The United States Capitol building

May Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. HealthyWomen urges passage of the CURES 2.0 Act to improve women’s health and access to care

In a recent Op-Ed published in The Hill, Senior Policy Advisor Martha Nolan urged the United States Congress to pass the CURES 2.0 Act, the second iteration of a 2016 law that passed with bipartisan support to advance medical research and improve access to new treatments. Nolan argued that CURES 2.0 will have a significant positive impact on women’s health. Some key provisions of the bill include ensuring continued and expanded access to telehealth, encouraging greater diversity in clinical trials to make sure that biological differences between women and men are studied and addressed, promoting health insurance coverage for advanced medical tests to guide treatment, and supporting family caregivers, most of whom are women.

Earlier this month, HealthyWomen hosted a webinar on the same topic called “CURES 2.0: Leading Women’s Health Forward.” The webinar included experts from across the healthcare system, hosted by HealthyWomen’s CEO Beth Battaglino, RN-C. The panelists argued for Congress to pass the legislation and explained the importance of different aspects of it. For example, CURES 2.0 would support family caregivers with family leave policies, training and skill-building. It would expand data collection from diverse communities and prioritize patient-reported symptoms and outcomes to incorporate patient experiences into the development and evaluation of new treatments. Other important aspects of CURES 2.0 include modernizing clinical treatments and improving patient care as well as expanding access to telehealth and to genetic testing to identify cancer risks and guide treatment.

2. North Carolina may expand Medicaid after resisting for years

This month, the North Carolina state Senate introduced a bill to expand Medicaid in the state. Approximately half a million low-income residents of North Carolina could gain insurance coverage if the expansion goes through. Though Republican leaders in the state have historically opposed Medicaid expansion, they’re now embracing it. Current incentives offered by the federal government would give North Carolina $1.5 billion in funding for the expansion, which may help explain the policy shift. Additionally, the Republican state Senate leader said that Medicaid reforms have made Medicaid expansion a sound fiscal policy. North Carolina is one of 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid. States that have expanded Medicaid have experienced benefits including lower mortality rates, better health outcomes and economic gains.

3. Most states working on broadening Medicaid pregnancy services but some pregnancy-related service gaps remain, according to a new report

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report this month showing that most states report that they are working on strengthening Medicaid coverage for pregnancy-related services. Medicaid funds four in 10 births in the United States, and most states offer robust benefits for pregnant women. To improve maternity services and maternal health outcomes, several states are working to address substance use disorders in pregnant and postpartum women, maternal mental health, and racial and ethnic health disparities. The report also found that half the states are expanding coverage for home births, and most cover dental care for pregnant women. However, few states cover doula services to support pregnant people during pregnancy and labor, and most states do not cover fertility services for Medicaid enrollees.

4. Iowa is eliminating sales taxes on period products

According to Period Equity, 26 states charge residents sales tax on feminine hygiene products. Soon, Iowa won’t be one of them. This month, the Iowa state legislature passed a bill that, among other things, would eliminate the so-called “tampon tax,” the sales tax on period products. The bill passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate. The vote comes as a movement to reduce inequities related to menstruation has led 15 states to pass laws to provide free period products in schools thanks, in part, to successful lobbying by teen activists.

5. Cancer deaths among Black people have decreased but are still high compared to other groups

According to a newly published analysis in JAMA Oncology, cancer deaths in Black individuals in the United States dropped 2% between 1999 and 2019. Among the most significant decreases in mortality were stomach cancer deaths in women. Overall, mortality in women dropped for most types of cancer except liver and uterus cancers. Despite overall drops in mortality from cancer in Black men and women, they were still higher than for people of other races.

Another new study showed that 40% of Black patients with metastatic breast cancer were never told about the chance to participate in a clinical trial, yet 92% of Black survey respondents said they’d be interested in learning more and 83% said they would be likely to consider enrolling.

6. Children who identify as transgender tend to maintain that identity, according to new research, even as state laws are making transgender care more difficult to access

According to new research, 94% of children who began identifying as transgender at a young age were living as transgender five years later when the study ended. Almost two-thirds of those were using puberty-blocking medications or sex hormones to medically transition genders. On average, children in the study began identifying as transgender around age six.

These findings come as some states are taking steps to make it harder for transgender children to transition. For example, Alabama recently passed a law making it a crime to prescribe or administer gender-affirming puberty blockers to people under age 19, making it the first state to pass such a law. Arkansas had previously passed a similar ban but it has been blocked by a judge.

On the other hand, 19 states have begun or are hoping to offer legal refuge to transgender youth and their families who may be displaced by state laws that could allow courts to remove children from their homes if their parents allow them to have gender-affirming health care.