The U.S. government is seeking to further protect the “conscience and religious freedom” of health workers whose beliefs prevent them from carrying out abortions and other procedures, in an effort likely to please conservative Christian activists and other supporters of President Donald Trump.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday it will create a division within its Office of Civil Rights to give it “the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
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The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon advanced the nomination of Alex Azar to run HHS, putting him one step closer to heading a department that’s been in turmoil in the Trump administration’s first year.
The 15-12 vote, which fell largely along party lines, clears the way for a vote on the Senate floor to install Azar atop the sprawling health agency, which has been without a permanent leader since Tom Price’s resignation in September amid scrutiny of his use of charter jets.
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“The Trump administration’s action today is cruel,” said Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey. The new policy is “the latest salvo of the Trump administration’s war on health care,” according to a health-care advocacy group. “The pain is the point” of the policy, wrote columnist and economist Paul Krugman.
They were attacking the Trump administration’s decision last week to allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. But far from being a “cruel” action designed to inflict “pain” on the vulnerable, the administration’s decision is completely reasonable.
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Sen. Lamar Alexander said he wants to add legislation to try to stabilize Obamacare’s insurance exchanges in a long-term spending deal, which Congress could pass as early as next month.
The comments from the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee come as Congress is nearing a government shutdown Friday, with no deal for a short-term spending deal. Senate GOP leadership and President Trump have committed to the Obamacare bills, but House GOP leadership has not.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders will hold an online town-hall meeting next Tuesday regarding his single-payer health-care legislation. Mr. Sanders calls it “Medicare for All.” But the text of the bill itself reveals a more accurate name: Medicare for None. The Orwellian way in which Mr. Sanders characterizes his plan speaks to the larger problem facing the left, whose plans for health care remain so radical that speaking of them honestly would prompt instant repulsion from most voters.
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