A roundup of blue states that are relaxing abortion restrictions


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A ROUNDUP OF BLUE STATES THAT ARE RELAXING ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: While a handful of red states have enacted abortion bans this year in an effort to challenge the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, blue states are codifying and extending abortion rights in the event that Roe gets weakened or overturned.

Here’s a rundown:

New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act on January 22. The law loosened conditions in which women could seek third-trimester abortions, including in cases where a woman’s health is at risk. The law also expanded the pool of providers permitted to perform abortions, adding nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Nevada: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the Trust Nevada Women Act on May 22, which removes penalties for those who provide drugs for women to induce abortions without a doctor’s advice, and removes the requirement that doctors explain to patients the “emotional implications” of having an abortion. Since the law was signed, doctors now “describe the nature and consequences of the procedure.”

Vermont: Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed a measure on June 10 that declares the “fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion.”

Maine: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on June 10 signed a law allowing physician assistants and nurse practicers to perform abortions. Three days later, Mills signed another bill to requiring all private and public insurers cover abortions. Prior to the bill’s passage, the state’s Medicaid covered abortions only in cases of rape, incest, or if a pregnant woman’s life was at risk.

Illinois: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act on June 12, which declares a woman has a “fundamental right” to obtain an abortion. The law undoes a requirement that abortions happening after viability need a sign-off from a second doctor, and allows for the procedure if a doctor determines it would protect the “health of the patient.” The law requires public and private insurers cover abortion, and allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform the procedure.

Rhode Island: Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law Wednesday that codifies current abortion law, which allows abortions until fetal viability and after viability to protect a woman’s “life and health.”

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HOUSE PASSES HHS SPENDING BILL: House Democrats passed a $1 trillion spending package Wednesday that includes funding for the Department of Health and Human Services and that is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate. Among the highlights:

*$8.9 billion increase for HHS;

*$937 million increase to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

*$485 million increase to the Health Resources and Services Administration;

*$50 million for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health to research gun violence as a public health issue;

*The bill guts rules by the Trump administration blocking abortion providers from being housed in the same building as family planning services, or from directly referring for abortions, if they receive government grants known as Title X.

Of note: Planned Parenthood, despite not pushing for the abolishment of the Hyde Amendment in the spending bill, issued a statement Wednesday blaming Republicans for its inclusion in the current bill. It’s not clear Democrats had the votes in their party to undo the longstanding ban on government funding for most abortions, but it’s clear Democrats weren’t swayed by Republicans in the crafting of the spending bill, because all House Republicans voted against it.

TRUMP APPOINTEE DEFENDS TITLE X RESTRICTIONS BEFORE CONGRESS: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs Diane Foley defended the administration’s Title X rule Wednesday, saying that the administration has “grave concerns” that the funds could be misused by covering abortions.

During the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, Democrats grilled Foley about the justification. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., told Foley that her claim was unfounded: “We all know Title X funds don’t go to abortion, it never has, and you can’t give us one violation of that statute, one example of Title X funds going to abortion.”

HELP UNVEILS ITS BILL TO LOWER HEALTHCARE COSTS: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Wednesday unveiled the Lower Health Costs Act, which addresses surprise medical bills and allows generic drugs to come to market more easily.

Hospitals oppose the legislation. Hospitals oppose a provision which would have health insurers pay providers the local median contracted commercial amount that insurers have negotiated with other providers and agreed upon in that geographic area.

Federation of American Hospitals president and CEO Chip Kahn called the benchmark payment rate “misguided,” “arbitrary,” and “government-dictated,” and Tom Nickels, executive vice president for the American Hospital Association called it “unworkable.”

The bill heads for a quick turnaround. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday, June 26.

UNEXPECTED MEDICAL BILLS TAKE THE LEAD IN ISSUES PATIENTS WORRY ABOUT MOST: Kaiser Family Foundation researchers found that two-thirds of Americans are either very worried or somewhat worried about incurring an unexpected medical cost. In 2017, on average throughout the states, 18% of all emergency room visits resulted in surprise out-of-network charges. Texas and New York had the highest rates of out-of-network charges, 38% and 28% respectively, while other states had much lower rates — for instance, Alabama and Nebraska had about 4%. KFF also found that a majority of Americans across party lines want the federal government to take stronger action against surprise medical billing.

MEDICAID WORK REQUIREMENTS LEFT MANY IN ARKANSAS UNINSURED: STUDY: More Arkansas adults became uninsured during the period in which Medicaid work requirements were enforced. When the state enacted work requirements in June 2018, the rate of uninsured adults rose to 14.5%, an increase from 10.5% in 2016. Yet employment rates declined, by about 4%. Authors of the study found that almost half of the target population in Arkansas were unsure as to whether the work requirement rules applied to them, suggesting that “bureaucratic obstacles played a large role in coverage losses under the policy.” A judge halted the work requirement program in March 2019.

EMPLOYER COSTS FOR HEALTHCARE WILL RISE IN 2020: A PwC Health Research Institute projects medical expenses will grow 6% in 2020. This is a slight acceleration from the cost trend reported in 2018 and 2019, due in part to expensive drugs for specific illnesses like cancers. Employers are taking matters into their own hands to keep healthcare costs down, including by negotiating contracts directly with health systems. Health Research Institute calls these employers “employer activists.”

WHO FACES FUNDING GAP IN EBOLA BATTLE: The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that, to combat Ebola outbreaks, they need $98 million, but have only received $44 million. To fill the spending gap, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom said, “Bipartisan political leadership in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] is the only way that communities will eventually understand the threat of Ebola and take ownership in ending the outbreak.” Tedros said filling the funding gap of $54 million is “critical” to securing treatment centers, keeping responders safe, and utilizing vaccines and treatments better.

BABY GIRL DOING WELL AFTER RECEIVING IN UTERO SURGERY FOR SPINA BIFIDA AT 23 WEEKS: The Cleveland Clinic announced Wednesday that after doctors performed the first successful in utero surgery on a 23 week-old fetus to repair spina bifida in February, the baby girl was born on June 3 at nearly full term. In utero surgeries have previously led to premature births, which can result in chronic illness in the child.

The Rundown

Science Magazine France most skeptical about science and vaccines, global survey finds

The Oklahoman Foster mom describes challenges of caring for baby suffering from opioid withdrawal

The Hill Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices

Politico How Kamala Harris would prevent the spread of HIV

The Washington Post Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement


THURSDAY | June 20

June 19-21. Nashville. AHIP Institute and Expo. Agenda.

10:30 a.m. 2322 Rayburn. Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee hearing on “Medicaid Funding in the U.S. Territories.” Details.

1 p.m. Big Cities Health Coalition webinar about how local governments are responding to the measles outbreak. Details.

2 p.m. 2154 Rayburn. House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing on “Ensuring Quality Healthcare for Our Veterans.” Details.

SATURDAY | June 22

Columbia, S.C. Planned Parenthood Action Fund to host a forum on reproductive rights for the Democratic primary.

TUESDAY | June 25

9:30 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Brookings Institution event on “Hospital Productivity Trends: Implications for Medicare Payment Policy.” Details.


June 26-27. 1615 H St. NW. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation “Ignite Wellness Summit.” Details.

9 a.m.-3 p.m. Long View Gallery. 1234 9th St NW. The Hill’s Future of Healthcare Summit. Details.

10:30 a.m. Dirksen 430. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee markup of the Lower Healthcare Costs Act.

2 p.m. Pew Charitable Trusts. 901 E St. NW. Surgeon General Jerome Adams to speak on combating the opioid crisis. Details.

2:30 p.m. 1539 Longworth. CSRxP Congressional briefing on addressing rising prescription drug costs.

THURSDAY | June 27

Noon. Hart 902. Alliance for Health Policy briefing on “Addressing the Drivers of Maternal Mortality.” Details.

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