U.S. Health and Human Services stays restrictions on mifepristone

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to put a lawsuit on hold late last week that could have longer term implications for the abortion medication mifepristone. On Friday the HHS, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration, filed in Hawaii district court a request to stay a lawsuit that has been ongoing around mifepristone since 2017.  The ACLU, which also filed for the stay, is suing the U.S. Health and Human Services on behalf of a Hawaii clinician. The ACLU and the Hawaii clinician are suing because the FDA’s in-person pickup requirement for mifepristone requires patients in Hawaii to have to fly between islands to receive a single pill. Once a patient has picked up mifepristone at a clinic, they can go home to take it. The FDA requires abortion patients to travel to a clinic to pick up mifepristone because the abortion medication is under the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), drug safety program intended for medications with serious safety concerns. 

Mifepristone has been in the FDA’s REMS program since the FDA approved the prescription drug in 2000.

Immigrant children returned to West Texas facility despite reports of squalid conditions

“Immigrant children returned to West Texas facility despite reports of squalid conditions” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection

EL PASO — More than 100 undocumented immigrant children have been returned to a U.S. Border Patrol facility in West Texas despite reports of deplorable conditions in the small holding facility. A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson confirmed that more than 100 children had been returned to the facility in Clint, a small town just east of El Paso. The news was first reported by The New York Times. The facility has been under intense scrutiny after reports surfaced last week alleging children were held without adequate water, food and proper sanitation.

Trump administration proposes rule to loosen curbs on short-term health plans

Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under a proposed rule released Tuesday by the Trump administration that could further roil the marketplace. “We want to open up affordable alternatives to unaffordable Affordable Care Act policies,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “This is one step in the direction of providing Americans health insurance options that are more affordable and more suitable to individual and family circumstances.”

The proposed rule said short-term plans could add more choices to the market at lower cost and may offer broader provider networks than Affordable Care Act plans in rural areas. But most short-term coverage requires answering a string of medical questions, and insurers can reject applicants with preexisting medical problems, which ACA plans cannot do. As a result, the proposed rule also noted that some people who switch to them from ACA coverage may see “reduced access to some services,” and “increased out of pocket costs, possibly leading to financial hardship.”

The directive follows an executive order issued in October to roll back restrictions put in place during the Obama administration that limited these plans to three months.

Medicaid chief suggests feds are willing now to approve work requirements

The Trump administration signaled Tuesday that it would allow states to impose work requirements on some adult Medicaid enrollees, a long-sought goal for conservatives that is strongly opposed by Democrats and advocates for the poor. Such a decision would be a major departure from federal policy. President Barack Obama’s administration ruled repeatedly that work requirements were inconsistent with Medicaid’s mission of providing medical assistance to low-income people. The announcement came from Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), who was scheduled to address the nation’s state Medicaid directors Tuesday. A press release issued in advance of the speech said allowing states to have work requirements is part of her plan to help give states more flexibility.

Heinrich seeks info on treatment of children whose parents were deported

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined 14 other Democratic Senators in asking two federal departments for information on the treatment of children whose parents were deported. The 15 Senators, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, asked for information from the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services Department on what happens to children, who are U.S. citizens, whose parents are deported. Related: Trump invites bids to build wall, cites importance of ‘aesthetics’

“These children are United States citizens, and the deportation of their parents leaves them vulnerable in myriad ways,” the senators wrote. “Abruptly separating from parents is a highly destabilizing, traumatic experience for children, and one that carries long term consequences such as feelings of loss and grief, economic hardship, and increased risk of neglect and abuse.”

They also requested to know how many children since January 2015 have been placed into the child welfare system because their parents have been deported, how much their foster care costs taxpayers and what policies are in place to ensure care for children whose parents have been arrested pending deportation. The senators also asked if DHS would seek a funding increase for support of social services as a result of increased foster care.