Daily on Healthcare: Democratic states sue Trump over loosened birth control rules

By | December 21, 2018

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Democratic states sue Trump over loosened birth control rules. Thirteen Democratic attorneys general have sued the Trump administration over rules that say employers do not have to pay for birth control coverage for their workers if they oppose them for religious or moral reasons. “The Trump administration is continuing to trample on women’s rights and access to care with this illegal final rule,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “California will continue the fight against any actions that attempt to restrict women’s access to affordable, quality healthcare.” Becerra has asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for the rules to be blocked before their planned effect date Jan. 14, 2019. California, along with Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and New York, already won a case last week that challenged a draft of the rules the Trump administration put out in 2017. Because the latest set of rules was put out in November, however, the exceptions would still go into effect, overriding the other injunction.

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Majority of Planned Parenthood’s regional offices don’t provide paid maternity leave. A majority of Planned Parenthood’s regional offices do not extend paid maternity leave to their employees, a revelation that comes amid allegations that the organization discriminated against pregnant employees. Of the 55 regional Planned Parenthood offices across the U.S., 49 do not offer paid maternity leave to their employees, The New York Times reports. Although employees at Planned Parenthood’s Manhattan headquarters receive six-week paid parental leave, employees from approximately 20 of the regions are permitted to use short-term disability to receive a fraction of their salary. The regional offices manage multiple local clinics and are staffed with their own chief executives and maintain their own human resources policies. Additionally, Planned Parenthood has been accused of mistreating pregnant employees in ways that broke federal and state laws, according to interviews and legal documents obtained by the New York Times.

Cigna finalizes $ 67 billion merger with Express Scripts. Cigna on Thursday finalized its $ 67 billion merger with Express Scripts, a landmark deal that promises to transform the healthcare system and usher in a new era of competition between hybrids of insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. The Department of Justice approved the merger in September, stating that it was “unlikely to lessen competition substantially” among pharmacy benefit managers, the third-party companies that manage prescription drug programs for large corporations and other clients. The new company is poised to compete head-to-head against the also newly combined Aetna-CVS Health entity — a deal that continues to face scrutiny from a federal judge in Washington, D.C. — and Amazon, which could soon enter into the prescription drug delivery business.

Pallone elected to chair powerful E&C. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., will chair the Energy and Commerce Committee in the next Congress. Pallone, who was the top Democrat on the committee previously, has said that he wants the party to prioritize prescription drug costs. He also had previously vowed his committee would hold hearings scrutinizing the Trump administration’s actions on Obamacare, which he reiterated in the latest statement, saying “We’ll conduct robust oversight of the Trump administration’s ongoing actions to sabotage our healthcare system.”

Coalitions on health and against gun violence call for Congress to have CDC to study gun violence. The groups are urging congressional leaders to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding to study gun violence, gun deaths, and gun injuries. “ Over the past several decades, scientific and medical research has been translated into policy that has saved countless lives related to automobiles, public sanitation, and cancer,” they wrote. The organizations, led by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, and that included the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association.

Democrats question future of teen pregnancy prevention program. House and Senate Democrats expressed their concerns about changes to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program in a letter sent this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. They said they were concerned that grants would go to organizations that promote abstinence-only education, and asked Azar about the status of the program.

Female veterinarians dying by suicide in record numbers. Female veterinarians are far more likely to kill themselves than the general population, and the majority of deaths among women occur because they have taken euthanasia drugs from their practices, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts have been aware for several decades that vets had a particularly high incidence of suicide, but until now they didn’t know how pronounced it was among women. The study, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, found that female veterinarians are 3.5 times more likely to kill themselves than the general population, and male veterinarians are 2.1 times more likely. Researchers hypothesized that long, stressful work hours, debt from veterinary school, and access to euthanasia drugs used on animals were some of the factors driving the trend. Though most suicides in veterinarians are done using guns, veterinarians were 2.5 times than the general population to use poisoning to kill themselves, largely because they have access to lethal drugs. Among veterinarians, poisoning was the cause of death for 64 percent of females and 32 percent of males.

Deadly virus found in Sierra Leone for the first time. Scientists have found the Marburg virus for the first time in fruit bats in Sierra Leone. No one has been reported sick yet, but the virus is similar to Ebola and was discovered in three different districts. “We have known for a long time that rousette bats, which carry Marburg virus in other parts of Africa, also live in West Africa. So it’s not surprising that we’d find the virus in bats there,” CDC ecologist Jonathan Towner . “This discovery is an excellent example of how our work can identify a threat and help us warn people of the risk before they get sick.” To date, there have been 12 known Marburg virus outbreaks with direct links to Africa, with the most recent in Uganda in 2017.


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FRIDAY | Dec. 21

House and Senate in session.

Midnight. Deadline to avoid partial government shutdown.

MONDAY | Dec. 24

House and Senate not in session.

TUESDAY | Dec. 25

Ho! Ho! Ho!