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What We’re Reading: ACA Mandate Ruled Unconstitutional; FDA Authorizes Menthol Vaping Products; Local Economies Affected by Rising Hospital Prices

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A federal appeals court has ruled a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, which allows a health task force to require insurers to cover preventive health measures without out-of-pocket costs; the FDA’s recent decision to authorize 4 menthol vaping products drew harsh criticism from pediatricians and antitobacco groups; rising health care prices are lowering American wages and causing job losses.

Appeals Court Rules ACA HIV-Prevention Mandate Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has ruled a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, which allows a health task force to require insurers to cover preventive health measures without out-of-pocket costs, according to NBC News. More specifically, Braidwood v Becerra centered on small businesses in Texas that objected to covering pre-exposure prophylaxis in their employee health plans. Although the ruling by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is currently limited to the plaintiffs, legal experts expect the case to advance to the Supreme Court because it poses questions about the constitutionality of the ACA’s authority; the Supreme Court has recently demonstrated interest in cases on the delegation of congressional authority to experts and agencies. In response, public health advocates expressed concerns that the country’s fight against HIV could be compromised if the Supreme Court ultimately voids the authority of the task force.

Antitobacco Groups Upset With FDA for Approving Menthol Vape Products

The FDA’s recent decision to authorize 4 menthol vaping products drew harsh criticism from pediatricians and antitobacco groups, according to CNN. The products, made by NJOY, an Altria company, include disposable e-cigarettes and nonrefillable pods, which are used with the company’s reusable vaping device; the nicotine levels in these products range from 2.4% to 6%. The FDA noted that Friday’s authorizations do not mean these products are safe or FDA approved. However, the agency explained that evidence showed that the products could help adult smokers make the switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes. Although e-cigarettes were created as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes and a way to help people quit smoking, massive advertising campaigns targeting children led to a vaping epidemic among young people. Consequently, antitobacco groups and pediatricians called the recent authorizations a “blow to public health,” warning of catastrophic consequences to children.

Local Economies Affected by Rising Hospital Prices

New research shows that rising health care prices are lowering American wages and causing job losses, according to The Wall Street Journal. When hospitals increase their prices, insurance premiums for employees rise, leading companies to cut payrolls to manage costs. Therefore, the study examined data from about 300 hospital mergers between 2010 and 2015, along with corporate filings with the Labor Department on fully insured premiums and employee tax records of unemployment and earnings. It found that as hospital prices went up 1%, there was a corresponding rise in unemployment; the researchers also discovered that income-tax revenue dropped, and payments for tax-funded unemployment insurance increased by 2.5%. The economic impact is particularly severe in areas where hospital mergers grant significant market power. Although the Trump and Biden administrations have taken steps to address hospital inflation, rising health care costs are a persistent issue, contributing to wage inequality and labor market challenges, especially for middle-income workers.

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