Category Archives: Government, policy and legal issues
Voters across the country were presented Tuesday with more than 170 ballot initiatives, many on health-related issues. Among them, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California:
- Assisted Suicide: Voters in Massachusetts narrowly defeated a “Death with Dignity” bill.
- Health Exchanges: Missouri voters passed a measure that prohibits the state from establishing a health care exchange without legislative or voter approval.
- Home Health Care: Michigan voters struck down a proposal that would have required additional training for home health care workers and created a registry of those providers.
- Individual Mandate: Floridians defeated a measure to reject the health reform law’s requirement that individuals obtain health insurance. Voters in Alabama, Montana and Wyoming passed similar measures, which are symbolic because states cannot override federal law.
- Medical Marijuana: Measures to allow for medical use of marijuana were passed in Massachusetts and upheld in Montana, which will make them the 18th and 19th states to adopt such laws. A similar measure was rejected by voters in Arkansas.
- Medicaid Trust Fund: Voters in Louisiana approved an initiative that ensures the state Medicaid trust fund will not be used to make up for budget shortfalls.
- Reproductive Health: Florida voters defeated two ballot measures on abortion and contraceptive services: one that would have restricted the use of public funds for abortions; and one that could have been interpreted to deny women contraceptive care paid for or provided by religious individuals and organizations. Montanans approved an initiative that requires abortion providers to notify parents if a minor under age 16 seeks an abortion, with notification to take place 48 hours before the procedure.
- Tobacco: North Dakota voters approved a smoking ban in public and work places. Missouri voters rejected a tobacco tax increase that would have directed some of the revenue to health education.
Samir Soneji, PhD, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program, and an assistant professor at the Dartmouth College Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. His study on the statistical security for Social Security was published in the August 2012 issue of Demography. Read the study.
Human Capital Blog: This study is a follow-up to your previous research. Can you briefly describe what you’ve studied up to this point?
Samir Soneji: Previously we studied the impact of historical smoking and obesity patterns on future mortality and life expectancy trends. For men there’s been a steady decline in cigarette smoking, and so also a gain in life expectancy. Women have also experienced a decline in cigarette smoking, but not as quickly. The rise in obesity has been much more recent than the historic decline in smoking, and we don’t know yet the impact of that rise. There’s a lag—the effect of today’s obesity may affect the population in 15-20 years, or later. One possibility may be that the rise in obesity may partially offset what’s been achieved by the historic reductions in smoking. Taking these factors into account, we found that both men and women will have an increase in life expectancy in the next 25 to 30 years.
HCB: Your new study looks at the solvency of Social Security. Tell us more about what you were analyzing.
Soneji: The Social Security Administration and Medicare use the same mortality and demographic forecasts to determine the number of beneficiaries, and the number of working age adults who are contributing payroll taxes to support those retirees.
This post is part of a series in which Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, grantees and alumni offer perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Hans Noel, PhD, is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University and an alumnus of the RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program.
In the last few weeks, I've been asked by a variety of audiences some version of the question, how will the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act affect the 2012 presidential election?
You might think this would be a hard question to answer, since at the time I couldn't have guessed that the Court would uphold the act in a 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Roberts. But my answer has not changed. How will the ruling affect the presidential election?
But that's not stopping anyone from speculating. Even before the ruling, soothsayers were prognosticating. I think I've heard every variation on following Mad Lib: if the Supreme Court rules up/down/a mix, then liberals/conservatives will be emboldened/demoralized/satiated, and so will be a larger/smaller force in the 2012 election.
While I am sure there are some activists for whom the Affordable Care Act is the most important thing, and there may even be some whose passion changes, the effects will be trivial. Most partisans will vote, as partisans tend to do. And they will vote for the party they are loyal to, as partisans tend to do. What will swing the election will be bigger things than this, notably the state of the economy.
It is also probably true that the ruling—however it had come out—will shape the details of the debate between Romney and Obama. But only the details. The fight over health care is far from over, and the ruling does not take the issue off the agenda. Nor does it elevate it. So what they could say did not change last week.
But the fact that I was asked this question so much is interesting, especially in light of the claim that political scientists are so lousy at forecasting, which lit up the blogosphere a while back. The takeaway from that discussion was (1) political science is not about prediction and (2) political scientists are at worst no better but also no worse than other supposed experts. And yet we still get asked. Even when the answer is often, no, that thing you are so interested in probably does not matter.
Hans Noel is an assistant professor of Government at Georgetown University. He blogs regularly at http://mischiefsoffaction.blogspot.com.
By Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University. This post is part of a series on the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program, running in conjunction with the program’s tenth anniversary. The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program is designed to build the nation’s capacity for research, leadership and policy change to address the multiple determinants of population health. Hatzenbuehler is a member of the program’s 8th cohort.
The topic of same-sex marriage in the United States was once again front and center in the public discourse several weeks ago when North Carolina joined 30 other states in banning same-sex marriage. The debates surrounding same-sex marriage policies have been waged on many grounds—moral, legal, religious, and economic. Conspicuously absent from this debate has been a discussion of whether same-sex marriage bans harm the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
In a New York Times article from May 11, Gary Pearce, a former advisor to Jim Hunt, a Democratic governor in North Carolina, explained that those who voted against same-sex marriage “genuinely and honestly believe it violates their fundamental religious beliefs.” He added, “They don’t really want to hurt people.”