A July 13 Washington Business Journal article reported that the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has finally defined its proposed “pay or play” mandate that would require businesses to provide health insurance to their employees. The committee would force businesses with 25 or more employees to provide health insurance coverage or pay a fine for each worker not covered.
According to a July 10 Washington Post article, the federal government is considering a mass vaccination campaign this fall against the H1N1 flu virus. Obama administration officials announced this during a “flu summit” at the National Institute of Health’s Bethesda, Maryland, campus on July 9. About 500 health officials from around the country were in attendance.
Democrats are struggling to come up with acceptable ways to finance healthcare reform, a July 8 New York Times article reports. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, and other Democrats have expressed opposition to taxing employer-based health benefits and have told Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, to look for other options.
The protocol at Planned Parenthood clinics for administering RU-486, the drug that causes medical abortions, was officially changed in order to reduce the resulting serious infections and deaths. Planned Parenthood is now trying to claim kudos for making medical abortions safer, for the mother.
The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, and the Catholic Health Association agreed with the Obama administration on July 6 to accept $155 billion less in reimbursement from the federal government over the next 10 years. According to the Washington Post for July 7, a hospital negotiator said, “This is our attempt to act in good faith.”
General Electric is entering into a venture with Geron Corp to commercially develop products from human embryonic stem cells, including developing sample human cells that drug companies can use to test the toxicity of new drugs. The use of embryonic stem cells to develop other types of human cells entails the destruction of human life.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on July 1 released preliminary data for insurance coverage in America during 2008. According to the data, the percentage of Americans with private health coverage has fallen to its lowest level in 50 years. The percentage of Americans with private insurance in 2008 was 65.4 percent, a drop from 66.8 percent in 2007.
President Barack Obama on July 1 continued to push his healthcare reform plans at a town hall meeting at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia. The meeting included online participants who asked questions via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. A transcript has been posted at the White House website, and a video is available on YouTube.
On June 24, ABC TV gave President Barack Obama interview time with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, a prime-time special with both Sawyer and Charles Gibson at the White House called Questions for the President: Prescription for America, and the whole Nightline program after the local news.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is at the center of a growing controversy over the improper treatment of veterans at VA hospitals. On June 16, CNN noted that a report released in June by the VA’s Office of Inspector General showed only “about 42.5 percent of 42 VA facilities inspected without warning in May had standard operating procedures in place for the equipment being used and could demonstrate that their staffs had been trained to use the devices.” In other words, more than half of the institutions (57.5 percent) had improper procedures or training.
President Barack Obama signed legislation on June 22 granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad powers to regulate many aspects of tobacco product manufacturing, marketing, and sales. Known as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the bill allows the FDA to ban candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products and to prohibit companies from labeling their products “light,” “mild,” or “low tar.” The act requires larger warning labels on tobacco product packaging, restricts the advertisement of tobacco products, and forces companies to lower the levels of nicotine in cigarettes.