Senator Elizabeth Warren is asking the federal government to speed its review of the ban on gay men donating blood.
Warren’s office said she and a core group of four other lawmakers co-wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, signed by more than 80 colleagues, after a constituent from Roslindale complained to her that his blood had been rejected for donation after the Marathon bombings. Senator Edward Markey and Representatives Jim McGovern, John Tierney, and Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts all signed on as well.
“For me, this has been a basic issue of fairness and of science. Blood donation policies should be grounded in science, not ugly and inaccurate stereotypes,” Warren said.
The letter to HHS cites a recent resolution from the American Medical Association asking that the ban be lifted “in favor of a policy based on individual risk factors other than sexual orientation.”
The letter says that science around HIV/AIDS has changed since the epidemic began more than three decades ago. It also expresses concern” with the pace of HHS’s review of the current policy and requests documents, criteria, and plans for finishing the review.
The American Association of Blood Banks, the Red Cross, and American’s Blood Centers have been in favor of a policy change since 2006, according to Warren’s office.
An HHS spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the agency is conducting additional studies “to help inform policy discussions” that aren’t yet complete.
“HHS is committed to continuously improving the safety and availability of the nation’s blood supply,” spokeswoman Diane Gianelli added.
— NOAH BIERMAN
House votes to block IRS from carrying out health law
WASHINGTON — In its last action before a five-week summer recess, the House took another jab at President Obama’s health care law Friday, voting to prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or carrying out any provision of the law.
The bill, approved by a vote of 232-185, now goes to the Senate, where it has virtually no chance of approval. Obama said he would veto the measure if it got to him.
The House has now voted 40 times, by Republican counts, to repeal or roll back some or all of the 2010 law, which is expected to provide coverage to 25 million people who lack health insurance.
Under the law, the IRS will play a key role. It will provide tax credits to low- and moderate-income people to help them buy private insurance. It can impose penalties on people who go without insurance and on larger employers that fail to offer coverage to full-time employees.
Republicans said the tax agency could not be trusted.
“The IRS has been abusing its power by targeting and punishing American citizens for their political beliefs,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader.
But Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said, “Neither the IRS nor the Department of Health and Human Services will have access to medical records or other personal history, no access whatsoever.”
Levin said Republicans, in their zeal to undo the health care overhaul, were neglecting other important issues.
Separately, Obama came to the rescue of members of Congress and their aides Friday, saying the federal government would continue paying a large share of their health insurance premiums.
Ambiguous provisions of the health care law had created serious doubts about whether such contributions would continue.
Under the arrangement devised by the administration, lawmakers and aides who work in the lawmakers’ offices will have to get coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.
— NEW YORK TIMES
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