House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act, which will, among other things, repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid, lose millions their insurance, and let insurers charge more for pre-existing conditions. The bill now heads to a “skeptical” Senate, says the New York Times. Huffington Post declares it is “already dead” in the upper chamber. Reaction among public health and social justice advocates to passing the AHCA was fast and furious—as was that of a Washington Post blogger who wrote, “[The bill] is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.
People with mental health and substance abuse disorders are among those who could lose coverage under the American Health Care Act bill narrowly passed by the House of Representatives. According to a Vox overview of the bill, the Act would allow states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s “essential health benefits” requirement, which includes coverage of treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. It also would freeze expansion of Medicaid, preventing additional sign-ups for Medicaid coverage for people who qualify under the expanded terms of the ACA.
The CDC reports that black Americans have made significant gains in life expectancy, halving the mortality gap between white and black Americans from 1999 to 2015, but major health inequities persist: “Blacks in every age group under 65 continue to have significantly higher death rates than whites. Black life expectancy at birth is about 3½ years lower than that of whites… Embedded within the trends for African American health are some troubling statistics. Although blacks are now far less likely to die of HIV than in 1999, they are seven to nine times more likely than whites to succumb to the disease. And blacks have seen no significant improvement in the rate of deaths from homicide during the period examined. They still are far more likely than whites to live in poverty, be unemployed, and/or lack home ownership. They're also more likely to report that they can't afford medical care. Their obesity rate is higher… At relatively young ages — in their 20s, 30s and 40s — blacks have relatively high death rates from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that among whites are found more commonly at older ages, according to the report.”
Fresh Air interviewed author Richard Rothstein, whose new book, The Color of the Law, tracks how the US government has sponsored residential segregation by race. “Rothstein says these decades-old housing policies have had a lasting effect on American society. "The segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads ... to stagnant inequality, because families are much less able to be upwardly mobile when they're living in segregated neighborhoods where opportunity is absent," he says. "If we want greater equality in this society, if we want a lowering of the hostility between police and young African-American men, we need to take steps to desegregate."’
According to a new Natural Resources Defense Council report, Threats on Tap, more than 12,000 health-based violations in 5,000 water systems serving over 27 million people across the United States.
Seven U.S. Senators, led by Patty Murray of Washington, wrote and made public a letter to President Donald Trump, asking why now-former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was asked to step down only halfway through a planned four-year term, Politico reports. The letter asks for a response by May 17.
Congress passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill this week to hold off a government shutdown. The bill includes no money for a border wall, though increases funding for border security; boosts military funding by $15 billion; and keeps money intact for sanctuary cities. It retained funding for Planned Parenthood, the NEA and NEH, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR reports.
California legislators are considering a bill to help homeless Medi-Cal patients with rent costs, saying it could save millions a year in frequent emergency room visits, California Healthline reports.
Jane Ellen Stevens of ACEsTooHigh profiles Tennessee Dr. Daniel Sumrok and his approach to treating addiction, or as he calls it, “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking.” Dr. Sumrok is Director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine, the first to receive a Center of Excellence designation from the Addiction Medicine Foundation. He believes that a key element of treating addiction is addressing the earlier traumas, or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that contributed to the comfort-seeking behavior. Stevens describes his approach: “Treat people with respect instead of blaming or shaming them. Listen intently to what they have to say. Integrate the healing traditions of the culture in which they live. Use prescription drugs, if necessary. And integrate adverse childhood experiences science: ACEs.”
Writing for STAT, Andrew Joseph looks at Virginia’s successful efforts to increase Medicaid coverage and treatment for people facing addiction. Virginia is among the states that have won waivers from Medicaid restrictions that limit both the scope of services for addiction treatment and the people who are eligible for those services. Among other things, the waiver allows Virginia to boost payments to providers, cover peer support, and revise a policy that prevented coverage for residential facilities with more than 16 beds. In recent months, the number of available residential treatment facilities in the state has leapt from four to 71.
The Wall Street Journal is the latest to weigh in on the toll that fatal drug overdoses are taking on coroners’ offices. The Journal reports that a shortage of pathologists is prompting some medical examiners offices to skip autopsies for those who die from overdoses.
Politico profiles Elinore McCance-Katz, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the first HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use. McCance-Katz served for two years as the chief medical officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) before leaving with objections that the agency was too focused on recovery and wellness programs. She is currently the chief medical officer for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health. If confirmed, she is expected to prioritize treatment of mental illnesses such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.
A Veterans Administration psychiatrist suggests research on psychiatric disorders and suicide risk among military members and veterans should consider the effects of exposure to trauma outside military service as well as during military service. In a Frontiers in Public Health commentary, Dr. Leo Sher, Director of Inpatient Psychiatry at the James J. Peters Veterans’ Administration Medical, noted recent research that found that more than 80% of veterans reported at experiencing at least one childhood trauma or adversity, and that veterans who had experienced physical neglect were significantly more likely to have attempted suicide. He writes: “Research on psychiatric disorders and suicide risk among active duty personnel and military veterans tends to focus on traumas related to the military service” he writes. “However, a focus on service-related traumas does not provide a complete picture.”
WBAL TV reports community members and police in Baltimore came together for a basketball game to connect and collectively “release the trauma” they experience as a result of violence in the community.
A new study by the Center for American Progress found that anti-LGBTQ discrimination shapes the lives of LGBTQ people in both subtle and significant ways, affecting psychological and physical safety and wellbeing, and access to education, employment, housing, and services. Survey respondents report that fear of discrimination shapes their behavior in many ways, such as hiding personal relationships, avoiding social situations, avoiding public places and public transit, avoiding healthcare and other social services, curtailing employment and housing options, and more. The Center for American Progress writes that “discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBT people—especially transgender people—has always been common in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, or government offices. The 2015 United States Transgender Survey found that, among transgender people who visited a place of public accommodation where staff knew or believed they were transgender, nearly one in three experienced discrimination or harassment—including being denied equal services or even being physically attacked.”
May Day protests across the country emphasized the role and vulnerabilities of immigrants in the labor force and in their communities.
The Huffington Post’s What Bullets Do to Bodies offers a powerful take on gun violence and its victims. Jason Fagone tells the story from the perspective of Dr. Amy Goldberg, a longtime trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia.
President Trump tapped one of the country’s most prominent anti-abortion activists to a top role at the Department of Health and Human Services.