Have you gotten a glimpse of the green comet making its way near us yet? Some lucky stargazers may be able to witness the icy rock over the course of this month as it closes in on our solar system for the first time in more than 10,000 years.
Today in health, we look at bills coming up in state legislatures with the potential to impact treatment access for transgender adults.
Welcome to The Hill’s Health Care roundup, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. We’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.
Trans youth health care bans now aimed at adults
Lawmakers in at least three states this year have filed legislation meant to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for individuals as old as 26, an escalation of a battle waged nationwide last year over whether minors should be able to access certain prescription medications and procedures.
Bills filed this year in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia aim to bar state health care providers from recommending or administering treatments like puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries to patients younger than 21, signaling an aggravation in the fight over transgender health care.
Another Oklahoma bill filed this month would prohibit adults up to 25 from receiving gender-affirming care in one of the most extreme and restrictive bans introduced to date.
The state’s proposed “Millstone Act,” which gets its name from a Bible verse about punishing adults who harm children, would also block Oklahoma’s Medicaid program from providing coverage for “gender transition procedures” to individuals younger than 26.
“I don’t think it was ever about children,” Erin Reed, an independent legislative researcher, told The Hill this week, referring to state and federal attempts to ban gender-affirming care over the past two years.
“These adult bans show that that’s not what it was about,” Reed said. “It’s about banning care entirely. It’s about forcing transgender people back in the closet.”
Read more here.
Pence: Candidates must stake out abortion positions
Former Vice President Mike Pence argued that his party must embrace an anti-abortion position that puts Democrats on defense in the aftermath of last summer’s Supreme Court ruling, a departure from former President Trump’s reading of the issue.
“What I saw in the last election was that men and women who clearly articulated their position on the sanctity of life did quite well in their election,” Pence said in an exclusive interview with The Hill on Wednesday.
“I think going forward, it’s going to be incumbent on the men and women of our party to stand without apology for the sanctity of human life, to stand on that principle of the unalienable right to life, but also to express compassion for women that are facing crisis pregnancies.”
The former vice president has been among the most outspoken conservatives in calling for states to enact abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer overturning Roe v. Wade.
The abortion quandary: His comments to The Hill underscore the debate within the GOP about how to handle abortion moving forward, after some in the party said it cost them winnable races in November’s midterm elections.
Trump wrote last week on Truth Social that he was not to blame for the party’s underwhelming midterm performance, which saw Republicans only narrowly retake the House and lose ground in the Senate.
Read more here.
PFIZER’S BIVALENT BOOSTER NOT LINKED TO STROKE RISK: CDC, FDA
Following an analysis of vaccine surveillance data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say they have found no evidence of increased risk of ischemic stroke among people 65 and older who receive Pfizer’s bivalent booster.
After Pfizer’s updated, bivalent COVID-19 booster dose was made available, the CDC said its Vaccine Safety Datalink prompted additional investigation into concerns over whether the shot presented a safety concern for people 65 and older.
“Rapid-response investigation of the signal in the VSD raised a question of whether people 65 and older who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent were more likely to have an ischemic stroke in the 21 days following vaccination compared with days 22-44 following vaccination,” the CDC said.
An ischemic stroke, more common than hemorrhagic strokes, occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain, stopping blood flow and potentially leading to brain cells dying. If a stroke is not treated quickly, the effects can be debilitating.
Studies conducted with the use of databases from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Veterans Affairs did not indicate or show an increased risk for ischemic stroke, according to the CDC. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System managed by both the CDC and FDA also did not show an increase in reports of ischemic stroke following a bivalent booster dose.
Read more here.
CERVICAL CANCER DEATHS RISING AMONG OLDER CALIF. WOMEN: STUDY
According to a new study carried out by researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, more California women aged 65 or older are facing diagnoses of late-stage cervical cancer and dying of the disease.
Data from more than 12,000 patients who were diagnosed with the disease between 2009 and 2018 showed nearly one-fifth were at least 65 years old, while 71 percent of older women presented with late-stage disease compared with 48 percent of women under age 65.
Older women also tended to have lower late-stage five-year relative survival rates at 23.2 percent to 36.8 percent, compared with younger women. For those under age 65, late-stage five-year relative survival was measured at 41.5 percent to 51.5 percent.
Despite the disparities documented, CDC guidelines recommend most women stop screening for cervical cancer at age 65, potentially leaving this age group vulnerable, researchers said.
Read more here.
Biden officials tout gains in health insurance coverage
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday reported significant gains in health insurance coverage across numerous demographics in 2021, two days before the enrollment deadline for ObamaCare.
The report issued by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation found that the national rate of uninsured people under the age of 65 fell from 11.1 percent in 2019 to 10.5 percent in 2021, with larger gains made in demographics that have historically had higher rate of uninsured individuals.
Non-English speaking adults, people between the ages of 19 and 49, Latino individuals and American Indian/Alaska Native individuals all saw gains in coverage of about 1 percent or higher.
The report noted the gains in health care coverage were highest among people in households with incomes between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
At the state level, Maine saw the greatest decrease in its uninsured rate between 2019 and 2021, with coverage increasing by 3.2 percent. In that same time frame, Alabama saw the greatest increase in its rate of uninsured individuals, with this proportion increasing by 0.4 percent.
According to a release from HHS earlier this week, roughly 16 million people so far have selected a health care plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, representing a 13 percent increase compared to last year.
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Abortion bans don’t prosecute pregnant people. That may be about to change (The 19th News)
More men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer as PSA screening declines (NBC News)
The FDA no longer requires all drugs to be tested on animals before human trials (NPR)
STATE BY STATE
California Attorney General sues drugmakers over inflated insulin prices (Kaiser Health News)
WCSD looks to tackle student mental health, chronic absenteeism with federal funds (KUNR)
Over 700,000 Wisconsin families expect to be impacted by termination of additional FoodShare benefits (The Post-Crescent)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage.
Programming note: We’ll be off Monday for MLK Day and will return Tuesday.
See you next week!