Tax forms with laptop, glasses, pen, and calculator.

The Tax Code Needs to Do More for Public Health

By Bailey Kennedy

With the pain of tax day now a month behind us, it’s worth talking about something that we don’t often associate with the tax code: health. It’s not easy to imagine that the tax code could truly do much to make Americans happier and healthier — but there are ways that it could. Federal and state tax codes could both be reformed in small ways that might encourage Americans to make healthier decisions.

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Child's hands planting small plant in garden.

Why Do Municipal Governments Impede Local Efforts at Health?

By Bailey Kennedy

As spring continues to bubble into life (even in Massachusetts), people across the country are planting gardens in anticipation of a fall harvest. A few of these happy people will probably be harvesting something else along with their vegetables: a hefty fine from their municipal government.

Many state and municipal governments have adopted regulations and ordinances which, while well-intentioned, may discourage people from starting at home gardens — or even force people to abandon their gardening project after it is already in the ground. That’s a problem with implications for health at a hyperlocal scale.

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Baby feet in hands

Regulatory Barriers Present Challenges for At-home Birth

By Bailey Kennedy

Statistics released at the end of last year confirmed what many already knew anecdotally to be true. Many women had turned to home births during the pandemic.

While the absolute number of women who chose to use home birth to deliver their children was quite small — about 9,000 more women chose to give birth at home in 2020 versus 2019 — the percentage increase was notable. In South Dakota, an eye-popping 68% more women gave birth at home during the first year of the pandemic, as opposed to prior years.

The reasons for this shift were as varied as the women who made the decision to give birth in a non-hospital setting. Some women cited concerns that they were especially susceptible to COVID-19; others feared not having access to the support of family and friends if they chose to give birth in a hospital. Others, of course, had been interested in giving birth outside of a hospital prior to COVID, and would have done so even in the absence of the virus.

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Phone with social media icons - instagram, facebook, and twitter.

Regulating Out of the Social Media Health Crisis

By Bailey Kennedy

If something changes the pathways in our brains and damages our health — and if it does so to Americans on a vast scale — it should be regulated as a threat to public health.

It’s time for our regulators to acknowledge that social media fits this description.

Social media poses an active health threat to many of its users, in a way that is akin to other regulated substances: it has been tied to a variety of harmful health outcomes, including depression. It has also become increasingly clear that social media can be addictive.

Even if it is a behavioral rather than a substantive addiction, with only indirect links to physical health, the high number of Americans who exhibit some degree of social media addiction is concerning.

Inasmuch as social media presents us with a public health crisis, the American government should consider potential regulatory steps to address it.

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Glasses, case for contact lenses and eye test chart on mint background, top view

Medicare Poised to Expand Vision, Hearing, and Dental Benefits

By Bailey Kennedy

Though Pres. Biden’s expansive infrastructure and social spending bills remain mired in Congress, it still seems likely that his administration will preside over one of the most dramatic revisions in America’s public safety net since the Great Society.

One of the most discussed provisions in the omnibus bill would expand Medicare benefits to include hearing, vision, and dental care. Currently, millions of Americans are forced to go without the types of care that the proposed Medicare expansion would address. And seniors, in particular, are likely to deal with vision and hearing-related health care issues, which pose a high financial burden.

While the proposed expansion has met pushback, including these aspects of health care in standard insurance plans is significantly overdue.

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A patient is seen in the intensive care unit for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Thoracic Diseases Hospital of Athens in Greece on November 8, 2020.

Financial Burden of COVID-19 Shifts from Insurance to Patients

By Bailey Kennedy

It’s no secret that health care in America sometimes leaves those without means struggling to pay for their care. However, for the last year and a half, COVID has been an exception to the rule: many insurance companies have stepped up to foot the bills for hospitalized COVID patients. Now insurance companies seem to be returning to the status quo ante COVID by expecting patients to cover a portion of their COVID-19 care.

These attempts to penalize those who become sick with COVID-19 — a disproportionate number of whom are unvaccinated — are not necessarily out of line with other attempts to punish Americans for their perceived poor health.

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