The legislative assistant offices at the RAC have a strange feel to them today—all of the zany pictures and decorations adorning our desks have been removed, the usual desktop clutter has vanished and there is a strong scent of cleaning solution flowing through the air. After 50 weeks at the RAC, it’s our last day, and an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve witnessed during our time here. Read more…
Fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act Amendments, which established Medicare and Medicaid and dramatically changed the landscape of health insurance in America. Before the programs went into effect, approximately half of all seniors lacked insurance and many other people, especially people with disabilities, families with children, pregnant women and low-income Americans were unable to afford the medical services they needed. Today, Medicare and Medicaid provide health insurance to about one in three Americans—that’s more than 100 million people!
Last December, the FDA announced that it would be replacing its current lifelong ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men (MSM) with a policy that allows MSM to give blood if they have not had sex with another man in the past year. Following the release of draft guidance by the FDA on this new policy, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, submitted the following comments:
Americans are living longer today than they have before in the history of the United States, yet people with advanced illnesses face a complicated and fragmented system of care delivery that can put them at risk for additional adverse results. Consequently, many people with advanced illnesses do not fully understand their condition or treatment options and are therefore unable to document their desires, especially in case they lose the ability to make health care decision.
On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in King v. Burwell that the premium tax credits established by the Affordable Care Act should be available in all fifty states, regardless of whether the state established their own health care exchange or if it had been established by the federal government. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer Sotomayor and Kagan; Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented.
With just a couple of weeks left in the Supreme Court’s session, a decision in King v. Burwell is expected before the month ends. King v. Burwell focuses on the premium tax credits that make health care affordable to low and middle income individuals who gain insurance through the health insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the Affordable Care Act only allows people to receive premium tax credits in states that run their own health insurance marketplace, as opposed to the states who use the federally-facilitated Marketplace. If the majority of the justices agree with this argument, their decision could throw the health insurance system into chaos.
Back in October, I wrote a preview of the 2014-2015 Supreme Court term, sharing my excitement (and some nervousness) about the cases to come. It’s hard to believe that term is almost over— eight months have flown by! As we welcome June, we anticipate the frenzy of decisions that the Court will hand down as it closes out its 2014-2015 calendar. Just as we did for Hobby Lobby in 2014 and Windsor v. United States, which struck down key sections of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, we eagerly await the Court’s “grand finale” decisions this June.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of mental illnesses and the importance of mental wellness for all. In our own country, an estimated 18.6 percent or 43.7 million Americans live with mental illnesses, and 4.1% or 9.6 million U.S. adults have a serious mental illness. Whether or not we have personally experienced a mental illness, no family or community is immune.