Expand Medicaid: Mississippians without jobs amid pandemic, no where to turn

This article was written by Linda Dixon and originally published by Clarion Ledger on June 25, 2020


Recently, Gov. Tate Reeves underscored the importance of remaining vigilant to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Mississippi continues to see hundreds of cases daily with significant burdens placed on rural hospitals and the African American community. The pandemic is set to cause long-lasting impacts on our economy with nearly 43 million workers across the country filing unemployment claims as a result of the virus. Even when people file claims, Mississippi’s administrative barriers make benefits nearly impossible to obtain

State legislators must prioritize the thousands of Mississippians struggling with health and financial insecurity by expanding Medicaid and strengthening our health care system.

Medicaid expansion is crucial to our COVID-19 recovery efforts. Newly unemployed Mississippians have lost health insurance and face a global pandemic without adequate access to health care.

This loss of coverage will likely be sustained as the country prepares for several months of heightened unemployment. 

Under current requirements, childless adults who are not otherwise eligible due to age or disability have no access to Medicaid — despite significant federal funding available to support such coverage.

Parents with young children have some access to Medicaid but are restricted to staggeringly low income levels. A single parent with one child making $400 a month is ineligible for Medicaid in Mississippi but would receive coverage in Louisiana and Arkansas — both of which have expanded Medicaid.

Mississippi’s stringent requirements mean many are left without options and without a lifeline to help them get back on their feet.

COVID-19 also has revealed striking health disparities in Mississippi. While African Americans represent 38% of the state’s population, as of June 7, they represent 60% of COVID-19 cases and 53% of COVID-19 deaths.

These disparities are the result of decades of systemic barriers that have put affordable, effective health care out of reach. 

Expanding Medicaid is a key step toward addressing health disparities and to ensuring our state has the best long-term response to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.

Our neighbors in Louisiana and Arkansas have access to a safety net to help people stay healthy and weather the current pandemic. Mississippians deserve the same.


The Global Food Donation Atlas: Overview of Government Grants and Incentives for Food Donation in Five Countries

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas project maps out the laws and policies related to food loss and waste (FLW) in countries around the world. By comparing countries side-by-side and creating a first-of-its-kind interactive resource designed to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger and climate change

While we are looking at numerous solutions to food loss and waste, one known effective solution is the use of government grants and incentives. These funds can be used to:

  • Acquire equipment and infrastructure for cleaning, storing, processing and transporting food for donation
  • Support new innovations and emerging technologies that will make food donation more efficient and sustainable

These funds are especially critical in countries where infrastructure limits food recovery efforts and where donors consider tax incentives to be insufficient. In the first year, we have analyzed 5 countries; in the coming year, we will analyze 10 additional countries. See below to see how the first year countries compare:

Pictures describing government grants and incentives

United States

The U.S. stands out among countries as one of the most generous in terms of governmental support for food recovery and donation. Ongoing federal support goes to all states from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides nearly $100 million in administrative support and $500 million in surplus food items to local agencies per year. Several federal competitive grant programs also support food banks and food donation efforts. Various states also appropriate funds for state food purchase programs, including the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP).

Canada

Canada stands among countries as one of the few that offers governmental support. The federal government released a Food Policy Guide for Canada on “food-related decisions that includes a $26.3 million fund to provide resources for innovative food waste reduction proposals. Furthermore, they created the Local Food Infrastructure Fund, a 5-year, $50 million initiative ending March 31st, 2024. This includes funding to help small organizations improve infrastructure and purchase equipment while also supporting the work of larger organizations to provide access to safe and nutritious food.

Argentina

While Argentina does not offer a federal law that explicitly allocates grant funding for food loss and waste or food donation, the government has readily engaged with private sector actors to support food recovery innovation. For example, in 2019, the federal government launched a contest to grant non-reimbursable financing for innovative food waste solutions in Argentina’s horticultural sector. This grant is administered under the government’s National Food Loss and Waste Reduction Program and in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank through its “#SinDesperdicio” platform. This public-private partnership has the potential to support emerging solutions to food waste and food recovery throughout the country.

India

Government assistance is particularly important in India, where a lack of infrastructure and capital frequently limit food recovery efforts. Government recognition programs can also function as a significant incentive for food donors. Nevertheless, there are currently no federal grants or public funding mechanisms specifically designed to support food donation in India, nor has the government created any recognition programs.

Mexico

Mexico has identified insufficient cold-chain infrastructure as well as a lack of financial support for food recovery as among the main drivers of food loss and waste. Nevertheless, there are currently no federal grants or public funding mechanisms specifically designed to support on-farm recovery or food donation. Investments in cold-chain management have focused on export supply chains rather than domestic food recovery efforts, and federal grant funding has targeted rural development and poverty reduction but failed to support food donation.

Conclusion

Food donation offers a critical solution to ensuring that food gets to people who need it rather than winding up in a landfill. This, in turn, requires supportive laws and policies that enable food donation to reach its full impact. One way that governments can support food donation is through the provision of grants and incentives. While these five countries offer differing levels of government funds for food donation, all five could benefit from creating or enhancing government grants and incentives in order to increase food recovery and decrease food loss and waste.

New on the Podcast: Emily Broad Leib and Doug O’Brien Talk International Food Donation, and Chef Pierre Thiam Calls for Fonio on American Tables

This article was originally published by Food Tank.


 

Today on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Dani is joined by Emily Broad Leib, the director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and Doug O’Brien, the vice president for network programs at the Global FoodBanking Network. Together, they talk about the new Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, an interactive guide that maps food donation laws and recommends ways to further reduce food waste. Data for five countries—Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States—was released this month, and the atlas will eventually cover 15 nations.

Then, chef Pierre Thiam talks with Dani about the potential for the ancient African grain fonio to impact the lives of farmers in West Africa. He is the co-founder of Yolélé Foods, a company that imports fonio to the U.S. from countries like Thiam’s native Senegal, and helps support the smallholder farmers who grow it. Thiam says fonio can help address malnutrition, food and economic insecurity, and even climate change.

You can listen to “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” on Apple iTunesStitcherGoogle Play MusicSpotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re listening, please subscribe, rate, and review the show—it would mean the world to us to have your feedback.

Welcome Summer Clinic Interns 2020

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation’s Health Law and Food Law and Policy Clinics are pleased to be working with clinic interns for summer 2020. Below is an introduction to some of the interns we are working with this summer:

Leah Costlow is an intern in the Health Law and Policy Clinic. She is pursuing her M.S. in Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Her interest in equitable and sustainable food systems emerged from 10 years of working on farms in her home state of Maine. In her work at the Friedman School, she is focused on the intersections of the food and health systems, and on the impact those systems have on regular people. Leah graduated from the Great Books program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she gained a deep appreciation for the power of critical questioning and collaboration to bring about change. In her spare time, she reads, runs, and sings with Early Music ensembles in the Boston area.

 

 

 

Amanda Dell is an intern in the Food Law and Policy Clinic. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and food justice activist. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in Food Policy and Programs at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. At Friedman, she is a co-chair of the Student Alliance for Social Justice and Racial Equity group and is an active member in the Service Scholars community service group. In her spare time, Amanda is a consultant for scratch-cooked school food programs and uses her expertise to assist with menu development, nutrition education curricula, and program analysis. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship in Washington, DC where she focused on farm-to-school programs. On the weekends, you can find Amanda volunteering on farms, cooking simple tasty recipes, or adventuring in the outdoors.

 

 

MJ McDonald is an intern in the Food Law and Policy Clinic. She is a rising 2L at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Before law school, she studied Classics at the University of Puget Sound and worked for the school’s social justice center. There, MJ became interested in the intersections of food access, gender identity, and structural racism. At Richardson, MJ is the president of the Food Law Society, and she co-founded a food bank for students experiencing food insecurity. After law school, MJ hopes to become a professor, so she can advocate for equitable food systems through research and teaching. In her spare time, MJ loves to garden and swim in the ocean.

 

 

Regan J. Plekenpol is an intern in the Food Law and Policy Clinic. She is currently an MPH candidate in Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. She graduated from Dartmouth with degrees in both Public Policy and Human Centered Design, where she became passionate about the intersection of food systems and the environment, with a focused interest on improving access to nutritious and sustainable food sources. Prior to grad school, Regan worked with clients as a board certified holistic health and wellness coach and volunteered at an urban hydroponics farming start-up in TriBeCa. She is an environmental activist and loves researching and experimenting with zero waste living and exploring new plant-based recipes.

 

 

 

Ali Schklair is an intern in the Food Law and Policy Clinic. She is currently pursuing her MPH in Nutrition at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. After earning her undergraduate degree from Smith College, Ali moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a job coach on a farm that employs people with disabilities. Working on a farm inspired her interest in other areas of the food system. Ali moved on to work as a food policy fellow at a consumer rights non-profit where she became an expert on food loss and waste. Throughout, she has been interested in working on removing the systemic barriers that fuel disparities in nutrition outcomes and food access. In her spare time, she loves to bike, hike, and do anything else outdoors.

 

EPA Administrator Wheeler Appoints New Members to the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee

WASHINGTON (June 17, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler is announcing the appointment of thirty-three members to the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC). Established in 2008, the FRRCC provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities.

“One of my priorities for EPA has been to restore trust for our agency among agricultural stakeholders and rural communities,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “President Trump has been clear about the Administration’s commitment to agriculture and rural America, and as part of that commitment, I am excited to reinstate the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee in 2020 with full membership. This committee will provide valuable input on how EPA’s decisions impact rural America, and I look forward to receiving the committee’s recommendations.”

To build a broad and balanced representation of perspectives for the FRRCC, EPA selected 33 members to represent a variety of relevant sectors from across the U.S., including agricultural stakeholders and allied industries; academia; state, local, and tribal government; and nongovernmental organizations. In selecting committee members, EPA reviewed the quality of applications received between November 7 and December 31, 2019 for nearly 150 nominations, and considered qualifications such as: whether candidates have experience in agricultural issues of relevance to EPA programs, are actively engaged in agricultural production, have related leadership experience, demonstrated ability to examine and analyze complex environmental issues with objectivity and integrity, have experience working on issues where building consensus is necessary, and are able to volunteer time to the committee’s activities.

The committee had no current members at the time of solicitation; therefore, these 33 nominees will constitute a brand new committee, and will each serve two or three year terms beginning on June 15, 2020. The new members of the FRRCC hail from twenty-four states and one territory in all ten U.S. EPA Regions, with six of the Members working in multiple states or at a national capacity. The Committee expects to meet approximately twice a year beginning in late Summer of 2020.

The new FRRCC members and their affiliations are:

  • Michael J. Aerts – Minor Crop Farmer Alliance and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association; Maitland, FL
  • Barry Berg – East Dakota Water Development District; Brookings, SD
  • Emily M. Broad Leib – Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic; Cambridge, MA
  • Don Brown – Anchor Three Farm, Inc. (Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture 2015-2019); Yuma, CO
  • Jamie Burr – Tyson Foods, Inc.; Farmington, AR
  • Phillip H. Chavez – Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Diamond A Farms, Mohawk Valley Farms, Catlin Canal Company, and Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch; Rocky Ford, CO
  • John R. H. Collison – BlackOak Farms and Oklahoma Rural Association; Edmond, OK
  • William (Bill) Couser – Couser Cattle Company; Nevada, IA
  • Michael Crowder – National Association of Conservation Districts, Barker Ranch, and Benton Conservation District; West Richland, WA
  • Matthew Freund – Freund’s Farm and CowPots LLC; East Canaan, CT
  • Sharon Furches – Furches Farms Partnership and Kentucky Farm Bureau; Louisville, KY
  • Jeffrey Gore, Ph.D. – Mississippi State University – Delta Research and Extension Center; Stoneville, MS
  • David Graybill – Red Sunset Farm and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Mifflintown, PA
  • Dennis Haugen – Dennis Haugen Farms, General Grain Cleaning Co., and North Dakota Grain Growers Association; Hannaford, ND
  • Alex P. Johns – Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.; Okeechobee, FL
  • Jimmy W. Kinder – Kinder Farms and Oklahoma Farm Bureau; Walters, OK
  • Jeanette L. Lombardo – California Food and Agribusiness Advocates; Ventura, CA
  • Lauren C. Lurkins (Incoming Committee Vice Chair) – Illinois Farm Bureau; Bloomington, IL
  • Gary Mahany – Gary Mahany Farms; Arkport, NY
  • Nicholas McCarthy – Central Valley Ag Cooperative; York, NE
  • Jesse McCurry – Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association; Colwich, KS
  • William Thomas (Tom) McDonald (Incoming Committee Chair) – Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC; Dalhart, TX
  • Jay Ivan Olsen – Utah Department of Agriculture and Food; Salt Lake City, UT
  • Christopher L. Pettit – Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Office of Agricultural Water Policy; Tallahassee, FL
  • William R. Pracht – Pracht Farms and East Kansas Agri-Energy; Garnett, KS
  • Graciela I. Ramírez-Toro, Ph.D. – Inter American University of Puerto Rico – Center for Environmental Education, Conservation and Research (CECIA); San Germán, PR
  • Charles R. Santerre, Ph.D. – Purdue University – Department of Nutrition Science; West Lafayette, IN
  • Beth C. Sauerhaft, Ph.D. – American Farmland Trust; Chappaqua, NY
  • Stacy Wayne Smith – S & A Smith Farms; New Home, TX
  • Davie Shane Stephens – DJ Stephens Farm and American Soybean Association; Wingo, KY
  • Secretary Jeff M. Witte – New Mexico Department of Agriculture; Las Cruces, NM
  • Amy Wolfe – AgSafe; Escalon, CA
  • James E.  Zook – Michigan Corn Growers Association and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan; Lansing, MI

For further information:

Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC) website: www.epa.gov/faca/frrcc

General information on federal advisory committees at EPA: www.epa.gov/faca

Strengthening Food Donation Operations During the COVID-19 Crisis

This article was written by Regan Plekenpol, FLPC Intern.


The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and The Global FoodBanking Network Release an Issue Brief to Guide Governments Around the Globe.

Among the many devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is a rapid rise in global hunger and food insecurity. In the coming months, the number of people facing acute food insecurity —135 million in 2019— is expected to double.[1]The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of this “looming food crisis.”[2] It further called upon governments to take a strategic, multi-sector approach in implementing policies to combat food system failures, supply chain fractures, and barriers to food access. [3] 

According to a new issue brief from the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), governments should recognize food donation operations as integral to this approach. Strengthening Food Donation Operations During COVID-19: Key Issues and Best Practices for Governments Around the Globe advocates for public-private partnerships to mitigate hunger and food insecurity during the pandemic.[4] The brief was released as part of The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, a partnership between FLPC and GFN that maps food donation laws in 15 countries, and recommends policy solutions to the most common legal barriers. (Learn more about the project and explore initial findings, here).

Food banks and other food recovery organizations have long served as a solution to widespread socioeconomic repercussions of poverty and food injustice. Globally, over 1/3 of the food produced—or 1.3 billion tons—ends up in landfills,[5] while more than 820 million people are undernourished.[6] This paradox reveals a massive system inefficiency that undermines both human and planetary health. Under ordinary circumstances, food banks help to mitigate the damage by redirecting safe, surplus food to those who need it most. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, disruptions in food supply chains have exacerbated these inefficiencies, contributing to greater food loss and waste and a heightened risk of hunger for far too many. As a result, food banks around the world are seeing a surge in demand, yet are facing newfound challenges to effective operation. 

According to FLPC and GFN, there is a need for greater government action to help food banks respond to these challenges and to ensure that food donation operations are better integrated as part of the global pandemic response. The issue brief illustrates how governments can better protect and leverage these vital organizations to promote food security and food system resilience. It details how enhancing food donation operations will enable governments to rapidly deploy emergency food aid, strengthen national and local food systems, prevent costly food loss and waste, and alleviate hunger and food insecurity for at-risk populations. To achieve these outcomes, the issue brief calls for governments to take the following policy actions:

  • Formally recognize food banks and food recovery organizations as ‘essential’ to official emergency response;
  • Deploy food banks and food recovery organizations to complement existing social protections, especially school feeding programs for children;
  • Route additional funds and food supplies to help food banks and food recovery organizations meet rising demands and increased operational costs;
  • Exempt food banks and food recovery organizations from certain emergency response restrictions to ensure uninterrupted operation of food donation activities.

Though not exhaustive, these best practices are considered most responsive to concerns expressed by GFN’s member and affiliate organizations in 42 countries. GFN conducted a set of surveys in April and May of 2020 to better understand how COVID-19 and government response measures were impacting organizational activities.[7]

Findings from these surveys confirm that COVID-19 has drastically shifted the global food landscape in a way that has made food donation operations more critical than ever. New sources of food loss and waste, and new barriers to food access have emerged due to restrictions on movement; the closure of restaurants, schools, institutional kitchens, and hospitality venues; labour shortages; and shuttered processing plants, among other disruptions. Low income populations and families with children are especially affected by increased difficulty in accessing assistance programs like free school lunches and charitable kitchens. Many individuals are therefore in need of emergency food assistance and are turning to food banks for support.

However, many of these facilities lack the capacity to sustainably respond to the uptick in demand. The issue brief highlights that more than half of food banks (54%) in GFN surveyed countries reported an immediate and critical funding shortfall, with food banks around the world anticipating a shortfall of 76-100%.[8] In order for food banks to meet the needs of beneficiaries, they will require more paid staff and protection for those employees, expanded transportation and logistics support, and explicit government recognition as an essential component of official crisis response and preparedness measures.

Legal recognition of food banks as ‘essential service’ organizations allows governments to more easily allocate such resources to food rescue and distribution operations at the federal, state and local levels.[9] For example, such explicit recognition has allowed the U.S. government to allocate more than $3 billion in direct commodity purchases for food banks and $850 million in support of food donation efforts.[10] Yet, to date, few countries formally incorporate food banks as part of official disaster response and preparedness measures.

Excluding food banks from these strategies represents a missed opportunity on several fronts, as food banks have the potential to help bolster social protection programs and reach marginalized populations. In several countries, governments have started to tap into the existing infrastructure and local service networks of these organizations in order to reach the most food insecure. Still, there is an opportunity to improve upon this collaboration. In particular, the brief details the innovative approach some governments have taken in collaborating with food banks to provide meals to school children in the wake of pandemic school closures.[11]

Greater consultation with food recovery organizations when developing and implementing emergency response will ensure that governments enable rather than undermine food donation operations.[12] Carving out exceptions to curfews and other protectionist measures that impede continued operations, for example, is an important step in promoting positive collaboration. Government action that does not accommodate, engage, and remove barriers from food banks in the emergency response weakens capacity to attend to the basic rights of its citizens.

In fact, even in this unprecedented crisis, governments still bear the primary duty to progressively realize the right to food for all people.[13] This means taking affirmative steps to ameliorate hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition, especially for those who shoulder the dual burden of poverty and COVID-19. Achieving this goal requires policies that directly strengthen the operations of food banks and food recovery organizations, while avoiding COVID-19 response measures that inadvertently or purposefully undermine food donation efforts.

Based on these principles, the issue brief is intended to inspire greater collaboration with these operations through discrete, targeted policy action. As the pandemic continues, governments must afford food donation operations greater attention, both as essential providers of humanitarian relief during this crisis, and as a crucial social safety net partner in the future.


[1] COVID-19 will double number of people facing food crises unless swift action is taken, World Food Programme (April 21, 2020), https://www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-crises-unless-swift-action-taken.
[2] Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Q & A Food & Agric. Org. of the United Nations (FAO), http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/impact-on-food-and-agriculture/en/, (last visited June 18, 2020).
[3] Id.
[4] FLPC and GFN, Strengthening Food Donation Operations During COVID-19: Key Issues and Best Practices for Governments Around the Globe (2020), https://www.foodbanking.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Global-Food-Donation-Policy-Atlas-COVID19-Issue-Brief.pdf
[5] Food & Agric. Org. of the U.N., Global Food Losses and Food Waste—Extent, Causes, and Prevention 4 (2011), http://www.fao.org/3/a-i2697e.pdf
[6] Food & Agric. Org. of the U.N, et al., The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Safeguarding Against Economic Slowdowns and Downturns 6 (2019), http://www.fao.org/3/ca5162en/ca5162en.pdf.
[7] GFN, COVID Pulse Survey government partnerships – April 2020 (39 countries represented, 43 food banks/national networks respondents) May 2020 (45 countries, 48 food banks/national networks respondents) (on file with authors).
[8] FLPC and GFN, supra note 4 at 6 (2020).
[9] Id. at 2.
[10] Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Pub. L. No. 116-127 (2020); Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Pub. L. No. 116-136 (2020); USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, USDA (Apr. 17, 2020), https://www.usda.gov/media/ press-releases/2020/04/17/usda-announces-coronavirus-food-assistance-program.
[11] FLPC and GFN, supra note 4 at 4 (2020)
[12] Id. at 8.
[13] See International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 11, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force Jan. 3, 1976) and UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 12: The Right to Adequate Food (Art. 11), E/C.12/1999/5 (12 May 1999).

The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation or Harvard Law School. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.

‘This Is Deadly’: Trump HHS Scraps Protections for Transgender Patients and Those Seeking Abortions

This article was written by and originally published by Common Dreams on June 13, 2020


In a move widely decried by LGBTQ, reproductive, and human rights advocates, the Trump administration late Friday finalized a healthcare rule that revokes Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary people, patients seeking abortions, and those who do not speak English.

“No one should fear being turned away by a medical provider because of who they are or the personal health decisions they have made.”
—Fatima Goss Graves, NWLC

“This is deadly and all of us should be outraged,” declared ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling. “This is beyond heartless.”

“While people are facing alarming rates of unemployment, a loss of health insurance, and a global pandemic, the Trump administration has rolled back rules meant to ensure people are not turned away from healthcare because of who they are or what language they speak,” she said.

“The Trump administration,” Melling added, “has made a mission out of putting politicians and religious beliefs above a patient’s healthcare.”

Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) said in a statement that the administration “should be ashamed of itself for finalizing a rule that puts the lives of the most marginalized in danger during a global pandemic” and warned patients will be “put at risk by this rule.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also issued a warning Friday, saying that “the new rules released today are hateful and cruel, and will keep people from being able to get the care they need to live happy, healthy, and productive lives.”

“Even as the death toll and catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic grows and people take to the streets, the Trump administration remains focused on denying equal access to healthcare to transgender people,” Keisling said. “The Trump administration has waged a non-stop campaign against transgender people, taking every opportunity to deny us the ability to live our lives as who we are.”

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, also weighed in, the Associated Press reported. Bailey said that “the federal government should never make it more difficult for individuals to access healthcare—during a pandemic or any other time.”

The rule, announced in a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), focuses on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, which prohibits discrimination against patients in line with federal civil rights statutes. Those statutes include Title IX, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex.

“In 2016, the [Obama] administration issued a regulation implementing Section 1557 (the 2016 rule) that redefined sex discrimination to include termination of pregnancy and gender identity, which it defined as ‘one’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female,” HHS said Friday.

“HHS will enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology,” the department said. “The 2016 rule declined to recognize sexual orientation as a protected category under the ACA, and HHS will leave that judgment undisturbed.”

According to the AP:

The new rule would also affect the notices that millions of patients get in multiple languages about their rights to translation services. Such notices often come with insurer ‘explanation of benefits’ forms.

“This sanctioning of discrimination in healthcare is unlawful and immoral, and doing so while our country loses thousands of lives daily and health inequities across the board persist is especially egregious,” Goss Graves said.

“No one should fear being turned away by a medical provider because of who they are or the personal health decisions they have made,” she added. “This is beyond unacceptable, and we are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure patients come first.”

The NWLC has teamed up with the Transgender Law Center, Harvard Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund to challenge the rule. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced in a statement Friday that it also intends to file to a lawsuit.

“We cannot and will not allow Donald Trump to continue attacking us,” said HRC president Alphonso David. “LGBTQ people get sick. LGBTQ people need healthcare. LGBTQ people should not live in fear that they cannot get the care they need simply because of who they are.”

“It is clear that this administration does not believe that LGBTQ people, or other marginalized communities, deserve equality under the law,” he added. “But we have a reality check for them: we will not let this attack on our basic right to be free from discrimination in healthcare go unchallenged.”

As David put it: “We will see them in court, and continue to challenge all of our elected officials to rise up against this blatant attempt to erode critical protections people need and sanction discrimination.”

The HHS announcement came not only during LGBTQ Pride Month but also—as David and other critics noted—on the fourth anniversary of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were killed and dozens more were injured, the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in American history.

Amid pandemic, new research provides a roadmap to fight hunger and climate change through increased food donation

This article was originally published by Harvard Law Today on June 10, 2020


HLS’s Food Law and Policy Clinic identifies key barriers and policy actions to reduce food waste

 

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a first-of-its-kind interactive resource to inspire long-term policy solutions to food waste, hunger, and climate changeThe Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. In partnership with The Global FoodBanking Network, and with the support of the Walmart Foundation, The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas maps the laws and policies affecting food donation around the globe and provides recommendations to prevent unnecessary food waste and improve food distribution to those in need. The research focuses on Argentina, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the first five of 15 countries participating in this project.

While hunger everywhere is on the rise due to the impacts of COVID-19, one-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There has long been a need for countries to bridge the gap between surplus food and the growing need for food for the most vulnerable; the pandemic has profoundly exacerbated that need. The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas provides guidance so food system actors will be more likely to distribute safe, surplus food to food insecure populations, instead of sending it to the landfill.

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas looks at six main barriers to food recovery: food safety for donations, date labeling, liability protection for food donations, tax incentives and barriers, government grants and funding, and food waste penalties or donation requirements. It identifies several opportunities for governments to prevent unnecessary waste and to promote food donation. Examples of policy recommendations that apply across several countries include:

  • Clarify national food safety guidance as to the rules that apply to donated products;
  • Establish clear, federal guidelines for dual-date labeling, featuring expiration dates to convey when food is no longer safe to eat or “best by” dates for food that may safely be consumed and donated once the date has passed;
  • Offer liability protection to food donors and food recovery organizations that act in good faith; and
  • Remove tax barriers and provide incentives so it is less expensive to donate food than it is to dispose of it.

“It’s more important than ever for policymakers, government agencies, food donors, companies, food banks, and the public to understand the impact of unnecessary food waste in their countries and the need to change it,” said Emily Broad Leib ’08, faculty director at FLPC and clinical professor at Harvard Law School. “The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas is the first research study to compare food donation policies and best practices across the world, providing us with the global perspective we need to address this complex issue,” Broad Leib concluded.

Food banks worldwide depend largely on product donations to provide food to those facing hunger. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many food banks are seeing increases in demand for service. Through a combination of research and on-the-ground field work with food bank staff, food industry professionals, government officials, and food recovery organizations, FLPC researchers developed accessible country-specific legal guides and policy recommendations to outline best practices and long-term solutions for increased food donations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any situation we have ever experienced before. Food bank organizations in our network are struggling to meet demand and get food to those who need it most,” said Lisa Moon, President and CEO of GFN. “The release of this project is extremely timely as it provides a roadmap for organizations and shines a light on global food system challenges for policymakers.”

FLPC will release similar reports for ten additional countries in the coming year: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

“Walmart Foundation has a long-standing commitment to increasing access to healthier foods in communities around the world and we are pleased to support the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, because of its potential to accelerate effective and sustainable solutions,” said Eileen Hyde, Director of Sustainable Food Systems and Food Access for Walmart.org. “This project provides not only groundbreaking research to address the complexity of public policy relating to food donations, but it also presents clear opportunities to improve how surplus food gets to communities that need it.”

Legal guides, policy recommendations, executive summaries, and an interactive map to compare food donation laws and policies across countries are available at atlas.foodbanking.org/

HHS Moves to Curtail Abortion, Transgender Health Protections (2)

This article was written by Shira Stein and originally published by Bloomberg Law on June 12, 2020


The Trump administration has finalized a policy that would remove women seeking abortions and LGBT people from the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination protections, the HHS announced Friday.

The regulation would let health-care workers, hospitals, and insurance companies that receive federal funding refuse to provide or cover services such as abortions or transition-related care.

This continues the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back protections in health care for LGBT people. The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights sees preserving “religious freedom” as essential to making sure health-care professionals don’t get penalized for the actions they do or don’t do in their jobs because of their moral beliefs.

“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress. We are unwavering in our commitment to enforcing civil rights in healthcare,” OCR Director Roger Severino said in a statement.

The rule will also keep protections for individuals with disabilities to physically access health-care facilities, technology to assist the visual or hearing-impaired, and protections for non-English speakers.

Legal Challenges Planned

Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal and advocacy organization, plans to challenge the rule, attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said in a statement.

“At a time when the entire world is battling a dangerous pandemic, which in the United States has infected more than 2,000,000 people and killed more than 116,000, it is critical for everyone to have ready access to the potentially life-saving health care they need,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.

“The Trump administration has enshrined its discriminatory interpretation into the HHS rule book but that does not—and cannot—actually change the law. However, this is enough to cause confusion and hurt our communities,” Sasha Buchert, senior attorney and co-director of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, also plans to sue, President Alphonso David said in a statement.

The Human Rights Campaign said it will argue that removal of these protections “exceeds the administration’s authority to define sex discrimination under the ACA and grossly undermines the law’s primary goal of eliminating barriers and broadly expanding access to healthcare and health education programs.”

The Transgender Law Center, Harvard Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center also plan to sue, National Women’s Law Center CEO and President Fatima Goss Graves said in a statement.

“No one should fear being turned away by a medical provider because of who they are or the personal health decisions they have made. This is beyond unacceptable, and we are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure patients come first,” Goss Graves said.

Another OCR rule that allows health-care workers to deny care based on their religious and moral beliefs was tossed out by three courts and has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The initial regulation creating these protections, written during the Obama administration, barred health providers and insurers from discriminating against people based on their gender identity or the termination of a pregnancy.

That rule was struck down by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in October 2019 and was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in January.

‘Embolden Discrimination’

Lawmakers from the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus said the latest rule would “embolden discrimination” and is “cruel and unconscionable.”

“The Administration’s efforts to unlawfully roll back Section 1557’s protections is shameful. It not only denies people their lived experiences but undermines their ability to seek health care with dignity,” the lawmakers said.

HIV advocates, including members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, say the regulation would hinder the administration’s initiative to lower the spread of HIV.

However, conservatives are celebrating the decision and its protections for health-care workers and insurers.

“The Trump administration is right to formally rescind Obamacare regulations that radically altered the meaning of ‘sex’ to mean things it doesn’t,” Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement.

The Obamacare rule “would have required doctors, hospitals, and health care organizations to act in ways contrary to their best medical judgments, their consciences, and the physical realities of their patients, or face steep fines and become easy targets for unreasonable and costly lawsuits,” Anderson said.

The rule is estimated to save $2.9 billion over five years in regulatory burden due to eliminating the requirement that health-care providers send patients information in 15 or more languages in mailings.

“Now more than ever, Americans do not want billions of dollars in ineffective regulatory burdens raising the costs of their healthcare,” Severino said.

—With assistance from Lydia Wheeler, Ayanna Alexander

(Updates 11th and 12th paragraphs with more organizations planning to challenge rule.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

Trump Administration Finalizes Harmful Rule to Eliminate ACA Anti-Discrimination Provisions

Today, the Trump Administration released its rule to eliminate protections against discrimination in health care. The rule interprets the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Section 1557, which prohibits federally funded health care entities from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. Today’s rule change redefines what it means to discriminate “on the basis of sex,” including as it relates to gender identity and abortion. The rule also makes significant changes to language access provisions and the scope of who is subject to Section 1557 protections. If fully implemented, the changes will have a profound impact on access to health care for transgender people, transgender people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with limited English proficiency, and women. The rule change fails to acknowledge the nation’s discussion on systemic racism in America, and it is especially dangerous in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we need everyone to have equitable access to health care. 

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI), Transgender Law Center, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center have teamed up to fight this rule and we will do everything in our power to prevent it from taking effect. CHLPI is preparing an in-depth analysis to ensure advocates and patients have the tools they need to understand current and future implications of the rule change. Subscribe to CHLPI’s Health Care in Motion online digest to receive our more specific analysis in the coming days. For more information about Section 1557 and the Administration’s aim to eliminate anti-discrimination provisions, read this Health Care in Motion issue describing the rule as it was proposed last year. 

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