Tag Archives: health

Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

Mother Jones

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Reality is setting in:

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

….As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.

Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don’t seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:

But the intensity of opinion has changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn’t care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares more. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was—no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah—under the apparent assumption that it didn’t matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.

So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it’s worth fighting for.

But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?

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Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

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Congress Just Got a Lot Closer to Defunding Planned Parenthood

Mother Jones

On Thursday afternoon, the House voted to approve a resolution that is widely seen by advocates as a step towards defunding Planned Parenthood. Should it become law, the measure would weaken contraceptive access across the country.

The bill, HJ Resolution 43, allows states to withhold Title X family planning funds—about $300 million distributed to states annually—from providers who also offer abortion care, a group that includes Planned Parenthood affiliates. In December, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that anticipated this sort of effort by prohibiting states from withholding Title X family planning money from Planned Parenthood and other providers. This House resolution proposed overturning that HHS rule via the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal new regulations within 60 days of their passage. A version of this bill is also moving through the Senate.

At a House committee hearing earlier this week, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) called this bill “the most serious threat women have faced so far this Congress.” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) called this the Republicans’ “first salvo” in defunding Planned Parenthood.

This development comes on the heels of several actions by the Trump administration and Congress that threaten women’s health care. They include Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring insurance coverage for contraception; the approval by the House of a bill to codify the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for most abortions; and Trump’s expansion of the global gag order, which prohibits health providers overseas from receiving any US funding if they so much as mention abortion as an option for patients.

In the last Congress, a broader bill to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood passed both chambers, but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. In contrast, Trump’s campaign said often that defunding Planned Parenthood would be a top priority for his administration.

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Congress Just Got a Lot Closer to Defunding Planned Parenthood

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Of Course Trump’s Health Secretary Is a Friend of Big Tobacco

Mother Jones

The man Donald Trump has chosen to direct health policy for the federal government has close ties to the tobacco industry he will soon be charged with regulating. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who will likely be confirmed as health and human services secretary by the end of the week, has repeatedly voted against bills that could harm big tobacco. At the same time, he’s received thousands of dollars in political contributions from the industry and held investments in tobacco companies—investments he says he didn’t know about.

Early in Barack Obama’s presidency, Congress renewed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. In order to pay for the program, lawmakers raised cigarette taxes by 62 cents per pack and cigar taxes by 40 cents per cigar. Price blasted the new fees. “Today’s tax hike serves as a useful reminder that the president is comfortable raising taxes on hard-working Americans to feed his reckless agenda,” Price said in an April 2009 statement. “President Obama has done nothing to demonstrate that he is a responsible steward of taxpayer money. Yet, he is forcing the American people to burn through even more of their income in the name of more government.”

A few months later, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which empowered the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco products. (The Supreme Court had ruled in 2000 that the FDA did not have that authority under existing law.) The legislation has enabled the agency to ban certain flavored cigarettes that might entice young people to begin smoking. It also allows the FDA to require additional warnings on packages.

Price joined most Republicans in voting against the FDA legislation. But thanks to that bill, as health secretary, he will now have immense influence over how the tobacco industry operates. (The FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.) In 2011, the Obama administration proposed adding graphic warning labels—including images of diseased mouths and lungs—to the top half of cigarette packs. That regulation was tied up in legal challenges but was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013. After several years of inaction by the administration, a collection of medical and public health groups, including the American Cancer Society, sued the government last fall in an attempt to force it to finalize the new label requirements. Once he’s in place at HHS, Price can ask the FDA to move forward with the new rules, weaken them, or abandon them altogether.

The conservative website Hot Air celebrated the latter possibility when Price’s nomination was announced in November. “Fortunately for all of us, most of the sore spots on the HHS and FDA regulatory front don’t require cooperation from Congress or the courts,” the site said, pointing to regulations on cigars and electronic cigarettes. “These are things which can essentially be tidied up with a stroke of the pen once Trump and Price are in office.”

Price has benefited from numerous tobacco industry donations during his political career. Back when he was a state legislator in Georgia in 1998, Philip Morris gave Price’s campaign $300. More recently, the PAC for Altria Group, parent company to Philip Morris, donated $18,000 to Price’s congressional campaigns. From 2008 to 2012, Price also received $19,000 from the PAC of RJ Reynolds, the company behind Camel and other cigarette brands.

Price’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) raised concerns about Price’s personal investments in tobacco companies during his confirmation hearing last month. According to Price’s financial disclosure forms, he sold off 768 shares in Altria and Philip Morris International for $37,000 in 2012. (Altria owns the American Phillip Morris brand. Phillip Morris International has been a separate company since 2008.) Franken started by asking Price to identify the “leading cause of preventable death” and then informed him that it was smoking.

“That hits home,” Price replied. “I lost my dad, who was a Lucky Strike smoker from World War II, to emphysema. He prided himself on the fact that he never smoked a cigarette with a filter for years and years.”

Franken expressed surprise that Price, a physician, would invest in products that lead to the deaths of about 480,000 people in the country each year. “Congressman Price, you’re a physician, which means you took the Hippocratic oath, a pledge to do no harm,” Franken said. “How do you square reaping personal financial gain from the sales of an addictive product that kills millions of Americans every decade with also voting against measures to reduce the death toll inflicted by tobacco?”

“It’s a curious observation,” Price responded, claiming that he had “no idea” about the stocks he owned; he suggested that they were purchased by a mutual fund or pension plan he had invested in. The tobacco investments were publicly disclosed in his financial report, and at other points in his hearing he acknowledged that he had the ability to direct his stock broker on other investments he held.

“I find it very hard to believe that you did not know that you had tobacco stocks,” Franken responded.

Watch the full exchange above.

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Of Course Trump’s Health Secretary Is a Friend of Big Tobacco

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Americans Flee America For Overseas Health Care Just Like Canadians

Mother Jones

I’d forgotten all about this, but tonight was the date of the great Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders debate. Apparently Cruz decided to haul out the old chestnut about Canadians fleeing en masse to the US for health care, which just proves how crappy government-run medicine is.

Lots of people are pointing out that this isn’t really true, but I want to point out something different: Americans flee the US in pretty similar numbers to Canadians fleeing Canada. The best numbers we have suggest that about 45,000 Canadians left the country for medical care in 2015. (That’s all destinations, not just the US.) Meanwhile, about 250,000 Americans left the US for medical care abroad. And these numbers don’t even count the number of Americans who get their prescription drugs from overseas.

Overall, then, that’s about 0.13 percent of Canadians and 0.08 percent of Americans who flee their countries for health care. Those are pretty similar numbers. The only real difference is the reason for leaving. Canadians mostly cite wait times for elective surgery. Americans mostly cite the high cost of medical treatment.

So you see, every kind of health care system has its own problems. Canada’s is bad for rich people who can afford to pay top dollar to get faster service. America’s is bad for poor people, who would go bankrupt if they paid American prices. Check your moral compass and take your pick.

Continued:

Americans Flee America For Overseas Health Care Just Like Canadians

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Chronic Marijuana Use Is Up In Colorado

Mother Jones

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A new report from the Colorado Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee tells us that among 18-25 years olds, 13 percent report using marijuana daily or near-daily. Mark Kleiman is taken aback that this has gotten hardly any attention:

We know from other studies by Beau Kilmer and his group at RAND that daily/near-daily smokers consume about three times as much cannabis per use-day as less frequent smokers, enough to be measurably impaired (even if not subjectively stoned) for most of their waking hours….The National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that about one-half of daily or near-daily smokers meet the diagnostic criteria for Substance Use Disorder. That’s a frightening share of users, and of the total population, to be engaging in such worrisome behavior.

….More and more people using cannabis more and more often is a trend that pre-dates legalization and is not restricted to states that have legalized….What is clear is that lower prices…make it easier for users to slip into heavy daily use. Indeed, that’s the main — some of us would say the only significant — risk of legalization. That risk could be reduced by using taxes to prevent the price collapse. So a report on the effects of legalization that neglects heavy use is like a review of the last performance of “Our American Cousin” that doesn’t mention John Wilkes Booth.

That sounds like a lot. On the other hand, if half of daily marijuana users typically have substance use disorders, that about 6.5 percent in Colorado. Here are the national figures for the past decade:

The Colorado figure is higher than than the national figure, but not hugely higher. It’s probably not a reason to panic, but it does bear watching.

The kind of people who read this blog are probably in favor of marijuana legalization—as I am—largely because they’re the kind of people who use it occasionally and don’t see a lot of harm in it. But like alcohol, there’s a certain share of the population that will fall into addiction, and that share is likely to increase as marijuana prices come down. There’s never a free lunch.

Original article – 

Chronic Marijuana Use Is Up In Colorado

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