HHS proposes allowing healthcare providers to decline performing services based on moral or religious objections; HHS secretary nominee will advance to full Senate vote; a government shutdown could have long-lasting public health effects.
The Trump administration will allow healthcare providers to decline to perform services based on moral and religious objections. According to The Wall Street Journal, the move is part of an effort to protect religious rights and rolls back anti-discrimination protections put in place by the Obama administration. Current regulation under the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination by healthcare providers who receive money from the federal government. The proposal from HHS would allow providers to decline to perform procedures such as gender reassignment surgery and abortions.
President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next HHS secretary, Alex Azar, has passed the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 15 to 12. The vote was mostly along party lines with Senator Thomas R. Carper, D-Delaware, breaking ranks with Democrats to vote with Republicans, reported The Washington Post. During his hearing, Azar said his priorities would be making healthcare more affordable, rewarding Medicare providers for promoting good health, and combatting the opioid epidemic. His nomination will now go before the full Senate for a confirmation vote.
The federal government is again on the brink of a shutdown if Democrats and Republicans do not come to an agreement on a spending deal, and it could have long-lasting public health consequences. STAT reported that if there is a government shutdown, the FDA would have to forgo things like updating medication labels and food safety inspections, and the National Institutes of Health could stop enrolling patients in clinical trials. In addition, the shutdown would occur amid a severe flu season and the CDC would have to furlough key staff. CDC would only have 39% of employees in place and HHS would furlough roughly half of its overall staff.