By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Director of Health Policy

Senate Republicans Unveil Replacement Healthcare Bill

On June 22, 2017, Republican senators unveiled their version of the bill repeal and replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act, known to most as Obamacare. The Senate bill looks similar to the House-backed healthcare bill passed in May 2017. Central to the Senate’s bill are proposed cuts to Medicaid expansion, along with eliminating a net investment income tax that impacts higher earners. The proposed bill provides more tax subsidies for lower-income individuals than its sister bill from the House of Representatives, but it’s still expected to raise costs for poorer Americans.

Within hours of the bill’s release, four Republican senators came out against it—putting the GOP short of the votes needed for the bill’s passage. Democrats came out united against the bill, decrying the GOP’s secrecy in developing it without any input from the party’s representatives. As it stands, the bill doesn’t have the necessary votes, which means it will likely have new iterations in the future. ONS will continue to keep a watchful on the progression of the Senate’s healthcare legislation.

Single-Payer Healthcare System Would Have High Price Tag

As the healthcare debate continues to rage on in Washington, DC, other states throughout the country as exploring the options of offering state-based universal healthcare to its citizens. California, in particular, is leading the change into a potential single-payer system. However, recent reports indicate that the price tag would be steeper than they imagined.

The Urban Institute, a bipartisan agency, estimated that a single-payer system in the United States would raise spending by $32 trillion through the next 10 years. This suggests that a major tax hike would be required to offset the increased spending. The next four highest spending countries with universal health care—Canada, Australia, France, and Great Britain—spend less on their entire health care than the United States does on the small percentage of the population the government covers. Proponents suggest that government regulation would drive down runaway medical costs, but the price tag would still be enormous. The hope is that some combination of private- and public-payer health care will help expand coverage and keep costs manageable .

FDA Commissioner Comments on 2016 Youth Tobacco Survey Results

The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey results are in, and the numbers are overwhelmingly positive. The number of middle and high school students who reported current tobacco use dropped from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016. The report was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Tobacco Products. According to the information released, the decline in tobacco use among middle and high schoolers comes from a drop in e-cigarette usage within the age group. Moreover, tobacco control and cessation tactics have likely had a positive impact on reducing the number of underage tobacco users.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, released a statement shortly after the results were posted. Gottlieb was mostly complimentary of the numbers; however, he noted work still needed to be done.

“Every day in the United States, more than 2,500 youth under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 400 youth become daily cigarette smokers,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “It is also clear from these most recent numbers that youth are continuing to experiment with, or becoming regular users of, a wide range of other tobacco products.”

Gottlieb mentioned the FDA’s continued commitment to reducing the number of tobacco users in the United States, especially in underage populations. ONS is committed to the FDA’s goal of tobacco cessation and will continue to educate patients of the dangers of smoking and tobacco use.

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