What We're Reading: Republicans Push for Expanded Exemptions for ACA Penalties

What we're reading, September 13, 2016: GOP bill would exempt people who live in areas with 1 Obamacare plan or none from penalties for not having coverage; hepatitis C drugs threaten to bust prison budgets; and school challenges for children with mental illness.

Republican senators have introduced a bill that exempts additional people from Obamacare penalties for not having health coverage. According to Bloomberg, the “Protection from Obamacare Monopolies Act” would exempt people who live in places where no plans or only 1 plan is being offered. The bill would impact about 19% of individuals buying health plans on the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s insurance exchanges for 2017. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the lead sponsor—Pinal County in Arizona almost had no ACA insurance options for 2017, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona will offer plans next year.

Hepatitis C drugs are so expensive, and so many convicted criminals have the disease, that treatment is straining prison budgets across the United States. State and federal prisons are reserving the drugs for the sickest patients, while monitoring the health of other inmates infected with hepatitis C, reported The Wall Street Journal. While physicians in the prison system realize treating the inmates means they won’t spread the disease when they get out, the cost is too much to bear. In Alaska, treating all inmates with hepatitis C would cost 3 times the annual budget, and it would cost Pennsylvania $600 million to treat all infected inmates.

School can be a challenge for the 20% of children with a mental illness, who can suffer from anxiety, have difficulty focusing, and exhibit social challenges. Half the time these students drop out of high school because schools don’t meet their needs, according to Kaiser Health News. Schools are getting better at recognizing the impact mental health has on academic and social success, but they still vary in the degree to which they can accommodate mental health issues.