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Union leaders call on Trump to invoke Defense Production Act to speed delivery of protective gear to frontline workers

The head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said the Defense Production Act was designed for the kind of national emergency that the coronavirus presents, but President Donal Trump is too hesitant to use it.

Women could lose insurance coverage for birth control if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration

In April, the Supreme Court will hear Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, a consolidated case that would allow virtually any employer or university to deny women access to birth control based on religious or moral objections.

Wisconsin congressional delegation split on coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin’s congressional delegation was unified in authorizing $8.3 billion to combat the spread of the...

Underfunding public health hurting America’s response to coronavirus, experts say

The United States ability to respond to the outbreaks is in the consistent funding of public health organizations.

American hostages in Iranian prisons are in danger of contracting coronavirus

WASHINGTON -- Hostages are being held in crowded prisons in Iran where coronavirus cases are surging, said a family member...

Azar announces new coronavirus case, House members call for increasing Trump’s $2.5 billion emergency funding request to fight the disease

WASHINGTON—The 15th travel-related case of coronavirus in the United States was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a House committee meeting where some members said President Donald Trump isn’t asking for enough money to fight the disease.

At a House health subcommittee hearing, Azar said the origin of the case has not yet been confirmed but proper measures are being taken to make sure it is controlled. He said HHS is prepared for a bigger outbreak in the U.S.

“We are working closely with state, local and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus’s potential spread in the United States as we expect to see more cases here,” Azar told the subcommittee.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday that it is not a matter of if, but when coronavirus will spread to America. Azar said he anticipates the virus to spread on community levels, a much less severe outbreak than what is happening in China.

Currently, there is not a vaccine or specified treatment for the virus and it will require immense amounts of research and testing to discover a treatment, health officials said.

Azar proposed a plan that works toward developing a vaccine as well as monitoring coronavirus in the same way the flu is monitored annually and public health changes at the state and local levels.

Azar said his department is asking for at least $2.5 billion in emergency funding. The funding requests for fiscal 2021 will be adjusted to properly address the COVID-19 outbreak, he said.

Some representatives were concerned that the initial $2.5 billion request may not be enough to minimize the impacts of the outbreak. Health officials have estimated higher amounts of funding are needed to address this outbreak and create a vaccine.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said a vaccine needs to be found as quickly as possible and as many resources as possible are needed to do this.

“We need the right numbers as it relates to fighting this terrible disease,” Upton said.

Upton questioned if there was money allocated in the emergency funding request to prepare for regional quarantining if it becomes necessary, as it has in other countries dealing with the outbreak. Containment is one of the best ways to control the virus, health officials say, but it is very costly.

Azar said that he does not expect the virus to reach that level of severity and his department’s requested amount is adequate. He said it will address what is needed to control the virus, including surveillance of its spread.

Half of the $2.5 billion request would be new funds and half would be moving funds from other programs. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., was concerned about what programs would be cut.

Millions are being reallocated from the National Institute of Health, and Dingell said she is worried about how this will affect other medical research.

Health officials discuss how to combat coronavirus in the early stages

WASHINGTON — A crucial issue in fighting the spread of the coronavirus is ensuring that countries with travel-related cases of the virus, like the U.S., take steps to prevent a spread that cannot be contained, the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases said Tuesday.

Speaking at a Council of Foreign Relations event, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the magnitude of the global infection is not known.

Coronavirus is highly transmittable and can leave people infected without showing symptoms strong enough to be detected on medical screenings.

“The critical issue now is how the countries that have travel-related cases are going to prevent them from being sustained transmissibility,” which means spreading beyond isolated clusters of people, Fauci said.

“Once you have sustained transmissibility, you have a real problem,”he said.

Fourteen infected Americans who were on a cruise ship that had been quarantined in Japan, were on two planes that flew them and other cruise ship passengers home Monday. Fauci said the United States has handled travel-related cases well, but there may be infected travelers who didn’t have symptoms when they flew. NIAID is going to send staff to visit clinics to test those with flu symptoms, but not the flu. Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York will be the first cities in this program.

Fauci said identification, isolation and contact tracing are the most important meansof getting the virus under control. If other countries are not able to do this, then the coronavirus outbreak will become a “classic pandemic,” he said.

The first case of the virus appeared early December in the Wuhan province in China, but Chinese officials did not announce the outbreak until January.

Since then, the Chinese government has taken several actions including commandeering the factory that creates N94 respiratory masks.

Those masks are essential to medical professionals in protecting themselves from contagious diseases when treating patients. China has stopped exports of the masks.

Robert Kadlec, the Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness, stressed the need for more spending on biodefense budget and investment in domestic medical technology to protect citizens from current and future outbreaks.

“Public health security and national security are inseparable,” Kadlec said. Emerging disease threats are the next potential bioweapon, Kadlec said, and the government needs to prepare antibiotic stockpiles for the next potential outbreak.

Trump’s budget cuts jeopardize Affordable Care Act, Democrats say

WASHINGTON—Democrats challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to explain the Trump administration’s attempt to cut Medicaid funding in the proposed fiscal 2021 budget, which they said would further undermine health care coverage, at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday.

President Trump’s proposed budget released Monday calls for cuts in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act spending by $1 trillion over the next decade. In the proposal, the administration said the “allowance for the President’s health reform vision” would protect those with pre-existing conditions, prioritize federal resources for the most vulnerable and provide assistance for low-income people, while saving $844 billion over 10 years.

The budget would eliminate the ACA’s enhanced federal matching funding for the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, which could lead states to drop Medicaid expansion and put 17 million Americans at risk of losing coverage, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said.

“How does an almost one trillion dollar cut square with our understanding that Medicaid saves dollars and saves lives?” Hassan said. “Your budget doesn’t slow the Medicaid growth rate by addressing the rising cost of health care, it does so by cutting funding and eliminating access to coverage.”

Azar said the budget proposal allows for the administration to work with Congress to address how to fix “perverse incentives” in the Medicaid expansion program, including ones that prioritize able-bodied adults over children and pregnant women.

“Part of the budget is to restore the focus and make sure Medicaid is there for them,” Azar said.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the proposal would make access to Medicaid more difficult through allowing states to require more paperwork from children and adults seeking coverage.

The administration has backed a lawsuit brought by 18 states seeking to strike down the ACA. But Democrats said the budget proposal does not include specific provisions for people who were protected under the act, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., questioned Azar on the administration’s plan if the act is struck down, as millions would lose health care coverage and protections.

“I have yet to see one plan that the administration has put forward over the health care of millions of Americans,” Menendez said. “Why would you wait with the health care of millions of Americans and their fate to see what the court decides? Why would you wait until there’s a disaster to then deal with the millions of Americans who don’t have health care insurance?”

Azar said the administration will not comment on possible plans until the lawsuits are decided, saying “these are hypotheticals at this point.”

“These are hypotheticals we don’t play with,” Menendez said. “This is not some abstract consequence if it happens.”

Subcommittee evaluates bill to protect women’s access to abortion

WASHINGTON — In response to numerous states enacting laws in 2019 that prohibit or restrict abortion, a House subcommittee held a hearing to evaluate H.R. 2975, The Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill would prohibit bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion and impede access to care. 

The bill, which was reintroduced to Congress by three Democratic represenatives, would put an end to 6-week, 8-week and 15-week bans as well as state mandates that require women to to get an ultrasound scan before an abortion. The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee conducted Wednesday’s hearing. 

Ninety percent of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider, and six states have only one abortion clinic, said Chairwoman Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., in her opening remarks. If lawmakers want to reduce abortions, Eshoo said, they should back comprehensive sex education and no-cost contraception, not abortion bans. 

“Restricting abortion doesn’t stop abortion,” said Eshoo. “It makes it less safe.”

Last year Alabama passed a near total ban on abortion that could result in a penalty of 99 years in prison for phsyicians who perform the procedure. If the Alabama law takes effect, it could threaten doctors like Yashica Robinson with prison. An obstetrician-gynecology and medical director at the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives, Robinson testified Wednesday.

No other area of medicine involves politicians threatening physicians “with prosecution for doing their jobs,” Robinson said. She added that right now Alabama requires patients to receive outdated materials that are “filled with misinformation” that Robinson corrects to her patients.

“In states like California or Maryland, today a patient can access abortion care without the state forcing medically inaccurate information on them, or making them endure a medically unnecessary waiting period,” Robinson said. “This is what care should look like. Unfortunately, today, that is not the case for my patients in Alabama.”

More than 200 members of Congress have signed to cosponsor the bill. It was first introduced in 2013 where it had 132 cosponsors in the House and 35 in the Senate. It has been introduced in every Congress since. On May 23, 2019, Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, reintroduced the bill with 173 original cosponsors.

The surge in support for the bill comes after a series of state legislatures passed restrictive abortion laws designed to dismantle the rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said she is more concerned today than she has ever been about the actions being taken against women to restrict their access to abortion.

“The unprecedented volume of attacks on abortion, and the speed at which these attacks have progressed through the legislative process, requires congressional action,” Northup said. “We need this law now — because the crisis is now.”

In 2019, 18 states enacted 46 new laws that prohibit or restrict abortion. The Women’s Health Protection Act, which would stop these laws from hindering women’s access to abortion, is supported by the Act for Women campaign, a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations committed to reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Experts testify space weather pose threat to human life, poorly monitored

WASHINGTON – Space weather – the reactions between the sun, solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field – poses significant threats to global commerce and human life that need to be better understood, experts told a Senate committee Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee heard multiple witnesses who emphasized space missions related to space weather protection, planetary defense and space situational awareness.

“Our ability to prepare and mitigate asteroid impacts, solar storms and space debris, is an important part in preserving global commerce and even human life,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the committee’s chairman.

Space weather poses a particularly difficult challenge for the U.S. economy and national security, said Thomas Zurbuchen, an administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

It is, Zurbuchen said in a prepared statement, the result of “complex interactions between the Sun, solar wind, Earth’s magnetic field and Earth’s atmosphere.”

“Space weather impacts so many different technologies, so many different critical infrastructures” that means more needs to be done to recognize and predict its conditions, said William Murtagh, the director of the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

While he praised a 2016 plan to develop a space weather preparedness plan, more needs to be done, Murtagh said.

“We would need an executive order or we would need something from Congress to really move this thing along,” Murtagh said.

In general, space is poorly monitored by the federal government, said Moriba Jah, an associate professor at the University of Texas.

The science of space study, Jah said, has become so specialized that experts in various disciplines are too often unaware of the similarities between the various issues.

House subcommittee proposes changes to EPA lead and copper rule

WASHINGTON — Preventing another water-safety crisis requires the Environmental Protection Agency to write specific rules about the use of lead and copper pipes for water, said the chairman of a key House environmental subcommittee Tuesday.

Federal rules on lead and copper pipe were written in 1991 and updated in 2004, said Rep. Paul Tonko, the New York Democrat who leads the House environment and climate change subcommittee. Since 2004, however, there have been serious crises in Flint, Mich., Pittsburgh and Newark, N.J.

The proposed changes to the rule will identify the most at-risk communities and create plans for rapid responses. This will require increasing sampling reliability, risk communication and replacing lead water service lines.

Changing requirements for drinking water treatment is essential to reducing lead poisoning in water, said Mae Wu, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Science has shown that no amount of lead is safe, Wu said, yet 49 states have at least one water system with lead levels higher than what is mandated by the EPA. She recommended that the EPA streamline this rule because it is affecting children at important developmental stages.

“The Flint babies that were raised on lead contaminated water are now reaching school age,” Wu said. “The city has found the percentage of kids that have qualified for special education doubled.”

Homes with lead and copper pipes make it difficult to reduce the overall exposure to lead in drinking water. Main service lines can be replaced at the expensive of water department and government agencies, while some homeowners can’t afford to replace the pipes in their homes.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., proposed federal grants or tax credits to help people replace pipelines in their homes. He said tax credits are given for homeowners in historic areas and for those who use renewable energy.

Low-income areas and communities of color at the most risk when it comes to lead poisoning and lead corroded pipes. Many of the homes and infrastructure in these areas were built before 1986 when lead pipes were banned, said McKinley.

Homeowners in Newark had to opt out of a program to replace pipes, because the $1,000 entrance fee was too big of a burden, said Kim Gaddy, an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action of New Jersey.

“It’s a health injustice because of the Zip codes we live in,” Gaddy said.

“You can’t do space by the seat of your pants,” reps say at Space conference

WASHINGTON — The United States must act quickly to keep pace with Chinese and Russian competition in space, a House leader on space told a forum of industry representatives Tuesday.

“When we are talking about major investments in our infrastructure, we can’t leave space technology and investments out of that,” said Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

President Trump’s 2021 budget proposal, which he released Monday, “zeroes out education,” Horn said. “We can’t expect to build the next generation of exploration … without a new generation of engineers and scientists.”

“We have a threat right now from our near peers” – China and Russia – and no time to waste, said Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican whose district includes Petersen Air Force Base, the temporary home of the Space Command.

Two Russian satellites are now showing “unusual and disturbing behavior” as they follow an orbiting U.S. satellite, Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond said in a statement released Monday. The House Strategic Forces Subcommittee is expected to be briefed on this development February 12.

Lamborn raised the specter of China being able to develop a permanent military presence on the moon. Last year, China released its plans for a lunar mission, including a moonwalk planned for 2024.

This issue transcends politics, Horn and Lamborn said.

“I think that there is a real strong consensus, in both the House and the Senate, to make this a high priority, regardless of what administration is in the White House a year from now,” said Lamborn, highlighting the ability of legislators to take the lead on space issues.

When asked about changing administrations setting back aerospace progress, Horn was undaunted. “It’s important for our nation, it’s important for our future. It’s not a partisan issue.”

House spars over Trump administration’s efforts to limit Medicaid

WASHINGTON – House Democrats pushed through a resolution Thursday rebuking President Donald Trump’s initiative to give states leeway to limit Medicaid benefits for some low-income recipients.

The resolution, which passed 223-190, attacks an initiative by the Trump administration that would allow states to cap federal funding and cut coverage and benefits for some poor adults. The Healthy Adult Opportunity initiative, announced Jan. 30 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, encourages states to apply for a waiver converting federal funding for certain Medicaid recipients into block grants and exempting states from many provisions.

Democrats asserted the initiative would take away health care for millions of Americans, particularly those who gained health care under the Affordable Care Act and characterized the administration’s guidance as illegal.

“This policy would rip away health care for the most vulnerable of our neighbors,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

Republicans pointed out the initiative left it to states’ discretion whether to apply for the waiver and criticized Democrats for forcing the resolution to the floor without a committee hearing.

They charged the resolution, which is nonbinding, was little more than an attempt to grab media attention.

“It’ll never go to the Senate. It’ll never go to the president. It’s a publicity stunt,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois, Joe Kennedy of Massachussets and Raul Ruiz of California argued the initiative was the latest effort by the Trump administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, with Kennedy pointing to unsuccessful efforts by Republicans to repeal the Act in 2017 when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress.

And while most Republicans ignored the charge, Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said the Affordable Care Act had strained his state’s resources and praised the president for providing a “common sense option” that would not affect children or the disabled.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said block grants like those offered in the waivers would give states the ability to “innovate” more efficient ways to provide health care to their citizens, and Walden said it would encourage states that had not yet expanded Medicaid coverage to citizens affected by the initiative to do so.

Rep. Marc Veasey, R-Texas, called block grants “a hee-hee ha-ha joke.”

Walden said the Democrats could have held hearings on the health care issue instead of focusing on a resolution to rebuke the president. He cited several bipartisan efforts by the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, on which he and several of the Democrats present served.

“If we’d had this discussion in the committee we love so much, maybe we’d have a better outcome here,” Walden said.

Congress pressed to lower prescription drugs

WASHINGTON — Juliana Keeping is overcome with mixed emotions every time she celebrates her son’s birthday. Eli, 7, has cystic fibrosis. Another year older means another $300,000 in medical bills.

“I’m deeply frustrated with the current system,” said Keeping, who testified before the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee Wednesday. “Congress must work to enact legislative solutions that would make drug costs affordable.”

Committee Chairman Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, began the hearing by calling President Donald Trump a liar for saying in his Tuesday State of the Union address that efforts by his administration led to the first decline in prescription drug prices in 51 years. The president called on Congress to pass legislation that would further lower prescription drug prices but provided no details on how he would achieve that goal.

Keeping is able to pay Eli’s medical bills because of patient assistance programs, nonprofit organizations that cover a patient’s copays and coinsurances. The problem with relying on these programs, however, is that they are tied to the patient’s health insurance plan.

“Ninety-seven percent of all patient assistance programs require patients to be on insurance in order to participate,” Keeping said.

Uninsured patients have virtually no access to programs to offer such relief. In addition, those with better health care coverage will receive better assistance. If Keeping lost her job and the health insurance that comes with it, she would also lose the patient assistance program’s payments for Eli’s prescription drugs.

Keeping pleaded with Republican committee members to push for the Senate GOP majority to support H.R. 3, a bill the House passed last year that would require Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate with drug companies for fair and affordable drug prices.

“H.R. 3 is not the answer,” responded committee member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “The answer is H.R. 19.”

H.R. 19, proposed by House Republicans, focuses on restructuring Medicare Part D. According to Tara Hayes, director of Human Welfare Policy at the American Action Forum, H.R. 19 could save the federal government $28.3 billion in reinsurance payments and beneficiaries and more than $10.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs.

“We don’t need to fix the broken patient assistance program; instead, we need to fix the entire broken drug pricing program,” Keeping said.

Another issue in the cost of prescription drugs is that manufacturers provide free samples to medical professionals, said Johns Hopkins University accounting professor Ge Bai.

“In 2016, drug manufacturers spent $13.5 billion on free samples, accounting for 73% of professional marketing for prescription drugs,” Bai said.

Bai suggested that eliminating the free samples would lower drug prices and endorsed a bipartisan bill introduced by subcommittee members Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Devin Nunes, R-Calif., last year. The act would require drug manufacturers and other medical product suppliers to report to the Department of Health and Human Services the number and value of free drug samples given to clinicians each year, to be posted publicly.

Another contributing factor to high drug prices is the large and growing trade deficit in pharmaceutical products, according to Brad Sester, senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Most of the United States’ leading pharmaceutical companies produce their most valuable drugs offshore in low tax jurisdictions like Ireland, he said, noting that $70 billion in pharmaceutical exports falls well short of covering $150 billion in imports. He added that pharmaceutical imports increased by around $40 billion over the last two years.

“The United States’ trade deficit in pharmaceutical products is now as large as America’s trade surplus in aerospace,” Sester said.

Quarantines and travel bans ineffective in combating coronavirus, disease control experts say

WASHINGTON— Experts on disease control said on Wednesday that quarantines and travel bans on China are not enough to control the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and said the U.S. should provide more assistance to China and collaborate with other nations.

“We don’t have a travel ban, we have a travel band-aid right now,” Ron Klain, former White House Ebola response coordinator, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
Klain said the Trump administration should be engaging diplomats globally to help other nations fight the disease, despite China’s refusal to collaborate with other world powers. He also urged the administration to present an emergency funding package to fight the coronavirus.

Reps. Gerry Conolly, D- Va., and Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, are introducing a measure that would establish a permanent government official in charge of epidemic and pandemic preparedness. Klain praised the bill at the hearing, but said additional policies are needed to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.

Jennifer Nuzzo, associate professor and senior scholar at John Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, said at the hearing that quarantines are not effective in combating the coronavirus because it is not known who should be isolated. As the virus rapidly spreads, people who have not been in China may be infected. Isolating travelers from China is insufficient and ineffective, said Nuzzo.

“We don’t know if travelers from other countries have the virus. We also don’t know if they’re already here,” said Nuzzo.

Klain and Nuzzo said monitoring individuals is a preferable to quarantines and travel bans. Foreign entities might stop reporting cases to avoid travel bans from the U.S., while quarantines disincentivize health workers from volunteering abroad, said Nuzzo.

Committee members and witnesses said that the U.S. cannot stop importing essential goods from China, such as vital medical equipment, which offers an additional risk for contamination.

“Reducing the amount of travel is good, but we need to be honest that we will always be at risk because we will never turn off the supply chain of traffic coming into the U.S.,” said Klain.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation, said that Congress is willing to work closely with the Trump administration to fight the coronavirus outbreak. He hopes to establish a long-term policy for fighting epidemics.

“Let’s just stop responding to crisis after crisis,” said Bera. “Let’s actually make this part of our national security agenda.”

House subcommittee calls for a change in maternal and infant care

WASHINGTON–Congress should expand Medicaid to cover a pregnant woman’s prenatal health care as well as the delivery and the baby’s health care, the chairwoman of a House Education and Labor subcommittee said Tuesday.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said the federal government should provide affordable healthcare to women who now have no health care by expanding Medicaid, which currently covers 43 percent of births. She said there needs to be more support for women before and after giving birth through federal aid programs that provide breastfeeding support and help mothers to avoid pre-term births.

The nation’s pre-term birth rate has risen for the fourth consecutive year, March of Dimes CEO Stacey Stewart told the committee.

“It’s not fine that babies of color die at rates far higher than white babies,” Stewart said. “It’s not fine that babies are being born too soon.”

Along with babies being born earlier, the maternal mortality rate is also rising. According to a March of Dimes report, 700 women die each year from pregnancy complications that can happen up to a year after giving birth.

Stewart said there is a lot the United States can learn from other countries with decreasing mortality rates. She said policies that support women are needed including midwifery care and home visiting program.

“We interviewed women and what they want is less intervention,” Stewart said. “They want a midwife. They want someone who looks like them, who understand them.”

Women of color, specifically black women, are affected disproportionately by these health care issues and are up to 4 times more like to die from that than white women.

This is due to the racist research methods of Dr. J Marion Sims said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Sims performed operations on black women without anesthesia to show that black women did not receive pain like white women. Crear-Perry said this idea is still prominent in the field and can help to explain the treatment of black women where their complaints of pain are ignored.

“Racism is the risk factor not my black skin,” Crear-Perry said.

One way Crear-Perry said the treatment of black women can be improved is through implicit bias training for maternal child health divisions and says they would help to improve healthcare.

Maternal mortality is also affected by the access to hospitals and health care providers as there are maternal care deserts throughout the country.

Former obstetrician Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said he represents five counties that do not have a central care facility which means women are forced to drive long distances when they need care. To address this, he said there need to be neighborhood clinics in rural areas. These clinics, ran by nurses, would help to limit hospital visits until absolutely necessary.

“We should continue this (conversation) because this is a travesty in the United States to have these kinds of mortality rates,” Roe said.

Lawmakers seek answers on cannabis

WASHINGTON — Congress should act quickly to change marijuana laws to allow researchers easier access to cannabis so they can conduct tests to determine whether it has medical value and what risks might be associated with using it medicinally, top government health officials said Wednesday.

The University of Mississippi has the only supply of marijuana that researchers who want to conduct Food and Drug Administration-approved tests can use to examine the medical benefits and risks of cannabis. The Controlled Substance Act classifies cannabis as a schedule I drug, which means that it is harder for researchers to gain access to the drug. Having the classification of a schedule I drug also means that there is not a medical value associated with the drug.

The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora D. Volkow made it clear to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, that cannabis research is urgently needed.

“We will try to come up with a process that will allow to safeguard the public, but at the same time facilitate and accelerate research,” she said.

Experts from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration also said quick action is needed.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., stated that researchers “are in a catch-22” due to the fact that they “can’t conduct research until they show cannabis has a medical use, but they can’t demonstrate cannabis has a medical use until they can conduct research.”

Many committee Democrats and Republicans mentioned personal experiences and constituent stories of the positive health effects of cannabis.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., said that some of his friends once snuck cannabis into a hospital for a man who was suffering from cancer and wanted to improve the quality of his life in his remaining days. Rep. Debbie Dingell,D-Mich., said her late husband, former Rep. John Dingell, suffered excruciating pain toward the end of his life and was told that marijuana might help him, but he refused partly because of marijuana’s status as a schedule I drug.

The committee is considering six pieces of marijuana legislation, two of which would legalize marijuana on the federal level.

Marijuana is now legal in 11 states for adults over the age of 21, and legal for medical use in 33 states. With public sentiment for cannabis legalization growing, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are scrambling for answers regarding the health effects of marijuana usage.



Medill Today // March 19, 2020