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What We’re Reading: Native American Health Care Ruling; e-Cigarette Ban Reversal; Health Care Workforce Crisis

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Going forward, the federal government must pay potentially hundreds of millions more to underfunded Native American tribes with health care programs; the FDA reversed its ban on Juul e-cigarettes yesterday as it reviews new court decisions and updated information; hospitals nationwide are experiencing workforce shortages as doctors and nurses increasingly leave the field.

Supreme Court Rules for US to Pay More of Native American Tribes’ Health Care Costs

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 yesterday that the federal government has been underfunding Native American tribes with health care programs for the past 30 years and must pay them potentially hundreds of millions more going forward, according to Reuters. The Supreme Court determined that federal law requires HHS to pay overhead costs that tribes encounter when spending money from Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers; this is a victory for the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, each of which sued over the funding. Considering the ruling, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra called on Congress to ensure that HHS’s Indian Health Service (IHS) division has stable, adequate funding going forward as the cost of the funding could be between $800 million and $2 billion annually.

FDA Reverses Ban on Juul e-Cigarettes

The FDA announced the reversal of its ban on Juul e-cigarettes yesterday as it reviews new court decisions and updated information, according to NBC News. The FDA first demanded the company stop selling products in 2022, but Juul's e-cigarettes remained on shelves pending an appeal. During this time, Juul maintained its status as the second-biggest US e-cigarette maker behind Vuse; the company was initially one of the most successful companies during the first influx of e-cigarette use more than a decade ago. Although Juul’s products are back under agency review, the FDA emphasized that this new status did not indicate that the company would be fully cleared. Despite this, Juul said in a statement that it appreciated the FDA’s latest decision and looks forward to re-engaging with the agency to pursue marketing authorization for its products.

The Health Care Workforce Crisis Has Arrived

Hospitals nationwide are experiencing workforce shortages as doctors and nurses increasingly leave the field, according to Axios. Although a health care worker shortage was predicted to occur years from now, the pandemic and its fallout have resulted in dissatisfied workers and understaffed facilities. More specifically, understaffing complaints are becoming more common as more health care workers cut back hours or leave their jobs, partly due to burnout and poor mental health from the pandemic. Overall, 2 major trends have emerged: a lack of health care workers and those remaining being unhappy; the remaining workers are increasingly unionizing and going on strike amid disputes with their employers. This puts both patients’ access to care and the quality of care at risk, experts say.

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