Tag: healthcare

Amy Coney Barrett dodges abortion, healthcare and election law questions

On the second day of hearings before the Senate judiciary committee, Democrats pressed supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on healthcare, election law and abortion rights – and met with little success.



a person standing in front of a counter: Photograph: Demetrius Freeman/EPA


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Photograph: Demetrius Freeman/EPA

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Donald Trump’s third nominee for the highest court dodged questions on how she might rule on a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA); if she would recuse herself from any lawsuit about the presidential election; and whether she would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal.



a man standing in front of a counter: Supreme court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday.


© Photograph: Demetrius Freeman/EPA
Supreme court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday.

Barrett argued that she was not a pundit, citing remarks by Justice Elena Kagan and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg in saying that outside of reviewing a specific case, it was not her place to offer a position.

“No hints, no previews, no forecasts,” Barrett quoted Ginsburg as saying, after the California senator Dianne Feinstein questioned her about how she might rule in any case challenging the legality of abortion.

Barrett is a devout Catholic whose previous statements and affiliations have been closely examined by Democrats and the media. Trump has said overturning Roe v Wade would be “possible” with Barrett on the court.

At another point in Tuesday’s hearing, Barrett cited Kagan in saying she would not give “a thumbs up or thumbs down” on any hypothetical ruling.

Most of the questioning from Democrats centered on the ACA, known popularly as Obamacare, and how a ruling by the high court overturning the law would take away healthcare from millions of Americans. A hearing is due a week after election day. Democrats see protecting the ACA as a productive electoral tactic, having focused on it in the 2018 midterms, when they took back the House.

Barrett said she was not hostile to the ACA, or indeed abortion or gay rights, another area worrying progressives as the court seems set to tilt to a 6-3 conservative majority. Barrett said she was simply focused on upholding the law.

“I am not hostile to the ACA,” Barrett said. “I apply the law, I follow the law. You make the policy.”

Video: Barrett refuses to address whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, despite prodding from Sen. Feinstein (CNBC)

Barrett refuses to address whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, despite prodding from Sen. Feinstein

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Asked about gay rights, Barrett said: “I would not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.”

Her choice of words conspicuously suggested that to her, sexuality is a choice. Amid scrutiny of Barrett’s past, meanwhile, it has been reported that she was a trustee at a school whose handbook included stated opposition to same-sex marriage

Republican senators also questioned Barrett on healthcare, the Iowa senator Chuck Grassley asking if she had been asked during the nomination process if

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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Focuses on Possible Changes to Health-Care Law

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) resumes the Democratic theme on the Affordable Care Act, describing people he says benefited from the health-care overhaul, some of whom are seen in photos the Democrats set up on easels behind them. He begins with a dig at President Trump: “This hearing itself is a microcosm of Trump’s dangerous ineptitude of dealing with the pandemic,” Mr. Whitehouse says, adding that he can’t even keep the White House safe from the novel coronavirus. “The irony is this slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act,” he says.

“Justice Ginsburg hadn’t even been buried” when the president and his supporters celebrated Judge Barrett’s nomination at a “White House superspreader event,” the Rhode Island senator says, citing a description of the event used by Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. President Trump announced the nomination on Sept. 26; Justice Ginsburg was interred three days later at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, an Army veteran.

Mr. Whitehouse closes with a remembrance of Justice Ginsburg; “as to this charade, big donors may love it, but Americans see what’s going on,” he says.

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Republicans defend Barrett confirmation hearing; Democrats warn she would overturn healthcare law

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned of a “long, contentious week” of confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, but pledged to try to deliver a fair process as Republicans aim to sprint President Trump’s nominee to the court by election day.



a group of people sitting at a table: Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett arrives for her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)


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Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett arrives for her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

“This is probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens,” Graham said, addressing the senators in the hearing room and those watching remotely. “All the Republicans will vote yes and all the Democrats will vote no,” he predicted.

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Graham defended Republicans’ decision to move the nomination so close to the November election following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Graham previously promised twice that he would not fill a Supreme Court vacancy if it occurred in an election year. Those assurances came after Republicans in 2016 blocked President Obama from filling a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying it was too close to the election.

“Republicans should honor this word,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) of Graham’s promise, “and let the American people be heard. Simply put, I believe we should not be moving forward on this nomination. Not until the election is ended and the next president has taken office.”

Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm Barrett just days before the election.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about this process,” Graham said.

Democrats are pinning their strategy to block the nomination on tying Barrett to the possible elimination of the Affordable Care Act. The fate of the law will be decided by a Supreme Court case to be heard shortly after the election.

“We can’t afford to back to those days when Americans were denied coverage,” Feinstein said, pointing to past comments by Barrett about problems with the 2010 law.

Republicans view Barrett’s nomination as a rare opportunity to create a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority as well as energize voters to turn out at the ballot box for the president and Senate Republicans in increasingly difficult races.

Two Senate Republicans have voiced opposition to confirming a nominee so close to the election after Republicans blocked President Obama’s pick to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, after Scalia died in February 2016.

Barrett, a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge and former professor at the University of Notre Dame, plans to tell the committee that “policy decisions and value judgments” should be made by elected officials, not the courts, according to her prepared remarks.

Her opening statement, released Sunday, emphasizes a respect for precedent and settled law, and a view that the courts are “not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”

The tension around Barrett’s confirmation hearing has only increased in the wake of two Judiciary Committee Republicans coming down with COVID-19. Both senators could have

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HCA Healthcare to Return $6 Billion in Government Virus Aid

(Bloomberg) — HCA Healthcare Inc. plans to return $6 billion in emergency virus-relief aid received earlier this year, after the immediate business squeeze caused by the pandemic waned for the largest publicly traded U.S. hospital operator.



graphical user interface: In this photo illustration the HCA Healthcare logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.


© Photographer: SOPA Images/LightRocket
In this photo illustration the HCA Healthcare logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.

The company will return its federal relief funds, which include $4.4 billion in accelerated Medicare payments and a $1.6 billion distribution from the Provider Relief Fund. Under the latter program, Congress allocated $175 billion for hospitals and other medical providers, largely in grants that don’t need to be repaid.

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The relief grants allocated under the CARES Act were initially sent to help medical providers deal with lost revenue and additional expenses related to Covid. In guidance last month, the government said lost revenue would be calculated as a drop in year-over-year net operating income.

The change would require providers to show declines in bottom-line profits, rather than top-line revenues, attributable to the virus, so companies that reduced expenses as volumes fell may have to return some money, Spencer Perlman, director of health care research at Veda Partners, wrote in an Oct. 6 report.

A company spokesman said HCA could retain all of the provider relief grants through mid-2021, and possibly some permanently, and it could hold on to the accelerated Medicare payments for 29 months, based on the company’s current understanding of the guidance.

Since the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the U.S., the company has gained experience managing through the pandemic, and “we believe returning these taxpayer dollars is appropriate and the socially responsible thing to do,” Chief Executive Officer Sam Hazen said in a statement.

HCA’s repayments will be funded through available cash and future cash flow. The company’s balance sheet is also less leveraged than its closest peers, with total debt of 3.23 times earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

HCA also reported preliminary results for the third quarter, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $2.03 billion, missing analyst estimates. The results reflect a reversal of $822 million in stimulus income recorded during the second quarter, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company said in a statement.

HCA said hospital volumes in the third quarter were still down compared to the prior year, with same facility equivalent admissions expected to decline by 9%. The company plans to report full results on or about Oct. 26.

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In call with Democratic senator, Barrett declines to discuss how she might rule on health-care law

Particularly scrutinized is a 2017 essay that Barrett penned for a Notre Dame Law School journal in which she argued that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Jr., who wrote the majority opinion when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the health-care law in 2012, “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), who talked by phone with Barrett on Wednesday, said he asked her about a pair of Supreme Court decisions upholding the Affordable Care Act as well as the 2017 essay. Barrett, Coons said, repeatedly declined to speak to the specifics of a case, saying “she wouldn’t get into the details of how she might rule.”

“The ACA is not just on the docket of the Supreme Court,” Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s on the ballot this fall.”

The conversation between Coons and Barrett is part of the traditional Supreme Court confirmation process that has become quite unusual not only because of the intense toxicity around her nomination but also because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the Capitol.

At least eight Democratic senators have met with Barrett — either in person or via phone — while a host of others have refused the courtesy sit-downs because they don’t want to legitimize a confirmation process they say should not occur.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) quietly met with Barrett in the Capitol on Thursday, and in a statement released the following day said her writings on the ACA “continue to give me serious concerns” about her confirmation.

An aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, confirmed that the senator spoke with Barrett on the phone Wednesday, but declined to give further details. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also had a phone conversation; a spokesman said he “walk[ed] her through his concerns about dark-money influence around the Supreme Court, which he called ‘the scheme around the Court.’”

White House spokesman Judd Deere said that during the calls, Barrett “emphasized the importance of judicial independence and spoke about her judicial philosophy and family.”

The meetings are also used to preview some of the lines of questioning from senators at the confirmation hearing. For Barrett, many of the questions from Democratic senators at her hearing starting Monday will center on health care and the fate of the ACA.

In her meeting with Coons, Barrett said that she has had no conversation with President Trump about any particular decision or case. She also made no commitment to recuse herself from any election-related disputes that may rise to the Supreme Court — a call made by a slew of Democrats because of the explicit link that Trump has made between potential election challenges and the need to have a full slate of nine justices to hear them.

Trump announced in a White House ceremony on Sept. 26 that he would nominate Barrett, a judge on the U.S. 7th Circuit

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New Brunswick Medical Society warns of health-care gaps after Clinic 554 closes

New Brunswick’s only clinic offering abortions outside of hospitals and family care practice Clinic 554 has closed its doors to most of its patients. The New Brunswick Medical Society now says this loss will create a gap in health-care services.



a sign on the side of a building: Clinic 554 in Fredericton, N.B., is shown on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The only medical clinic offering abortions in New Brunswick announced its impending closure last week, blaming a provincial policy that refuses to fund surgical abortions outside a hospital. Advocates say rural Canadians across the country face barriers accessing abortions but a small number of clinics and strained healthcare systems make the issue especially pronounced in Atlantic provinces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett


© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett
Clinic 554 in Fredericton, N.B., is shown on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The only medical clinic offering abortions in New Brunswick announced its impending closure last week, blaming a provincial policy that refuses to fund surgical abortions outside a hospital. Advocates say rural Canadians across the country face barriers accessing abortions but a small number of clinics and strained healthcare systems make the issue especially pronounced in Atlantic provinces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

The clinic ended most care on Sept. 30, but some publicly-funded services are still offered to a few vulnerable patients with complex care.

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“I am still seeing some people,” said Clinic 554 owner Dr. Adrian Edgar.

While he hopes to expand his practice again, Edgar says New Brunswick’s new Health Minister Dorothy Shephard has yet to return his calls.

Re-opening “would save the health-care system time, space, money,” Edgar told Global News on Saturday.

Read more: Security removes tents from protesters during vigil for Clinic 554 at N.B. legislature

With the closure of Clinic 554, New Brunswickers lost more than just an abortion clinic.

“The province of New Brunswick has well over 35,000 orphan patients right now who are looking for family doctors and certainly the closure of Clinic 554 is going to add to that list,” Dr. said Chris Goodyear, the new N.B. Medical Society president.

The practice also provided transgender health care and prided itself in being LGBTQ2I+ friendly.

But it constantly faced financial ruin due to lack of funding from the provincial government.

In New Brunswick, abortions are only offered in three locations: two hospitals in Moncton and one hospital in Bathurst, as previous N.B. governments have not repealed a regulation banning the funding of abortions outside of hospitals.

Higgs has also received criticism from the federal government on the Canada Health Act.

Ottawa had actually reduced the Canada Health Transfer to New Brunswick by $140,216, as a result of patient charges for abortion services provided outside of hospitals in 2017.

“I think it’s very clear that there is an obstruction of health-care services in New Brunswick,” Edgar said.

Goodyear says losing the clinic will create a gap in health-care services, and that the Medical Society is still advocating for preservation of the clinic.

“Certainly the closure of the clinic does not mean that our efforts are going to be halted, at all,” said Goodyear.

“We would invite the Premier to sit down with the concerned doctors, the Medical Society and RHAs to have this discussion,” he said.

Read more: 36 senators sign letter in support of Clinic 554

Earlier this week, 36 senators from across Canada released a statement in support of Clinic 554, and Edgar said two out-of-province physicians reached out to him with offers

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