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2017’s top health care stories, from ObamaCare to opioids

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This past year has been chaotic, especially in the world of health care. From multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with the American Health Care Act, to the expanding opioid epidemic. Experts from both sides of the political aisle had their opinions on these controversial health topics: 

1 Affordable Care Act 

On his campaign trail, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump said that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act would be one of his very first acts if elected. “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event,” President-elect Trump said to the New York Times at the beginning of 2017. 

Many supporters cheered this move since the cost of the health insurance —they believed — was burning a hole in pockets of millions of Americans. “Democrats and Barack Obama can sing the praises of this law until the cows come home, but no one with a straight face can say that it has made healthcare more ‘affordable’ — except the millions whom we gave coverage to for free,” according to Stephen Moore, who served as an economic adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Moreover, Trump’s push back against the ACA caused a lot of uproar from advocates and lawmakers, alike, including former Republican National Committee chairman and former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele. Steele believed that repealing the ACA wasn’t the answer. “Go home, get your act together, get rid of the slogans and now meaningless promise to ‘repeal and replace,’ but more important, when you return to Washington, come back with a serious and practical approach to repair the damage done by ObamaCare,” Steele wrote in a July column for The Hill. 

2. Opioid Epidemic 

Opioids made news many times this year. Deaths from opioids increased by 33,000 in 2015 to more than 42,200 in 2016, and experts say that the problem, if not tackled, will only get worse. The president recognized its destructiveness and declared it a public health emergency in October. 

However, physician and former U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) believed that this declaration was not substantial enough to help battle the epidemic. “… (S)uch declarations were designed to deal with infectious diseases, not addiction and substance abuse disorders. There is also no clear way for paying for it. At present, the Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS amounts to a grand total of $57,000,” he wrote.

Bipartisan cooperation would be one of the best ways to tackle the opioid problem, according to former U.S. secretaries of Health and Human Services, Kathleen G. Sebelius and Tommy G. Thompson. “But here is the good news: At a time of so much rancor in the national discourse, this is an issue that transcends dogma. The opioid epidemic hits red and blue states, urban and rural settings, and people of every race and ethnicity without regard to political leaning,” Sebelius and Thompson stated. 

3. Abortion Access

Abortion remains one of the top hot-button moral issues of our time. Pro-life and pro-choice activists have written many op-eds vehemently campaigning for their sides of the issue. 

According to Lila Rose, president and founder of the national pro-life organization Live Action, many myths about the issue still exist; she debunked claims that still linger around abortion, including the fact that many Americans disagree with a late-term abortion ban. 

In her October piece, Rose argued that Americans agree that abortions should not be performed after the 20-week mark. “Most Americans, especially women and millennials, support prohibiting abortions after five months,” she wrote. 

However, banning abortions at a 20-week point would hurt poor women and women of color, according to Heather D. Boonstra, a director of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute: “…(T)hese are the very groups bearing a disproportionate burden of unintended pregnancies.”  

4. Medical Marijuana 

To help ease the burden of the opioid epidemic, experts called for the legalization of medical marijuana. In a January op-ed, Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws wrote: “The available evidence shows that legal cannabis access is associated with reduced levels of opioid abuse and mortality, as well as declines in the use of other addictive substances.”  

Whether this is true or not, many policy analysts believe the decision to legalize marijuana should be left to individual states. “Growing marijuana is, of course, a species of agriculture. Processing is manufacturing. The ban on personal consumption is a health regulation. The Constitution places control over all those activities squarely within the state, not the federal, sphere,” wote Rob Natelson, who is a former constitutional law professor and a senior fellow at the Independence Institute, in an August opinion column. 

Tags abortion access Affordable Care Act Barack Obama Donald Trump Health care Marijuana Opioid epidemic Phil Gingrey Stephen Moore

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