Nonprofit hospitals pursue profits from low-income patients; the Biden administration announced that $1.5 billion would be set aside to battle opioid overdoses and support recovery; an Arizona judge ruled that a state law that criminalizes nearly all abortions could take effect immediately.
In a 2-part investigative series, The New York Times detailed how 2 nonprofit Roman Catholic hospital chains aggressively pursued low-income and poor patients for bill payment and gutted the operations of a small community hospital in a low-income Black neighborhood through the use of the 340B drug pricing program, which allowed it to plow profits back into other services in wealthier areas. Providence, based in Renton, Washington, began a program called Rev-Up to aggressively pursue patients for bill payment or sent them to debt collectors without telling them they were likely eligible for free care. In Richmond, Virginia, Bon Secours Mercy Health targeted the profits generated through 340B, which allows clinics like Richmond Community Hospital in poor areas to buy prescription drugs at discount, charge payers the full price, and keep the difference, for growth in other areas. Under 340B, hospitals are supposed to reinvest the profits back into poor communities. But Bon Secours closed the intensive care unit and many specialists retired, leaving the area at a disadvantage when COVID-19 arrived.
States and territories, including tribal lands, will all see the distribution of $1.5 billion to help fight the increase in opioid overdoses. This budget includes $104 million to be given to rural areas for expansion of treatment and prevention, $20.5 million to increase access to recovery support, and $12 million to improve law enforcement in areas of drug trafficking. This announcement comes as new evidence shows that admissions to drug treatment facilities fell by 23% while substance use disorder rates and overdose deaths increased, with Native Americans seeing the largest increase in overdose deaths.
A judge in Arizona ruled that a law that prevents abortions in all cases except to save the life of the pregnant person could be enacted again. Clinics in the state will immediately halt practice of the procedure. The law first enacted in 1864 was ruled unconstitutional after the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973. However, after the overturning of the landmark decision this past June, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson determined that the judgment blocking enforcement of the state’s ban must now be vacated. Abortion rights advocates are expected to appeal this decision.