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In the US, the Right to Health is in Peril

State of the Union is Poor for Millions Due to Trump’s Health Policies

Protesters rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. during US House voting on the American Health Care Act, which would repeal major parts of the 2000 Affordable Care Act know as Obamacare, May 4, 2017. © 2017 REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

On February 5, President Donald Trump will deliver the annual State of the Union address. One thing is clear: two years after his inauguration, the right to health in America is in peril.

The right to health does not guarantee a right to be healthy, but it does oblige governments to enact policies promoting available and affordable basic health services without discrimination. Governments should take particular care to ensure access to those most likely to, face obstacles – the poor, minorities, persons with disabilities, women, and children, among others. Many of Trump’s signature policies have instead undermined this fundamental human right.

Though attempts to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, many of its key components remain under attack. In 2017, the number of Americans covered by health insurance declined for the first time since the ACA was implemented. The administration permitted states to impose work and drug testing requirements on Medicaid recipients, policies that have already resulted in loss of eligibility for thousands of people.

Numerous Trump administration policies are placing the health of LGBT people at risk, including the expansion of religious or moral exemptions for health care providers and the refusal to apply the ACA’s anti-discrimination provisions to transgender people.

The President has led a relentless effort to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care, primarily through proposed regulations that would limit women’s access to reproductive health and information through federal family planning funds, and would defund Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of women’s health care in the United States. Meanwhile, nearly any employer claiming religious or moral objections to birth control can be exempted from the ACA’s requirement that they provide contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance plans.

Nearly two years after declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, attempts to restrict Medicaid threaten to undermine access to drug treatment for millions of people. With a misguided focus on punitive drug policies, the administration has opposed evidence-based interventions such as supervised injection sites and is missing opportunities to increase access to naloxone, the overdose reversal medication.

In the last two years, 22 people died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, including two children in December. Our own research has shown how during the Obama years, many such deaths have been linked to improper medical and mental health care in immigration detention. Trump has done nothing to address that problem.

Here and elsewhere, the Trump administration has shown its lack of respect for the right to health, and the State of the Union is suffering as a result.

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