Policy & Practice


EC Veto Override

The Massachusetts legislature voted to override Gov. Mitt Romney's veto of legislation to expand access to emergency contraception. The new law will require hospital emergency departments to make emergency contraception available to rape survivors and will allow specially trained pharmacists to dispense EC without a prescription. The law was vetoed by the governor in July. Gov. Romney (R) said in his veto message to the legislature that he opposed the legislation because it would make EC available to minors and because it would change the laws of the state as they relate to abortion. “To those who believe that life begins at conception, the morning-after pill can destroy the human life that was created at the moment of fertilization,” Gov. Romney said in his veto message.

Abstinence-Only Programs Challenged

Opponents of the abstinence-only sex education programs have filed a legal complaint claiming that the federally funded programs are providing false and inaccurate information. Two groups—Advocates for Youth and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States—filed a challenge to the information in the programs under the Data Quality Act of 2000. They cited a 2004 report from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Government Reform that found that many federally funded abstinence-only programs contained false information, including misrepresentation of the effectiveness of condoms and the risks of abortion. The groups are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately stop funding programs that fail to provide medically accurate and complete sexual health information. “Those who make the rules must abide by the rules,” William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said in a statement. “HHS's own guidelines were specifically designed to ensure that only high-quality and scientifically sound data are disseminated to the American public.”

DC's Medical Liability Crisis

A recent survey by the Medical Society of the District of Columbia shows that 30% of the city's physicians plan to retire early or already have retired as a result of rising medical liability insurance rates. And 56% of the physicians surveyed said they plan to drop out of or have already dropped out of Medicaid and/or other low-reimbursing health plans because of rising rates. Only 4% of the survey respondents described their medical liability insurance rates as “fair and reasonable,” according to the medical society. “The crisis caused by the very high cost of medical liability insurance in D.C. is expanding and may soon be irreversible if action is not taken now,” medical society President-Elect Damian P. Alagia III, M.D., said in a statement. The results are based on 201 responses to a survey sent electronically to more than 1,300 physicians in the city in September.

Domestic Violence Screening

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services should develop best practices for domestic violence screening and distribute them to state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Currently 48 states have some type of policy on screening for domestic violence in their TANF program, but the approaches vary widely, the report said. Although HHS has issued information on screening, it has not issued guidelines on best practices. The report is based on GAO's survey of the TANF programs around the country and their policies for dealing with domestic violence situations. GAO investigators also conducted in-depth site visits to five states. The report is available online at

Part B Premiums on the Rise

Monthly Medicare Part B premiums will be $88.50 in 2006, an increase of $10.30 from the current premium, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced. The agency cited continued rapid growth in the intensity and utilization of Part B services. “This growth is seen in physician office visits, lab tests, minor procedures, and physician-administered drugs. It also includes rapid growth in hospital outpatient services,” the agency said. Part of the premium increase is necessary to increase funds held, for accounting purposes, in the Part B trust fund. Though premiums are rising, most Medicare beneficiaries will see much lower out-of-pocket health care costs in 2006 because of the savings in drug costs from the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the agency claimed. About 25% of beneficiaries can receive assistance that pays their entire Part B premium, and 33% can receive assistance for their Part D premium.

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