Five controversial health actions on Trump’s agenda

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The Trump administration is expected to push ahead with a range of controversial health policies next year despite Democrats retaking the House.

Democrats captured the House majority in part on their health-care message. But despite that there are a slew of actions where the administration is moving ahead on its own agenda.

Here are five controversial moves Trump officials are expected to make on health care.


Roll back transgender protections

A new policy from the Trump administration could limit or completely eliminate federal protections for transgender individuals.

The move would narrow the definition of gender under a federal civil rights law to either male or female, as defined by a person’s sex at birth.  It’s being spearheaded by the Department of Health and Human Services and reportedly being pushed across multiple agencies.

{mosads}The potential change has alarmed activists and medical professionals. The American Medical Association, the country’s largest physician lobbying group, said it will “oppose efforts to deny an individual’s right to determine their stated sex marker or gender identity.”

The new policy could be related to a broader proposed rule that’s been under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget since April, that opponents say would make it easier for doctors and hospitals to deny treatment to transgender patients and women who have had abortions.

That rule is expected to roll back a controversial anti-discrimination provision buried within ObamaCare, which prohibits health care providers and insurers who receive federal money from denying treatment or coverage to anyone based on sex, gender identity, or termination of pregnancy, among other conditions.

Religious providers say they expect the Trump administration’s rule would merely reinforce their right not to provide treatment that’s against their beliefs.


Limit abortion providers from getting federal money

The administration is expected to finalize regulations in January that would make it harder for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to receive federal family planning money.

The rule would ban clinics that receive Title X family planning funds from referring women for abortions while also removing a requirement that clinics counsel women on abortion as an option.

It would also require Title X grantees have a physical and financial separation from abortion providers.

Anti-abortion groups, like the Susan B. Anthony List, have pushed the Trump administration to implement these rules as a way to cut Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from the program.

Title X funds organizations offering family planning services, like birth control and pregnancy tests, to low-income women and men.

Similar regulations were issued under former President Ronald Reagan, and later upheld by the Supreme Court, but never went into effect due to a lengthy legal battle.

The regulations are expected to be in effect for the next batch of Title X grants, which begin in April.


Approve more state Medicaid work requirements

The Department of Health and Human Services is committed to allowing states to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries.

The administration has approved work requirements in five states so far, and several more are expected in the coming months.

Just this week, the administration reapproved a plan in Kentucky to charge premiums, impose work requirements and remove people from the Medicaid program if they don’t comply.

The initial effort was blocked by a federal judge, but by re-approving it with only technical changes, the administration showed its commitment to forge ahead despite criticism.

Opponents say the requirements are a way to punish poor people. They argue the requirements are only meant to kick people off Medicaid and save states money.

Arkansas was the first state to implement a work requirement, and more than 12,000 people have lost health coverage as a result.

The administration insists work requirements are empowering, and help people lift themselves out of poverty and government dependence.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma sounded a defiant tone when she announced the administration’s approval of Wisconsin’s work requirements at the end of October.

“We will not retreat from this position,” Verma said. “Community engagement requirements in Medicaid are not a blunt instrument. This is a thoughtful and reasonable policy, and one that is rooted in compassion.”


Indefinitely detain migrant families

The Trump administration is seeking to indefinitely jail migrant children with their families, a policy that would overturn 20 years of protections for immigrant children.

The administration is expected to issue final regulations that would terminate and replace the Flores agreement, which has governed the detention of migrant children since 1997.

The plan, which was issued in September, would allow immigration officials to keep children and their parents detained together for the entire length of their court proceedings, which could take months in some cases.

Comments on the proposal were due earlier this month, and the rule could be made final next year.

The Flores rules are the result of a settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit over the physical and emotional harm done to children held in jail-like settings for extended periods. The settlement was only meant to be temporary, until it could be written into federal law.

Multiple administrations have challenged the rules and attempted to extend the time migrant children can be detained, but the federal judge overseeing the case has rejected those attempts.

The Trump administration is trying something novel; no administration has attempted to replace the Flores agreement with new regulations. It’s not a guarantee of success, and advocates have promised a challenge as soon as the final rules are announced.


Loosen nursing home emergency preparedness rules

Senate Democrats are decrying a move by the Trump administration to change safety rules for nursing homes.

The administration says the proposal would reduce a regulatory burden and save money for providers. But critics say that instead of making nursing homes safer, the proposal would put seniors at risk.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the administration is moving in the opposite direction of what they should be doing in the wake of hurricanes last year that left dozens of people dead across multiple states.

Last year, 12 people died when a Florida nursing home lost power in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In Texas, multiple facilities decided not to evacuate after Hurricane Harvey, despite warnings about the threat of catastrophic flooding.

The original emergency preparedness requirements went into effect just last year, more than a decade after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General first called for reform in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A report from Senate Finance Committee Democrats included 18 recommendations to improve nursing home safety during natural disasters. But Wyden said the administration is ignoring them in order to “pad the pockets of medical providers.” 

Jessie Hellmann contributed.

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