Dems shift strategy for securing gun violence research funds

March 16, 2019, The Hill, Jessie Hellmann - A coalition of 166 health groups wrote to House leaders last month asking them to approve $50 million for the CDC to study gun violence prevention in the next annual spending bill for the agency.The groups argue that gun violence is a public health issue, one that is killing an increasing number of people every year. Gun-related deaths reached their highest point in five decades in 2017, when about 40,000 people died, according to the CDC data. The agency tracks gun deaths but doesn’t study their causes.Two-thirds of those deaths were suicides, while 37 percent were homicides. Public health experts say their intention is not to take away people’s guns. “Treating car injuries as a public health issue didn’t mean demanding people give up cars,” said Dr. John Cullen, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “We need to be able to study this to come up with ways of making gun ownership as safe as possible for people who own guys and those around them.”

Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick

March 15, 2019, The Atlantic, Olga Khazan - In April 2016, Venus Lockett was about to give a speech at an event she’d volunteered for near her home in Atlanta. She was already stressed. The previous night, she had stayed up late making her presentation, and then deleted it by mistake. As she stepped up to the podium to give her remarks, she noticed that her words were slurring. She tried to speak into the mic, but the words that came out didn’t make sense. A few people, noticing that something wasn’t right, walked Lockett to another room and called an ambulance. Lockett, who was 57 at the time and uninsured, didn’t know whether she could or should refuse the ambulance ride or decide which hospital it would take her to. Paramedics sped her a few miles to Emory University Hospital Midtown, where she was held overnight. It turned out that she had suffered a transient ischemic attack, or a mini-stroke. The hospital performed tests and sent her home, where she recovered fully. In May, the hospital bill arrived. Lockett had been charged $26,203.62 total for “observation,” which the bill instructed her to pay within 20 days. Lockett went into a tailspin.

State Leaders Challenged to Fight Skyrocketing Epidemic of Youth E-Cigarette Use

March 15, 2019, PR Newswire, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids - Kids in Mississippi will unite against tobacco use on March 20 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day, an annual day of youth activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States (see below for a list of local events). This year, kids are focused on kicking Juul, the e-cigarette that has become enormously popular among youth across the country.
While cigarette smoking among high school students nationwide has fallen to 8.1 percent, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by an alarming 78 percent in 2018 alone - to 20.8 percent of the student population. In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. U.S. public health leaders have called youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic” that is addicting a new generation of kids.In Mississippi, 10.3 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, while 9.4 percent smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 5,400 lives in Mississippi and costs the state $1.2 billion

Broker Websites Expand Health Plan Shopping Options While Glossing Over Details

March 15, 2019, KHN, Julie Appleby - Some websites consumers use to buy their own health insurance don’t provide full information on plan choices or Medicaid eligibility, and appear to encourage selection of less comprehensive coverage that provides higher commissions to brokers, according to a report released Friday by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These direct-enrollment broker websites - including eHealth, ValuePenguin, and some named after the insurance carriers they represent - are not the state-based marketplaces or the federal exchange, known as

Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants

March 14, 2019, The Hill, Peter Sullivan - Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar revealed Thursday that his department is in talks with states about instituting block grants in Medicaid without congressional approval. “We have discussions with states where they will come in and suggest ideas,” Azar said at a Senate hearing in response to questions from Sen. Bob CaseyJr. (D-Pa.). “There may be states that have asked about block granting, per capita, restructurings around especially expansion populations ... It’s at their instigation.” Imposing block grants in Medicaid has long been a major conservative goal for the health insurance program for the poor. Democrats fiercely oppose the idea, and a similar idea known as per capita caps, because both limit the amount of money going to Medicaid, which Democrats argue would require harmful cuts in the program. Republicans say the move allows for more state flexibility and is more fiscally sustainable.

Judge Vows To Rule On Medicaid Work Requirements By End Of March

March 14, 2019, KHN, Phil Galewitz - On Capitol Hill, Democrats grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about the work requirements. Azar testified this week before three separate committees, two in the House and one in the Senate, on the administration’s budget request for the department. Addressing the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, Azar disputed the idea that everyone who lost Medicaid in Arkansas was now uninsured. “Only 1,000 of those 18,000 people appealed” their loss of Medicaid, he said. “Only 1,452 of those 18,000 even reapplied for Medicaid when open enrollment came again.” Azar said that “seems a fairly strong indication” that the rest of those cut from the program “got a job and insurance elsewhere.” Top health officials for the Trump administration have said getting people on Medicaid into jobs will make them healthier - which they call a key goal of the program. States can implement work requirements since Congress has given the HHS secretary permission to approve their experiments with the Medicaid program, the administration asserts. But advocates for the poor say an experiment that leaves thousands of people without coverage runs counter to Medicaid’s aim to improve access to health care.