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HEALTH POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Health Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with women’s health, the Affordable Care Act, Head Start, child care and child support services, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and federal food and drug policy. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the department of Health and Human Services, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Latest Health & Gender Posts

 

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 2: Expanding Access to Healthcare

Brief #97—Healthcare
By Erin McNemar
Throughout his presidential campaign, President Joe Biden made it clear that women’s rights were going to be a leading issue during his administration. Over the summer, Biden released a policy proposal titled “The Biden Agenda for Women.” The plan outlined different areas in which women are disproportionately impacted, and how he intends to level the playing field. One of the major areas the plan focuses on is expanding and protecting healthcare for women.

read more

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

Brief #96—Health & Gender
By Justin Lee
There are multiple reports of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (in children, MIS-C) being seen across the world shortly after the onset of COVID-19. Children and teen patients with MIS-C can suffer from inflammation that can limit blood flow throughout the body, exposing danger to major organs such as the heart, kidneys, and other organs. While cases, which have ranged from ages 2 to 15 years, have been considered rare the outcome can be dangerous if left untreated. MIC-C can be treated with drugs that can control the inflammation and prevent prolonged, permanent organ damage.

read more

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

Brief #95—Health
By Erin Mcnemar
Confusion. Disorganization. Decentralization. All across the country, states are struggling with the vaccination process. From deciding who should be a priority to simply not having enough vaccines, many states are facing criticism for what seems like a failure to plan. These issues are due to the decentralized health system present in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, “Health systems decentralization involves moving decision making away from centralized control and closer to the users of health services. Many countries have embarked on a process to decentralize their health systems as a means to improve their responsiveness and performance.”

read more

Biden Signs Executive Orders Regarding Abortion and Obamacare

Brief #94—Health and Gender
By Erin McNemar
On Thursday, January 28, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders regarding the future of health care in America. According to  a press release from the White House, the Executive orders are being signed to strengthen Americans’ access to quality and affordable health care. The first of the executive orders was to roll back anti-abortion measures that were put in place during the Trump administration.
The second of the two orders was to direct federal agencies to reverse Trump administration policies that weaken HealthCare.gov, and made it harder for individuals to get Medicaid. As Biden continues to roll back Trump administration policies, the American people are going to see the return of plans that reflect the Obama era.

read more

Biden and Abortion: What Should America Expect?

Brief #92—Health and Gender
By Justin Lee
Former President Trump took strong actions against abortion and reproductive health policies during his presidency. Trump reinstated and strengthened the Mexico City Policy, which implemented funding restrictions to foreign organizations that provided abortion services or counseling. First introduced in the Reagan administration, Trump’s stance lead to the closure of many reproductive health clinics that provided care not just for abortions, but also for HIV care. Trump  also attempted to limit the scope of the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which previously required most insurance plans to cover birth control without copayments. The Supreme Court upheld the exemptions for employers with religious and/or moral objections  to refuse providing birth control benefits for employees in July 2020.

read more

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

Brief #91—Health & Gender
By Justin Lee
Newly inaugurated President Biden nominated Xavier Becerra to lead and be the next Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS is comprised of various public health and human services agencies and offices that provide guidance, oversee and regulate operations, and establish laws and regulations. Agencies like the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (lead by the Surgeon General) all branch within the HHS.

read more
The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 2: Expanding Access to Healthcare

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 2: Expanding Access to Healthcare

Brief # 97 Health & Gender Policy

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 2: Expanding Access to Healthcare

By Erin McNemar

March 2, 2021

Policy

Throughout his presidential campaign, President Joe Biden made it clear that women’s rights were going to be a leading issue during his administration. Over the summer, Biden released a policy proposal titled “The Biden Agenda for Women.” The plan outlined different areas in which women are disproportionately impacted, and how he intends to level the playing field. One of the major areas the plan focuses on is expanding and protecting healthcare for women.

Historically, women have faced an uphill battle regarding their right to health coverage. Whether this has been due to lack of representation of women in government or the stigmas created around services like Planned Parenthood, there is a clear bias against women in our healthcare system. While the Affordable Care Act was able to expand health care coverage to many underserved Americans, Biden provides evidence that there is still work to be done.  Access to quality healthcare for women, decreasing the maternal mortality rate; ensuring reproductive  rights are priority areas of need for women. In  Biden’s plan he raises the question: how do we address these health inequalities?

Analysis

When examining Biden’s proposal for women’s health, there is a lot to unpack. The first is the issue of maternal mortality. Biden explains that even before the pandemic hit, the United States had one of the highest rates of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth among developed countries. Additionally, these rates were higher among women of color. In order to address the issue, Biden has stated he wants to turn his attention to the work being done in California. In California, the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative formed a strategy that cut the state’s number of maternal mortality rates in half. Biden expressed that he plans to implement that strategy on a national level.

In the next part of his plan, Biden discusses the protection of reproductive rights. Many of Biden’s healthcare policies focus on building upon what was created in the Affordable Care Act; reproductive rights are not an exception to that. In addition to making sure that women can receive free contraception, Biden wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure women’s rights under Roe v.s. Wade. Other steps Biden is looking to take in his administration are to prohibit states from creating laws that violate Roe v.. Wade, restore funding to Planned Parenthood and rescind the Mexico City policy.

Lastly, Biden expresses that when he says he wants to expand healthcare coverage for women, he means all women. This includes allocating resources and updating policies for LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, incarcerated women, women veterans and native women. In a country that was developed on the ideas of equality and freedom, striving for equity in healthcare should be a top priority.

Engagement Resources

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

Brief # 96 Health and Gender Policy

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

By Justin Lee

February 24, 2021 

Policy

There are multiple reports of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (in children, MIS-C) being seen across the world shortly after the onset of COVID-19. Children and teen patients with MIS-C can suffer from inflammation that can limit blood flow throughout the body, exposing danger to major organs such as the heart, kidneys, and other organs. While cases, which have ranged from ages 2 to 15 years, have been considered rare the outcome can be dangerous if left untreated. MIC-C can be treated with drugs that can control the inflammation and prevent prolonged, permanent organ damage.

These onsets and continued uncertainty affect President Biden as he continues to gear America for reopening and reestablishing a sense of normalcy. Should high-contact environments, like schools or entertainment venues, be reopened considering the spread of MIS-C?

 

Analysis

Before this question is addressed, it is important to outline that most children who are infected with COVID-19 have mild illness. It is rare that pediatric patients with COVID develop MIS-C, and most these cases are treated with early medical care. Current studies do link children with MIS-C with COVID-19 antibodies, but it is unclear which variant these children were infected with. More studies with analysis are needed to confirm whether or not certain variants expose pediatric patients more to MIS-C than other variants.

MIS-C joins a number of obstacles that fuel uncertainty of determining how much longer the pandemic will go on. In combination of different variants and the still trickling vaccine distribution, America reopening to a sense of normalcy seems distant. And that is correct. Protocols for face coverings, routine testing, and social distancing will not go away this year. Viruses have and will continue to mutate, and President Biden should focus on deciding factors for reopening; factors like COVID-19 hospitalization rates, new infection rates, and percentage of vaccinated or antibody-positive Americans. These factors should be considered when taking steps to reopen for all high contact environments like schools and restaurants.

As of mid-February, only 11.5% of American shave been vaccinated. However, with vaccines beginning to be distributed in nationwide pharmacies along with the likely Emergency Use Authorization approval for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine should help boost vaccination and COVID protection efforts worldwide. There will continue to be new obstacles to rid the pandemic, but America has to be hopeful that hope and progress for normalcy is clearly visible and welcome news.

Learn More

Helpful links

Mayo Clnic: MIS

Hopkins Med: MIS

CDC: MIS

US News: Biden and School Reopenings

USA Today: Vaccine Tracker

Engagement Resources

Trust for America’s Health is a public health policy and research organization that advocates for a nation that values the health and well-being of Americans. Their organization has valuable information regarding health policies and issues on a federal and state level, and also actively publishes reports regarding public health on their website. To find more information or to get involved, use the link below:

TFAH Website

The American Public Health Association is an organization aimed to Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. As the main publishers for the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health newspapers, APHA educates the public on public health, policy statements, and advocacy for public health. To volunteer or become a member, use the link below:

APHA Website

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

Brief # 95 Health Policy

Our Decentralized Health System Creates Vaccine Rollout Challenges

By Erin McNemar

February 11, 2021

Policy

Confusion. Disorganization. Decentralization. All across the country, states are struggling with the vaccination process. From deciding who should be a priority to simply not having enough vaccines, many states are facing criticism for what seems like a failure to plan. These issues are due to the decentralized health system present in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, “Health systems decentralization involves moving decision making away from centralized control and closer to the users of health services. Many countries have embarked on a process to decentralize their health systems as a means to improve their responsiveness and performance.”

Analysis

While this idea of allowing the people that are affected and impacted to make decisions seems just, it has proven to be problematic when facing the current pandemic. Due to the decentralized approach in the United States, the nation is trailing behind other countries in terms of the vaccination process. According to the University of Oxford, the United KIngdom’s centralized health system has been able to vaccinate 13.7 percent of the population compared to the United State’s 7.8 percent.

Part of this major issue is lack of preparation. According to CNN, in the final weeks of his administration former President Trump did little to nothing to develop a plan to distribute vaccines to states; even after vaccines were approved to be administered. When President Biden came into office, his team claimed that they had to work on developing a plan from scratch; which is also prolonging  the process.

The frustrating  vaccination process comes down to a lack of organization stemming from the federal level. Rather than creating a comprehensive plan that all states are required to follow, each state is responsible for coming up with their own plan for vaccinations. Governors have to ask, how will the vaccines be distributed? What groups of people should be prioritized? How will individuals register to get the vaccine? While these decisions are happening on a state-by-state basis in the United States, countries with centralized health systems are able to move quicker.

These countries only have to come up with one vaccination rollout plan. There isn’t a battle for resources and those disrupting the vaccine are able to focus on administering it to as many people as possible; rather than worrying about the politics of the situation. Additionally, the decentralized approach can create issues among the total percentage of individuals vaccinated across the nation. For example, if West Virginia is effectively vaccinating their population but Massachusetts is struggling, it’s not going to be beneficial to the country as a whole in stopping the spread.

While a decentralized health system has benefits in everyday life, addressing a pandemic response requires a more centralized approach. Evidence shows that with unified planning coming from a federal level, more vaccines would be efficiently distributed to the public. After a rocky start to the vaccine rollout process, it could be several months until the vaccine hits the general public and even longer until we see life begin to return to normal.

Engagement Resources

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Biden Signs Executive Orders Regarding Abortion and Obamacare

Biden Signs Executive Orders Regarding Abortion and Obamacare

Brief # 94 Health and Gender Policy

Biden Signs Executive Orders Regarding Abortion and Obamacare

By Erin McNemar

February 4, 2021

Policy

On Thursday, January 28, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders regarding the future of health care in America. According to  a press release from the White House, the Executive orders are being signed to strengthen Americans’ access to quality and affordable health care. The first of the executive orders was to roll back anti-abortion measures that were put in place during the Trump administration.

The second of the two orders was to direct federal agencies to reverse Trump administration policies that weaken HealthCare.gov, and made it harder for individuals to get Medicaid. As Biden continues to roll back Trump administration policies, the American people are going to see the return of plans that reflect the Obama era.

 

Analysis

President Biden’s Executive Order regarding abortion laws reverses the Trump administration’s commitment to the  Mexico City Policy. The Mexico City Policy, which is often referred to as a global gag rule, prevents federal funding and U.S. aid from going to organizations that provide abortions and related services. These services include referrals, counseling and advocacy concerning abortions. The Executive Order also calls on the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to review policies that are harming women on a global scale.

Additionally, the order withdrew the United States from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, an anti-abortion agreement that Trump entered into last year with several other countries.

The new Executive Order regarding health care reopens HealthCare.gov for a special three month enrollment period that is set to begin on February 15. The normal enrollment period for health insurance is November 1 through December 15. However, this Executive Order will allow individuals that don’t have health insurance to look at their state’s health insurance options offered through the Affordable Care Act outside the typical period. According to CNBC, “This can offer many Americans, particularly those who have dealt with unemployment amid the Covid-19 pandemic, another chance to get insurance.”

When talking about the Executive Orders, Biden said, “The best way to describe them, is to undo the damage Trump has done,” Biden continued. “There’s nothing new that we’re doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring  Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president, which by fiat, he changed and made more inaccessible.”

These Executive Orders are the first major policy changes President Biden has made to health care. However, Biden has made it clear that these orders are only the beginning of his health care reform plan. Biden has indicated that he plans to continue expanding health care coverage and affirm women’s right to choose as Constitutional Law.

Engagement Resources

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 1: Improving Economic Security for Women

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 1: Improving Economic Security for Women

Brief # 93 Health and Gender Policy

The Biden Agenda for Women Series Part 1: Improving Economic Security for Women

A new USRESIST NEWS series that explores the proposed gender related policies of the new Biden administration

By Erin McNemar

January 26, 2021

Policy  

In March of 2020, President Joe Biden committed to selecting a female running mate. Five months later, he fulfilled that promise by tapping Vice President Kamala Harris for the position. This historic decision meant that women’s rights would be a priority issue for the next four years.

In December, Biden released a policy proposal entitled “The Biden Agenda for Women.” The plan begins by outlining Biden’s belief that “his daughter is entitled to the same rights and opportunities as his sons.” In many policy areas however, women are disproportionately affected. Therefore, the Biden plan focuses on improving and protecting women’s rights in several key areas. This first area of focus outlined in the plan is improving economic security for women.

Analysis

The gender wealth gap has been a standing issue for decades. According to the 2018 U.S. Census, working women make 81.6 cents for every dollar that a man makes. In addition, the data also shows that women’s median annual earnings were $9,766 less than men’s. The numbers are even worse for women of color.

In his plan, Biden identifies the Lilly Ledbetter Act Fair Pay Act. According to Biden, this was the first piece of legislation enacted during the Obama-Biden Administration. The policy helped ensure fair pay for all Americans; narrowing the pay gap and attempting to boost economic productivity. As President, Biden said he would continue to make the closing to pay gap a priority as well as ending paycheck discrimination.

While he continues to support the efforts of the Lilly Ledbetter Act Fair Pay Act, he understands that there is more work to be done. For this reason, Biden states in his plan he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act proposed by Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman DeLauro. According to Biden, this policy will expand on protections for female workers regarding paychecks and retaliation. Additionally, Biden plans to make wage gaps transparent, level the playing field for negotiation and make it easier for women to unionize and collectively bargain. Biden also includes in his plan expanding pay in jobs that are disproportionately filled by women.

In addition to equitable pay, Biden identifies the importance of investing in women-owned small businesses. “Women start businesses at two times the rate of men and now represent 42% of the nation’s businesses. But, they still raise much less capital — with only about 2% of all venture capital funds going to women-owned businesses — and are more likely to rely on personal funds,” Biden writes in the plan. For this reason, Biden has pledged direct federal funding for women-own businesses as well as doubling funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative; an Obama-Biden era program.

The economic section of the plan also highlights efforts to end workplace discrimination and harassment, expanding access to education and training and finally ensuring safety on college campuses.

Engagement Resources

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

Biden and Abortion: What Should America Expect?

Brief # 92

Health and Gender Policy

Biden and Abortion: What Should America Expect?

By Justin Lee

January 26, 2021

Policy

Former President Trump took strong actions against abortion and reproductive health policies during his presidency. Trump reinstated and strengthened the Mexico City Policy, which implemented funding restrictions to foreign organizations that provided abortion services or counseling. First introduced in the Reagan administration, Trump’s stance lead to the closure of many reproductive health clinics that provided care not just for abortions, but also for HIV care. Trump  also attempted to limit the scope of the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which previously required most insurance plans to cover birth control without copayments. The Supreme Court upheld the exemptions for employers with religious and/or moral objections  to refuse providing birth control benefits for employees in July 2020.

Trump’s actions against abortion followed the pattern of many conservative politicians and presidents before him. President Biden has made it clear his intentions to remove the Mexico City Policy. Should America  also expect Biden to reinstate reproductive health rights, as done by many democratic politicians before him?

Analysis

It is important to note that President Biden is a devout Roman Catholic, and his past stance on abortion rights has been far less progressive than his liberal colleagues. Biden was a strong supporter of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal programs from paying for abortions with the exception of rape or incest. He changed his stance shortly before beginning his 2016 presidential campaign. As polling from the Pew Research Center shows the majority of Catholic adults in the US support some form of legalized abortion policies. Anti-abortion groups and conservative Catholics argue the hypocrisy of a President attending Sunday mass while fighting for abortion rights.

President Biden will likely continue to face criticism and skepticism from both his party and devout Catholics. But America should remain confident that Biden will be an advocate for reproductive health rights. Biden’s executive orders and priorities support his inaugural address indicating he will be a president “for all Americans”. Former President Trump’s actions during his presidency have led to reduced abortion care, contraception services, HIV testing, HIV treatment, and cancer screening; limiting reproductive health access for men and women in the US and abroad. President Biden has the opportunity to restore these critical services and help re-establish America as a proponent not just for reproductive health rights, but for human rights.

Learn More

Helpful links

NBC: Biden to Roll Back Abortion

NBC: Supreme Court Allows Plan for Limiting Contraceptive Coverage

NPR: President Biden and Being Catholic

Pew Research Center: Catholics and Abortion

NPR: Planned Parenthood Endorses Biden

Reuters: Biden Ending Mexico City Policy

Engagement Resources

The Planned Parenthood organization advocates for reproductive health care, as well as education for safe sex, gender identity, sexual consent and assault, and other related services. To learn more, use the link below:

Planned Parenthood Website

Trust for America’s Health is a public health policy and research organization that advocates for a nation that values the health and well-being of Americans. Their organization has valuable information regarding health policies and issues on a federal and state level, and also actively publishes reports regarding public health on their website. To find more information or to get involved, use the link below:

TFAH Website

The American Public Health Association is an organization aimed to Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. As the main publishers for the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health newspapers, APHA educates the public on public health, policy statements, and advocacy for public health. To volunteer or become a member, use the link below:

APHA Website

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

Brief # 91

Health and Gender Policy

The Public Health System in the US: Does it Work?

By Justin Lee

January 19,2021

 

Policy

Newly inaugurated President Biden nominated Xavier Becerra to lead and be the next Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS is comprised of various public health and human services agencies and offices that provide guidance, oversee and regulate operations, and establish laws and regulations. Agencies like the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (lead by the Surgeon General) all branch within the HHS.

As the HHS presides as the federal entity in setting public health policies and guidance, the responsibility of protecting the public health of Americans primarily lies within  state and local governments. State health agencies collect and analyze health data and are responsible for implementing national and state mandates. The states also have the power to set certain policies and standards of their own. Local health departments are more the “front line” agencies, responsible for health education, screening, immunizations, disease control and health/mental/ambulatory services within its jurisdiction.

This system of distributing public health responsibility and power between federal, state, and local levels provides a level of autonomy and governance to the state and local health agencies. But does this system work? Like China, should the federal government dictate public health and decrease the power of state and local agencies to ensure federal orders are carried out nationwide?

 

Analysis

It is clear that China, and many east Asian countries, have handled the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently than the US and Europe. Some of the east Asian countries had existing agencies and organizations already established to track and implement measures in an infectious disease outbreak, such as Japan. Many of the same countries also have previous experience with large scale coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS. For many of these governments in regards to social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and contact tracing, the question was not if these measures should be implemented but rather how quick can these measures be implemented.

So given the failure of the US to establish any real nationwide contract tracing measures, and the inconsistent messaging from federal, state, and local agencies in regards to social distancing, facial coverings, and other protective measures for protecting Americans, should the US reconsider how we structure our public health system? The answer is no. The American public health system is designed to protect the public health system of all Americans, from those living in urban Los Angeles to those living in the Kentucky countryside. The state and local health agencies should have the direct power and authority to regulate and implement measures needed for the benefit of their citizens. Federal lockdown measures will affect urban Americans differently than Americans living the countryside. State and local governments should know and be able to take federal guidance and implement specific measures to their jurisdiction.

That being said, the federal government and HHS plays a critical role in American public health by setting the tone and guidance for state and local governments. The failure of the US in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and distributing approved vaccines lies from the failure of the Trump administration to provide effective leadership and guidance. Inconsistent messaging and directives regarding the importance of facial coverings, social distancing, and contact tracing in combination of delayed decisions critical in controlling the spread of the pandemic has lead to the worst health crisis in American history. Despite many east Asian countries having had a pandemic blueprint that America could have built their own response from quickly, the federal government failed to provide the consistent messaging and guidance needed to exemplify its role in protecting public health for Americans.

President Biden comes into power at a critical time where COVID-19 continues to surge in urban cities across the US, but also has the means to finally take control of the pandemic through the distribution of treatment and vaccines. President Biden and his new administration has made it clear that the pandemic is a priority in his first 100 days in office; a hopeful sign for state and local health agencies that the federal leadership and guidance that was missing could finally arrive to help.

Learn More

Helpful links

NCBI: Summary of Public Health

HHS: Family of Agencies

Reuters: Biden Pick for HHS Secretary

MarketWatch: Asia Response to COVID

Engagement Resources

The American Red Cross heavily relies on volunteers to assist during a health crisis; including the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers play active roles in clinical and non-clinical settings. The American Red Cross also operates one of the largest blood donation networks in the US. To volunteer in a clinical setting and/or to give blood, use the links below:

ARC: Become a Volunteer

ARC: Give Blood

Trust for America’s Health is a public health policy and research organization that advocates for a nation that values the health and well-being of Americans. Their organization has valuable information regarding health policies and issues on a federal and state level, and also actively publishes reports regarding public health on their website. To find more information or to get involved, use the link below:

TFAH Website

The American Public Health Association is an organization aimed to Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. As the main publishers for the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health newspapers, APHA educates the public on public health, policy statements, and advocacy for public health. To volunteer or become a member, use the link below:

APHA Website

MIS-C: What is it, and Why it Matters

Biden’s Health Policy Priorities

Health and Gender Policy

Brief # 90

Biden’s Health Policy Priorities

By Erin McNemar

January 12, 2021

Policy

In March of 2010 after a long fought battle between Democrats and Republicans, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. The policy made instrumental changes to healthcare in the United States. According to Reuters, over 23 million people are now insured by Obamacare. Since that law passed, Congressional Republicans have continuously tried to repeal it.

During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden presented his healthcare policy as an expansion of Obamacare. In this expansion, Biden’s plan highlights how he will increase coverage to insure 97 percent of Americans by giving individuals a public health insurance option similar to Medicare. By negotiating with providers, this new public option will be more affordable to those who struggle to pay health insurance costs.

Additionally, the plan calls for lowering prescription drug prices by limiting price increases for drug companies facing no competition, allowing Americans to purchase prescriptions from other countries and getting rid of pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break. The plan also says Biden will repeal laws that prevent Medicare from negotiating lower prescription prices with drug corporations.

Lastly, Biden’s plan implements the idea that healthcare is a human right. Focusing on women’s healthcare rights, Biden states that his plan will expand access to contraceptive, reduced maternal mortality rate, especially among women of color, and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. Biden has also said he supports striking down the Hyde Amendment and restoring federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

Overall, Biden’s plan aims to protect healthcare coverage for those who are covered and expand coverage for those who are not. By bringing down the costs, repealing laws that prevent negotiating and investing in community healthcare, Biden hopes to expand and protect the policies created by Obamacare.

Analysis

Going into his first term in office, Biden has something that Obama didn’t; a Democratic majority in congress. With the Democrats maintaining their lead in the House and the Senate being split 50/50, making Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie breaking vote, Democrats will should be able to move their bills through Congress and sign them into law with ease. While this works in theory, it doesn’t necessarily ring true.

With division among Democrats and Republicans, there is also division among members of the Democratic party itself. More progressive Democrats often criticize moderate Democrats for creating policies liberals believe do not go far enough to help people. This interparty division could prove to be a challenge for Biden in implementing his plans such as healthcare reform.

Additionally, history shows us that healthcare reform can be difficult even with a one party majority in Congress. During President Bill Clinton’s time in office, he attempted to pass major healthcare reform. With Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, this task shouldn’t have been terribly difficult. However, the bill was declared dead on September 26, 1994 by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

During the time of COVID-19, healthcare has become a pillar issue for many Americans. We will be watching carefully to see what kind of relief is provided for people in this country. While Biden’s plan to expand and protect Obamacare looks like it definitely has the potential to make it through Congress, we are going to have to see what kind of opposition it gets from Repuboicans as well as within his own party.

Engagement Resources

Biden Expected to Reverse Trump Rollbacks and Strengthen Policies Affecting Americans with Disabilities

Biden Expected to Reverse Trump Rollbacks and Strengthen Policies Affecting Americans with Disabilities

Brief # 89 Health and Gender

Biden Expected to Reverse Trump Rollbacks and Strengthen Policies Affecting Americans with Disabilities

By Linda F. Hersey

January 8, 2021

For people with disabilities and their advocates, the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump offers hope the incoming president will renew support of, and emphasis on, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which offers protections to people with disabilities in the workplace and in the community.

It is with some irony that Trump, who has openly mocked people with disabilities, lost the presidency to an accomplished U.S. senator who himself has a disability. Biden has a neurological disorder that causes stuttering, which he has experienced since childhood.

Trump has a well-documented history of deriding people with disabilities and of allegedly violating the ADA at his properties and businesses. In one high-profile lawsuit, a Purple Heart veteran sued Trump International Hotel and Tower for lacking handicapped-accessible emergency exits, guest rooms and restrooms.

In 2015, when Trump sought a first term in office, he mimicked a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter afflicted with spasms. According to the New York Times, Trump said at a South Carolina rally: “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Mr. Trump said, before jerking his arms around and holding his right hand at an angle. “ ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’ ”

Environment of Increased Intolerance

Providing legal protections for and upholding the civil rights of workers with disabilities, under ADA, impacts millions of Americans.

  • At least one in four people has a disability.
  • More than half of American voters have a disability or a loved one with a disability.

“By ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to work, free from discrimination based on disability, the ADA is an affirmation of our nation’s founding ideals and a cornerstone of our efforts to ensure a fully inclusive American workforce and economy,” according to the EEOC and Labor and Justice Departments, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the landmark civil rights act in 2020.

While the Trump Administration points to the number of people with disabilities hired by the federal government each year, advocates in the disabled community have described an environment of increasing intolerance to people with disabilities, encouraged by the Trump administration.

Trump, after taking office, was criticized for proposing to end funding under the Autism CARES Act. He also proposed to defund the Special Olympics, which led to such an outpouring of complaints and negative publicity that he reversed his position and denied ever suggesting it.

When Special Olympics athletes visited the White House, Trump told reporters: “And I watched [them on TV] — it’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.”

People with Disabilities Losing Work at Higher Rate Than Non-Disabled

Statistics underscore discrimination that people with disabilities have experienced in the workplace during the four years Trump has been in the Oval Office.

  • Since Trump has been in office, adults with disabilities have lost federal jobs at a much faster pace than working people without disabilities.
  • The EEOC reported that people with disabilities in federal jobs were fired at twice the rate of people without disabilities.
  • Under Trump, there has been a significant increase in the number of people with disabilities in federal jobs who report discrimination in the workplace.
  • There was a 20 percent increase from 2016 to 2017, in the number of disability discrimination complaints filed by federal employees of cabinet-level agencies, according to an NBC News report based on EEOC data.

Subminimum Wage Criticized as Exploitative

Led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a disabled Iraq War veteran, Democratic senators have complained about the treatment of disabled federal workers by the Trump administration.

Duckworth has made it a priority that people who need workplace accommodations for disabilities are able to receive them, under ADA. She also has worked to make sure that the federal government remains a “model employer” that does not harass or fire people because of their disabilities.

While the ADA is designed to protect workers, it also allows employers to get a special certificate to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage. Advocates are hoping the Biden administration ends the practice of sub-minimum wage.

The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act would provide grants to states to help employers pay disabled workers minimum wage and better integrate them in the workplace. Attorneys argue that the provision is discriminatory.

“The subminimum wage sends a message to the disability community that their work isn’t as valuable as the work done by able-bodied people,” Duckworth, the first woman with a disability elected to the Senate.  She described the provision as exploiting people with disabilities.

Biden is expected to take additional steps as well to protect the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace and support diversity. The new administration is expected to:

  • Overturn Trump’s order that banned diversity training and implicit bias training by government agencies and contractors
  • Advance employment opportunity equality regardless of sexual orientation
  • Emphasize and prioritize OSHA protection laws in the workplace.
  • Prioritize employee rights.

In his campaign for office, Biden offered a detailed plan for supporting the rights of people in the disabled community. It is a distinct departure from the tone and practices of the past four years under Trump.

“Biden will work with the disability community to build a stronger, more expansive middle class so that everyone—regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability—can find a place,” according to his policy statement. “That means amending our laws, policies, and culture to ensure full inclusion of the 61 million individuals with disabilities in the United States in all parts of our society.”

Engagement RESOURCES

The New COVID-19 Variant: What We Know, and What Should be Done

The New COVID-19 Variant: What We Know, and What Should be Done

Brief # 88

Health and Gender Policy

The New COVID-19 Variant: What We Know, and What Should be Done

By Justin Lee

January 5, 2021

Policy

In early December 2020, President-elect Joe Biden announced the new members of his public health team and objectives he plans to implement within in his first 100 days in office. These objectives include a federal requirement for Americans to wear masks where Biden is legally able to enforce compliance and seeking strategies to open the majority of schools across the country.

Since then, a new COVID-19 virus variant has been detected in over 30 countries. First publicly recognized in the UK, the variant has forced British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to issue a nationwide lockdown for England on January 4th, 2021. The variant has also since been detected in California, Colorado, Florida, and New York. California alone continues to report over 35,000 new COVID-19 cases daily, with public health experts cautious the current surge across the nation will only get worse as millions of Americans defied pleas not to travel during the holiday season.

More than 350,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19. Healthcare infrastructures in major US cities are collapsing. Vaccine distribution and administration has been at a snail pace. Are masks and social distancing enough? Should Biden also consider a federally mandated lockdown?

Analysis

When looking at this situation, it is important to analyze what we currently know.

What We Know: It is important to first state that viruses undergo mutations constantly, and there are currently multiple COVID-19 strains globally. The variant detected in the UK is more distinct because the variant has more mutations than other variants. Scientists and clinicians have reported the new variant is more easily contagious and transmissible by 50-70%. The new variant also seems to affect younger people more than previous strains.

There is no evidence, however, that the new variant is deadlier or more dangerous. There is also no evidence that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are ineffective on this new variant.

We also know that lockdown measures have profound effects on people. As the socio-economic factors are rather clear and obvious, studies have shown lockdown measures also affect mental health. These studies have shown that participants, particularly young adults and women, had increases in rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, and risks for self-harm.

What Should be Done: As dire as the current pandemic is for the US, a nationwide lockdown should be one of Biden’s last options. Instead, the next administration should focus on:

  • Establishing federal leadership and presence: Since the election, the current administration has shown a lack of interest and concern regarding the pandemic. With President Trump more concerned about his re-election and staying in office, states are forced to scramble in maintaining their healthcare infrastructures and navigate through vaccine distribution delays. Biden has the opportunity to step in at one of the worst moments of the health crisis and show true leadership through establishing concrete, viable plans for states to follow and allowing public health experts to do their jobs in advocating vaccines, wearing masks, and social distancing.
  • Expediting COVID-19 variant research and testing: The more we know about the COVID-19 variants, the faster the CDC, FDA, and life science industry can work together to develop or adjust treatments and vaccine candidates. The FDA should also keep a close eye on upcoming AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccine candidates, as more late-stage data will be available for their review in the coming weeks.
  • Addressing and creating a vaccine distribution network: It comes as no surprise the current vaccine distribution system is failing, with the US far behind in inoculating Americans and millions of doses sitting in storage. Biden’s COVID-19 team will have to rethink the current distribution network. Some solutions could be involving major pharmacy retailers in administering vaccines or temporarily allowing other licensed health professionals (such as dentists) to administer vaccines. Other reports suggest having more Americans have access to receiving their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and focus less on ensuring inoculated recipients receive their second dose.

Learn More

Helpful links

Engagement Resources

The American Red Cross heavily relies on volunteers to assist during a health crisis; including the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers play active roles in clinical and non-clinical settings. The American Red Cross also operates one of the largest blood donation networks in the US. To volunteer in a clinical setting and/or to give blood, use the links below:

ARC: Become a Volunteer

ARC: Give Blood

Trust for America’s Health is a public health policy and research organization that advocates for a nation that values the health and well-being of Americans. Their organization has valuable information regarding health policies and issues on a federal and state level, and also actively publishes reports regarding public health on their website. To find more information or to get involved, use the link below:

TFAH Website

The American Public Health Association is an organization aimed to Improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. As the main publishers for the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health newspapers, APHA educates the public on public health, policy statements, and advocacy for public health. To volunteer or become a member, use the link below:

APHA Website

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