

Maryland May Pass Individual Health Insurance Mandate

A centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is the individual mandate – a government requirement that someone must be covered by health insurance or pay a fine. The Trump Administration has made this mandate moot, but that does not mean that state governments cannot impose one. That is what some Maryland legislators will be pushing to enact next year.

 

The idea being floated in Maryland would require an individual to be covered by some sort of health insurance, whether through a government program like Medicaid or through the purchase of private insurance. Those who do not have such coverage will face a fine of $750 or 2.5% of a household’s income. However, that fine can be used as payment for the purchase of health insurance through the state exchange.

 

Supporters of this mandate say it is necessary because the Trump Administration essentially ended the federal insurance mandate by setting its penalty for non-compliance at zero dollars. They argue that the only way for insurance to be affordable is if everyone participates in the system. Opponents counter that insurance is expensive, so it makes no sense to force people to buy a costly product they may not be able to afford. Instead, they say, the state should focus on measures that would reduce the cost of health insurance in the state so more people buy it.

 

It is unclear if there are enough votes in the heavily-Democratic General Assembly to pass this individual insurance mandate. If it emerges from the legislature, it would have to be signed into law by Republican Governor Larry Hogan. He has not indicated if he would support it or not.


Do you think that states should mandate that individuals purchase health insurance or face a fine?

Obamacare is Unconstitutional Says Federal Judge

By a single vote, the U.S. Senate failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Now a federal judge has done what lawmakers failed to do – invalidate the key legislative accomplishment of President Obama’s two terms in office.

 

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled in a lawsuit brought by attorneys general from 20 states. It centers on how the individual mandate to be covered by health insurance interacts with the rest of the ACA. In the tax bill signed by President Trump last year, the penalty for violating this individual mandate was set at zero. The attorneys general argued that the mandate is essential to upholding the rest of Obamacare. If there is no penalty, they say, the mandate is unenforceable, and the rest of the law cannot work.

 

Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with these arguments, striking down the law.

 

Supporters of this ruling say that without an individual mandate, the health insurance markets simply will not work as the architects of the ACA intended. Opponents argue that the judge overreached using weak legal logic. They contend that he could have provided a much narrower ruling, and that this decision was an example of judicial activism meddling in what should be the prerogative of legislators.

 

This ruling will not immediately invalidate the entire law, however, as it will be appealed to a federal circuit court. The case may end up before the Supreme Court, which has already upheld key parts of the ACA.

 

Do you think that Obamacare is unconstitutional? Should the law’s insurance mandates and other provisions be scrapped since the individual mandate has essentially been repealed?

Cases Challenging Planned Parenthood Funding Bans Stand

Today, the Supreme Court took a minor foray into the debate over abortion. The justices refused to hear cases challenging court decisions involving state bans on Planned Parenthood funding. Some see this as a victory for abortion rights, but the reality is more complex.

 

A number of states have passed laws removing taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood provides a variety of reproductive services, the organization also performs abortions. Lawmakers who voted to end government money to Planned Parenthood did not want to provide financial support for an organization involved with abortion.

 

Predictably, there were lawsuits. In Kansas and Louisiana, the cases involved whether or not Medicaid recipients who received services from Planned Parenthood could sue over the ending of state support for the organization. Lower courts held that they could and the Supreme Court declined to take a case that would have reviewed these court decisions. This decision allows the lower court cases to proceed.

 

Three justices, with Clarence Thomas in the lead, said the court should have taken up the case. He pointed out that the issue did not directly involve abortion rights, but instead involved the question of whether or not an individual could sue under the Medicaid Act. However, he claimed that the other justices were reluctant to wade into a wider debate over abortion, so they declined to take up this case.

 

This case involved only one aspect of the Planned Parenthood funding bans. There may be other cases involving this issue that reach the Supreme Court in the future.

 

Do you think that states should cut off funding for Planned Parenthood? Should people who receive services be able to sue if the funding to Planned Parenthood is eliminated?

Obamacare Contraception Mandate Being Revised

For the past six years, there have been legal and regulatory fights over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. With the Trump Administration getting set to announce new rules on the mandate, it appears these fights will continue for years to come.

 

The ACA, or Obamacare, mandated that employers provide contraception coverage as part of their health insurance benefit at no charge to their employees. The Obama Administration wrote rules that required employers to offer coverage for all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This has led to ongoing lawsuits over the constitutionality of the mandate. The Supreme Court has ruled in one case that some corporations can be exempt from the mandate on religious grounds.

 

In response to another court cases, both the Obama and Trump Administrations have been devising regulations that would allow certain religious-based nonprofits to claim an exemption from the mandate. Several states challenged the Trump Administration’s 2017 rules that would have given a broad religious exemption from the mandate and a federal court struck them down.


The Trump Administration is preparing new rules that will attempt to survive a legal challenge. Observers expect them to give wide leeway to groups that do not want to provide coverage of contraceptive services that violate their religious beliefs.

 

Opponents of an expansive exemption to the contraception mandate say that the religious beliefs of employers should not dictate what types of health care that employees receive. They argue that contraception decisions are between a patient and a doctor, so an employer should have no say over it.

 

Those who favor a broad exception to the mandate say that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to force people to pay for contraceptive services that they view as immoral. They point out that this contraception would not be banned, and that employees could purchase it on their own.

 

It is unclear when the Trump Administration will announce these new contraceptive mandate rules. When it does, there will likely be lawsuits challenging them.

 

Do you think that religious nonprofits should be forced to offer contraceptive coverage even if such contraception violates the religious beliefs of those who operate the organization?

Medicaid Expansion on the Ballot in 4 States

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which expanded eligibility for Medicaid. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not force states to participate in this Medicaid expansion. Now, in 2018, voters in four states will decide whether or not to embrace a Medicaid program that covers more people.

 

Medicaid is a federal program that provides health coverage to people with disabilities and people in poverty. It is jointly administered and funded by both the federal and state governments. The federal government mandates that certain people must be covered by the program; states can choose to expand coverage for others.

 

Under the ACA, or Obamacare, the federal government mandated Medicaid eligibility be extended to childless adults who live in households with incomes less than 138% of the federal poverty level. This was a departure from past practice, which focused coverage on parents, expectant mothers, children, and people with disabilities.

 

In a 2012 case, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not force states to fund this higher-income population. Many states have decided to expand coverage on a voluntary basis, however. Some states resisted, citing budgetary concerns.

 

This year four states have ballot initiatives that would bypass legislators to expand Medicaid:

 

  • Idaho: Proposition 2 would expand Medicaid to childless adults in households with an income less than 133% of the federal poverty level.
  • Montana: I-185 would increase the state’s tobacco tax to expand Medicaid to childless adults in households with an income less than 138% of the federal poverty level.
  • Utah: Proposition 3 would increase the state’s sales tax from 4.70% to 4.85% to pay for an expansion of Medicaid to childless adults in households with an income less than 138% of the federal poverty level.
  • Nebraska: Initiative 427 would expand Medicaid to childless adults in households with an income less than 138% of the federal poverty level.

 

Another Medicaid initiative has already been approved by voters this year. Oregonians voted in favor of Measure 101 in January to approve a legislative expansion of Medicaid and a tax on insurance to fund it.

 

Supporters of allowing more people to access Medicaid argue that this will reduce the uninsured rate, leading to better health outcomes. They contend that since the federal govenrment is paying for the bulk of the expenses, this makes fiscal sense, too. Opponents counter that even with a small share of the Medicaid funding, this expansion could impose large costs on the state budget. They also argue that Medicaid was not intended to cover able-bodied adults with no children, and expanding it to this group will divert resources from children, parents, and people with disabilities.

 

Do you support expanding Medicaid to childless adults? At what income should Medicaid coverage be limited? Do you support increasing sales or tobacco taxes to pay for expanded Medicaid services?

 

Dueling Medical Marijuana Initiatives on Missouri Ballot

 

Missouri voters will have the chance to make Missouri the 31st state to legalize medicinal marijuana. To accomplish this, however, they will have to choose between three amendments on November’s ballots, each presenting a different way to legalize marijuana for medical use.

 

The three measures that qualified for inclusion on this year’s ballot are Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. Each one would remove legal penalties for using medical marijuana, but each has a different tax rate and different use for tax revenue.

 

Amendment 2 would tax medical marijuana at a 4% rate, using the revenue for health care and veteran care. Amendment 3 would establish a 15% tax rate on medical marijuana, using that revenue to fund medical research into curing cancer and other diseases. Proposition C would not amend the state constitution, unlike the other two ballot questions. Instead, it would change state law, imposing a 2% tax rate on medical marijuana to be used for health care, drug treatment, public safety, and early childhood education.

 

When there are competing ballot measures concerning the same subject, the one with the most votes generally prevails. However, there could be a legal question if Proposition C, which is merely a statutory change, gains more vote than either of the constitutional amendments. Constitutional amendments are a higher source of authority than a change in state law, so it is likely that the state Supreme Court will decide which measure prevails if that situation occurs.

 

Do you support legalizing medical marijuana?

 

Study Finds “Medicare for All” Would be Costly

 

Single-payer health care, or “Medicare for All,” is becoming a popular campaign issue for many candidates. Ben Jealous, running for Maryland governor, supports it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, candidate for the House of Representatives from New York, does, too. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would implement it.

 

So how much would this new health care system cost?

 

According to a new report by the Mercatus Center, federal spending would rise by $32.6 trillion during the first 10 years of a single-payer system. This amount would be equal to 10.7% of the national gross domestic product in 2022. In 2031, the amount would increase to 12.7% of GDP and go up after that.

 

The study lays out a variety of reasons for this large price tag. A single-payer system would require that the federal government pay for all current state and private health care spending. It would also provide coverage for the uninsured and would drive greater use of health care services. The report’s authors caution that their estimate may be low, given that they assume that members of Congress would have the political will to reduce payments to health care providers and decrease the prices the federal government pays for drugs.

 

To find the money for single-payer, this report concluded: “A doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”

 

Supporters of “Medicare for All” dispute these numbers, saying that a federally-run health care system would find efficiencies through lower administrative costs. They also note that although the federal government would take on these costs, average Americans would no longer be paying for health insurance premiums. Some critics of the Mercatus Center report have also pointed out that this think tank has a libertarian ideology, so it would not be inclined to support a government-run health care system.

 

Do you think that a single-payer health care system would be too expensive for taxpayers?

 

State Stops Philadelphia Flavored Tobacco Ban

 

Flavored tobacco products were under fire in Philadelphia earlier this year, with some council members pressing to ban their sale. This did not sit well with state legislators, however. They put an end to the talk of a flavored tobacco ban in Philadelphia by passing a state budget amendment that prevents cities from regulating tobacco.

 

The issue arose last year when a Philadelphia city council member held hearings on cigars and other tobacco products that have flavoring added to them. His contention was that these cigars, which may have fruit or other sweet flavors in them, were being marketed to children. He later sponsored a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city.

 

The city council never considered this bill, however, since legislators pre-empted Philadelphia’s authority to enact it. The state budget legislation contained an amendment that prohibited local governments from regulating or taxing tobacco products. That power, under this legislation, rests at the state level.

 

Those who support a ban on flavored tobacco say that products made from it are being marketed to children. They say that these sweet flavored appeal to young people and are used to get them addicted to tobacco. Opponents contend that this tobacco regulation is best left at the state level, not at the whims of city or county officials who could pass a variety of conflicting laws.

 

Do you think that cities should be able to ban flavored tobacco products?

 

Maryland Candidate Pushes Single-Payer Health Care

 

Ben Jealous once ran the NAACP. Now he wants to be Maryland’s governor. A key part of his platform is imposing a single-payer health care system on the state. Jealous contends that this will improve health care quality and save lives, but critics counter that it will lead to huge tax increases for the state’s residents.

 

Jealous won his primary election over a crowded field of rivals. Though never holding elective office previously, Jealous triumphed over more experienced politicians by tapping into liberal activists around the state. Ideas like a single-payer health care system helped animate these volunteers.

 

The plan released by the Jealous campaign has few specifics about how his plan would work.

However, under its broad contours, the state would outlaw private health insurance. Employers would no longer be able to offer their employees health insurance as a benefit and individuals would not be able to purchase their own coverage. Instead, the state would create what Jealous calls a “Medicare for all” system. Under such an arrangement, the state would pay for all health care services.

 

The Jealous campaign has not specified exactly how this will be funded. Other states that have examined transitioning to a single-payer system, such as Vermont, abandoned efforts because it was too expensive. The Jealous campaign does not give specifics about this proposal’s cost, but it does float some ideas about new taxes to pay for it. These include a tax on employers, a sales tax increase, or increasing the income tax.

 

Proponents of this system say that it will give everyone in the state access to high-quality, affordable care. They contend that it builds on the state’s current health care pricing system and that it would be a natural extension of the Affordable Care Act. Critics contend that the price tag for such a plan would require huge tax increases. They also note that the federal government would have to grant waivers to implement parts of a single-payer system, something that is unlikely.

 

Jealous faces incumbent Governor Larry Hogan in November’s election.

 

Do you support a single-payer health care system?

 

Illinois OKs Medical Marijuana for Pain

 

With fears rising about the abuse of prescription painkillers, especially opioids, Illinois legislators think they may have an alternative – medical marijuana.

 

These legislators passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers for a variety of ailments. The bill would also remove the requirements that medical marijuana users go through a background check and be fingerprinted. It is aimed at expanding access to medical marijuana in the hopes of deterring dependency on, and abuse of, opioids.

 

By creating a pilot program for Illinois residents with pain issues to have access to medical marijuana, legislators hope to give them an alternative to opioids. Proponents of this program point to evidence that suggests where medical marijuana is available there is less consumption of opioids.

 

If this bill becomes law, there will still be significant state restrictions on who can use medical marijuana and how doctors can recommend it. There are also tight limits on medical marijuana dispensaries.

 

Governor Bruce Rauner has not yet indicated if he would sign this legislation.

 

Do you think that states should allow patients to use medical marijuana in place of opioids?

 

Virginia Expands Medicaid

 

A key part of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is an expansion of Medicaid. This joint state and federal program provides health care coverage for low- and lower-income Americans. Eight years after Obamacare’s passage, Virginia is moving to take advantage of this Medicaid expansion. Critics worry that this move may prove to be a burden on the commonwealth’s taxpayers.

 

Governor Ralph Northam came into office this year supporting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This would mean allowing access to the program for childless adults who live in households earning up to 139% of the federal poverty level. Virginians in this population currently do not have access to Medicaid at any income level.

 

In February, the state House of Delegates passed a budget bill that contained Medicaid expansion. Other bills during the regular budget session on this issue did not advance, although there was some support for an expansion bill that also contained a work requirement for Medicaid enrollees.

 

During a special budget session called by Governor Northam, state senators supported a bill that would allow the Medicaid expansion with work requirements. The requirement that some Medicaid recipients seek or obtain jobs was vital to obtaining enough Republican votes for passage. A work requirement must get approval by the federal government. The Trump Administration has allowed states to do this, while the Obama Administration turned down similar state requests.

 

Proponents of the Medicaid expansion say that it is needed to provide low-income Virginians with access to health care. They contend that with the federal government picking up 90% of the cost, Virginia is turning away significant federal dollars that will help the state’s economy. Opponents counter that the federal government may cover 90% of the cost now, but that this could change in the future. If that happens, they point out, Virginia will be facing a significant budgetary burden.

 

Do you think that Virginia lawmakers were wise to expand Medicaid?

 

Congress Gives Terminal Patients Wider Access to Drugs

 

For some people who are dying, the ability to try any treatment option – even if it hasn’t been approved as effective by the FDA – provides hope for their future. Under new legislation passed by Congress, these patients may find it a little easier to access drugs that are experimental but promising.

 

Under this “right to try” legislation, the Food and Drug Administration would no longer have the authority to stop certain patients from having access to experimental treatments. These patients must have a terminal illness with a prognosis to die within months, have no other treatment options, and not have access to other clinical trials.

 

People who meet that criteria can work with their doctors to devise a treatment plan that includes drugs that have been proven safe by the FDA, but have not been proven effective. Drug companies would have to agree to provide the drugs, and the patients would bear the cost of those drugs.

 

The FDA had a program in place where terminal patients could request experimental drugs, but the agency retained the ability to approve or deny these requests.

 

Supporters of this legislation say that someone facing death should be able to try any drug that may be useful. They contend that the federal government should not be a gatekeeper between patients and potentially life-saving treatments. Opponents of the bill say that it short-circuits necessary safeguards. They also claim that very few people will be eligible for the program, and that those who are will face very high costs for drugs.

 

The Senate approved this legislation by unanimous consent on August 3, 2017, and the House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 250-169 on May 22. 

 

Do you support terminally ill patients having access to experimental medication? Or should the Food and Drug Administration still be able to oversee the process of providing experimental drugs to patients who are dying?

 

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