How Trump Shaped Science in 2017


From a rollback of environmental protections to unsuccessful attempts to repeal health care, here’s a look at the president’s impact on science in his first year in office.

All the Ways Trump Shaped Science in 2017
President Trump Views The Eclipse From The White House. 

This has been a whirlwind year in politics, to put it mildly. Donald Trump’s presidency has triggered tectonic shifts in numerous areas of government, and those involving science have been no exception. Just after the election Scientific American predicted Trump’s tenure would have widespread effects on environmental policyclimate and energyhealth carespacetechnology and education. As the year draws to a close, many of these forecasts have panned out—along with some things no one saw coming.

The Trump administration has taken what many see as a largely apathetic—and at times actively hostile—approach to science. The position of White House science adviser (the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP) has been empty longer than under any other modern president, and many other science-related agency positions remain unfilled. These posts play a crucial role in advising the chief executive and senior White House staff as well as in informing policies, legislation and budgets. Meanwhile Trump has moved to install pro-industry leaders on science advisory boards, to delay or roll back environmental and technological regulations and to undercut access to health care.

Not all of the news has been bad for science, however. In some areas Trump and his team have largely stayed the course, and research agency budgets have yet to be determined. But many feel overall the president’s actions to date do not bode well for U.S. scientific leadership, both at home and abroad.

Here are some of the specific ways Trump and his administration have had an impact on science in 2017.

Environment

It is no secret that Trump does not take the threat of human-caused climate change seriously. In his first year in office he has sought to reverse much of former Pres. Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Trump hit the ground running with his nomination last December of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a fierce opponent of Obama’s climate policies and of regulation in general, to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new president followed by installing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as secretary of the Department of Energy (which Perry once vowed to shut down), and Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (R)—who would later help to preside over the largest proposed land reduction of national monuments in U.S. history—as Interior Department secretary. Trump has taken an overtly friendly attitude toward the oil and gas industries: In January he signed orders to move ahead with construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, in the face of strong opposition from Native Americans and climate activists.

But perhaps Trump’s most controversial environmental decision to date was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, the pledge made in 2015 by more than 190 countries to limit average global temperatures to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The terms of the pact (which every country except the U.S. has now embraced) mean the actual withdrawal does not take effect until November 2020, however. And in the meantime many U.S. states and cities have pledged to help meet the climate accord targets, some now organized under umbrella groups such as C40 and We Are Still In.

Trump and Zinke have also pushed to open more federal lands to drilling and mining. The president has further proposed deep environmental budget cuts and moved to deregulate pollution monitoring—including repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

But the Trump administration’s efforts did not prevent government scientists from publishing their National Climate Assessment, a report many researchers feared would be muzzled. Pruitt, for his part, has not yet reversed the EPA’s endangerment finding, which forms the basis for much of the agency’s policy on regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Health

Perhaps no part of Obama’s legacy has irked—and motivated—Trump, and his fellow Republicans, more than the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As soon as he entered office, the president picked an outspoken critic of the ACA, Tom Price, as his Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary. (Price later resigned over criticism of his use of taxpayer-funded charter flights.) After Trump’s inauguration Republicans in Congress immediately took up the challenge of repealing and replacing the ACA, but despite repeated efforts they were unable to get enough legislative votes. A repeal would have deprived millions of Americans—especially some lower-income individuals—of health insurance, while undermining women’s access to health and reproductive care.

Determined to make the ACA fail, however, Trump announced in October he would stop paying federal subsidies that reduce the amount low-income people pay out-of-pocket for health care. Congress now appears poised to pass a massive tax cut that, in its current form, would remove the ACA’s health insurance mandate. This could result in more uninsured people and higher medical premiums. It is also predicted to increase the federal deficit by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade—a situation that would trigger automatic cuts to Medicare.

Meanwhile the nation has been facing an opioid addiction and overdose crisis of epic proportions, and the administration has been slow to respond. A White House panel issued an urgent recommendation in late summer that the White House declare the problem a national emergency—something the president had promised to do. He ultimately declared it a public health emergency, a designation that provides no additional funding on its own. Trump has also made lackluster progress on lowering drug prices, a task he had promised, during his campaign, to take on. His new nominee for HHS secretary, Alex Azar, is a former pharmaceutical executive who has been widely criticized for raising drug prices.

Technology

The biggest impact Trump has had on the tech world is via his appointment of Ajit Pai as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. As predicted, Pai has pushed to reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order—an Obama-era regulation that ensures internet service providers cannot deliberately slow or block content from specific sources—the basis for net neutrality. The FCC is scheduled to vote Thursday to overturn the rule, which is widely regarded as a terrible idea.*

In terms of global technological threats North Korea has been flexing its nuclear muscles—and Trump’s itchy Twitter finger has fueled the international tension. Pyongyang announced in August it possessed a miniaturized warhead, and threatened to fire it at the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam. And in November North Korea sent up an intercontinental ballistic missile that flew higher than any of its previous launches to date—and which the North claimed could reach anywhere in the continental U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court—with the addition of Trump’s appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch—in November heard what some say could be its most important electronic privacy case to date. The case hinges on whether the Fourth Amendment right to privacy extends to cell phone data, which was obtained by the FBI with an easier-to-obtain court order instead of the usual warrant, and was used to show that a suspect had been near several crime scenes. The court will announce its decision by the end of the current term in June 2018.

Space and Physics

In terms of space exploration the Trump administration has not veered far from existing policy. Perhaps the biggest news in this arena was the decision to refocus NASA’s human exploration efforts on returning to the moon (which three former presidents have pledged and failed to achieve) as a stepping-stone to an eventual journey to Mars, turning away from the Obama administration’s plan to capture and visit an asteroid. Trump also revived the National Space Council, a group that coordinates space policy among government agencies, and appointed Scott Pace to lead its day-to-day operations.

NASA itself still has no administrator, however. In September Trump finally nominated Oklahoma Rep. James Bridenstine (R), a strong proponent of lunar exploration and commercial spaceflight. The Senate has yet to confirm his appointment.

Trump’s 2018 budget request proposed deep cuts to several research agencies, including the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which funds the largest percentage of physical sciences research in the U.S. If Congress approves these cuts, they would eliminate much of the DoE’s climate research and also effectively withdraw the U.S. from the ITER international fusion experiment, Science reported earlier this year.

Education and Research

In a presidency that may often seem to be an attack on scientific expertise and facts themselves, public and higher education have come under threat. Few of Trump’s presidential appointments were as widely opposed as that of Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an ardent supporter of voucher programs that give money to private religious schools at the expense of public ones.

And the GOP tax bill, in its latest form, would greatly increase the tax burden on graduate students by removing tuition income waivers. If the bill passes, it could make graduate school prohibitively expensive for many who are not independently wealthy. The implications for higher education are hard to overstate.

Finally, Trump’s travel ban, the most recent version of which bars entry to the U.S. for travelers from eight countries—six of them majority-Muslim—could make it harder for scientists from the affected nations to attend U.S. conferences or perform research.

For many in the science community, these actions collectively paint a picture of a president and administration hostile toward scientific efforts whose conclusions may not fit with their agenda. Whether the next three years confirm or overturn that reputation remains to be seen—if the nation and the world can wait that long.

Trump Makes His Pick for Agricultural Secretary — And It Looks Like Good News for Big Ag (and Monsanto For That Matter)


One of the biggest disappointments that came out of the Obama adminstration was his favoritism for Big Ag and Monsanto, so much so that he hired a former Biotech Governor of the Year, Tom Vilsack, to be his Secretary of Agriculture.

Now, his successor Donald Trump is at it again, making a pick for the same position that has environmental and natural, non-GMO food advocates concerned.

While his name may sound familiar to many, Sonny Perdue is actually not connected to the chicken raising mega-busiess of the same name. But he does share many things in common with that company’s way of doing business, with many ties to Big Agribusiness and the chemical companies that keep the machine humming along year after year.

Former Governor of Georgia is Trump’s New Pick

The former governor of Georgia, Perdue has a background in veterinary medicine and was a key supporter of the Trump camapaign. He owns several businesses including “trucking agriculture and logistical firms” from his base in Georgia, as the website Bustle.com put it.

 But what has environmental activists concerned are his ties to Big Ag, having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies that help chemical companies and large agricultural conglomerates according to this report in the New York Times, at the expense of small farmers and the environment.

Perdue’s appointment is particularly important because of the massive amount of funds given to the Agricultural Department, and its effect on the food system. The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for helping to dictate food policy as well as food safety, while funding nutrition programs, food stamps and more as well as the Forest Service.

 Perdue has already taken money from Monsanto specifically, and other pesticide companies, during his gubernatorial campaigns, according to a report and petition from the Organic Consumers’ Association titled ‘Tell The Senate: Don’t Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA!’ Over seven campaigns in Georgia, he accepted more than $300,000 from agribusiness companies.

How much will this influence affect his policies in Washington? That remains to be seen, but Trump’s appointments so far leave a lot to be desired in terms of giving organic and natural farming advocates a seat at the table, at the very least.

Trump Says Private Firms Can Fix Obamacare But They Underpin the ACA


President-elect Trump just promised that private insurance companies can help lower costs and get health insurance to more Americans.

But private health insurance already forms the basis of the Obamacare exchanges that Republicans have vowed to raze. And a conversation with just about any American covered by private health insurance makes it’s immediately clear that the private health insurance industry is a source of many, if not most, of the frustrations of managing health insurance.

“We’re going to get private insurance companies to take care of a lot of the people that can afford it. That’s going to take a tremendous burden off and they’re going to be able to have plans that are great plans,” Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday on the Fox news channel.

That’s pretty close to the goals of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare or the ACA.

“The ACA is a fairly free-market oriented health care proposal, more than I think many people on the left would have liked,” said Sherry Glied, dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “For the most part, companies can decide more or less what they want to do.”

Obamacare set up health insurance exchanges where people who couldn’t get good coverage any other way could go to buy policies regulated by the new rules, often with a generous federal subsidy.

It sought to stop the worst insurance company abuses, such as cutting off coverage when people got too sick, and sought to get rid of some of the most bare-bones plans that had low premiums but that also often left people in the lurch when they actually needed coverage.

Yet people still have struggled with denied claims, red tape and surprise medical bills, even on the Obamacare policies.

Abigail Leigh has been fighting with her provider, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, to pay for an emergency visit she made last August to an urgent care clinic while visiting her home state of South Carolina.

“It became very painful to breathe,” Leigh, a pharmacy student in Richlands, Virginia, told NBC News.

“I had to take very short breaths to even breathe at all. I was starting to get a little dizzy. So we decided to go to urgent care.”

The symptoms pointed to a potentially deadly blood clot in the lung, called a pulmonary embolism, so doctors ordered a battery of tests.

Luckily for her it wasn’t. “He decided I must have pleuritis, which is an inflammation of the lining of my lungs,” said Leigh. The total bill: more than $1,700.

“I later on got a statement from my insurance company saying they won’t cover it.”

Leigh’s been going back and forth with the insurance company. Her $184-a-month policy, which she bought through the exchange that the federal government runs on Virginia’s behalf, doesn’t cover out-of-state care, unless it’s emergency care. Leigh argues that her case is clearly emergency care, but as of this week her appeal is still unanswered.

“Now I’m having to call the hospital facility and keep them from sending the bill to collection,” Leigh said. “I don’t feel like I should be having to keep up on this.”

It’s a problem that easily could have existed pre-ACA, but Leigh said these kinds of negotiations should have been addressed by the law.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) lays the blame at the feet of the health insurance companies.

“No one chooses when they will need emergency care and should not be punished financially for having emergencies or discouraged from seeking medical attention when they are sick or injured,” said ACEP president Dr. Rebecca Parker.

“There have been significant reductions in insurance payments for emergency care, as much as 70 percent. They have taken gross advantage of patients and emergency medical providers since the ACA, arbitrarily slashing payments to physicians,” Parker added.

In some states, such as California, the exchanges have attracted many insurance companies and offer a variety of policies. In others, problems caused some insurance companies to abandon the exchanges, saying they can’t make enough money.

That’s what happened to Beverly Deeds, who lost her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Santa Fe, New Mexico when the insurer dropped off her state’s exchange. “They left me high and dry,” said Deeds, a 62-year-old retiree.

The only insurer left for Deeds was Christus. Deeds had been paying $250 a month, with a $6,000 deductible, she said.

After making several phone calls, Deeds got a bronze-level Christus plan for $449 a month. The bare-bones bronze plans are meant to provide catastrophic coverage for people who are generally healthy.

“The deductible is just under $7,000,” she said. Her husband, who has Medicare coverage, earns too much for her to qualify for a federal subsidy or for Medicaid, even though New Mexico did opt in to the federal expansion of the program.

“I hate it,” said Deeds, who says she voted against Obama but she says there’s plenty of blame to go around for what she sees as the ACA’s failures. “The insurance companies slanted things so they made a lot of money. Obamacare really padded their pockets,” she said.

Now, even though she qualifies for free annual mammograms and well-woman checkups, Deeds doesn’t go. “I’m scared to death. If I got diagnosed with something, how would I pay with that $7,000 deductible?” she asked.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration out there where this law was passed and was supposed to fix problems with the health care system, and people feel they are still paying a lot and don’t understand why the law hasn’t done more to help them,” said Liz Hamel, who leads polling for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

A report out this week from consultancy firm Avalere Health shows that the 11.5 million people getting health insurance on the exchanges in 2017 will pay more and often get less for their money than in previous years, although federal subsidies will close the gap for 81 percent of customers.

“Following several years of single-digit premium growth, premiums increased 12 percent on average for silver plans in 2017—from $496 per month in 2016 to $554 per month in 2017,” Avalere says.

Fewer than a third of policies are the preferred provider organizations (PPO) or point of service (POS) plans that offer customers a wide choice of doctors, hospitals and other providers. Deductibles for the silver plans – the plans that qualify for federal subsidies – grew by 20 percent for 2017.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurance companies, says prices depend on competition in each state, and says some of the ACA’s rules have driven up costs. “Health insurance premiums are set based on a complex set of factors that reflect the cost of providing coverage in a state and in a market,” it says.

Trump Warns Flu Shots Are The Greatest ‘Scam’ In Medical History


The flu shot is the greatest scam in medical history, created by Big Pharma to make money off vulnerable people and make them sick, warns President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Opie and Anthony on Sirius XM, Trump slammed flu shots as “totally ineffective” and declared that he has never had one.

“I’ve never had one. And thus far I’ve never had the flu. I don’t like the idea of injecting bad stuff into your body. And that’s basically what they do. And this one (latest flu vaccine) has not been very effective to start off with.

“I have friends that religiously get the flu shot and then they get the flu. You know, that helps my thinking. I’ve seen a lot of reports that the last flu shot is virtually totally ineffective.“

rump is right – flu shots are the greatest medical fraud in history. They are full of “bad stuff” including formaldehyde and mercury – two powerful neurotoxins – and the vaccine industry even admits that laboratory tests prove the popular jab does not work.

Watch the interview. URL:https://youtu.be/cDARZJxzeoY

Trump Says Private Firms Can Fix Obamacare But They Underpin the ACA by MAGGIE FOX


President-elect Trump just promised that private insurance companies can help lower costs and get health insurance to more Americans.

But private health insurance already forms the basis of the Obamacare exchanges that Republicans have vowed to raze. And a conversation with just about any American covered by private health insurance makes it’s immediately clear that the private health insurance industry is a source of many, if not most, of the frustrations of managing health insurance.

Private health insurance already forms the basis of the Obamacare exchanges that Republicans have vowed to raze
President-elect Trump just promised that private insurance companies can help lower costs and get health insurance to more Americans. But private health insurance already forms the basis of the Obamacare exchanges that Republicans have vowed to raze 

“We’re going to get private insurance companies to take care of a lot of the people that can afford it. That’s going to take a tremendous burden off and they’re going to be able to have plans that are great plans,” Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday on the Fox news channel.

That’s pretty close to the goals of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare or the ACA.

“The ACA is a fairly free-market oriented health care proposal, more than I think many people on the left would have liked,” said Sherry Glied, dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “For the most part, companies can decide more or less what they want to do.”

Obamacare set up health insurance exchanges where people who couldn’t get good coverage any other way could go to buy policies regulated by the new rules, often with a generous federal subsidy.

It sought to stop the worst insurance company abuses, such as cutting off coverage when people got too sick, and sought to get rid of some of the most bare-bones plans that had low premiums but that also often left people in the lurch when they actually needed coverage.

Yet people still have struggled with denied claims, red tape and surprise medical bills, even on the Obamacare policies.

Abigail Leigh has been fighting with her provider, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, to pay for an emergency visit she made last August to an urgent care clinic while visiting her home state of South Carolina.

“It became very painful to breathe,” Leigh, a pharmacy student in Richlands, Virginia, told NBC News.

“I had to take very short breaths to even breathe at all. I was starting to get a little dizzy. So we decided to go to urgent care.”

The symptoms pointed to a potentially deadly blood clot in the lung, called a pulmonary embolism, so doctors ordered a battery of tests.

Luckily for her it wasn’t. “He decided I must have pleuritis, which is an inflammation of the lining of my lungs,” said Leigh. The total bill: more than $1,700.

“I later on got a statement from my insurance company saying they won’t cover it.”

Leigh’s been going back and forth with the insurance company. Her $184-a-month policy, which she bought through the exchange that the federal government runs on Virginia’s behalf, doesn’t cover out-of-state care, unless it’s emergency care. Leigh argues that her case is clearly emergency care, but as of this week her appeal is still unanswered.

“Now I’m having to call the hospital facility and keep them from sending the bill to collection,” Leigh said. “I don’t feel like I should be having to keep up on this.”

It’s a problem that easily could have existed pre-ACA, but Leigh said these kinds of negotiations should have been addressed by the law.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) lays the blame at the feet of the health insurance companies.

“No one chooses when they will need emergency care and should not be punished financially for having emergencies or discouraged from seeking medical attention when they are sick or injured,” said ACEP president Dr. Rebecca Parker.

“There have been significant reductions in insurance payments for emergency care, as much as 70 percent. They have taken gross advantage of patients and emergency medical providers since the ACA, arbitrarily slashing payments to physicians,” Parker added.

In some states, such as California, the exchanges have attracted many insurance companies and offer a variety of policies. In others, problems caused some insurance companies to abandon the exchanges, saying they can’t make enough money.

That’s what happened to Beverly Deeds, who lost her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Santa Fe, New Mexico when the insurer dropped off her state’s exchange. “They left me high and dry,” said Deeds, a 62-year-old retiree.

The only insurer left for Deeds was Christus. Deeds had been paying $250 a month, with a $6,000 deductible, she said.

After making several phone calls, Deeds got a bronze-level Christus plan for $449 a month. The bare-bones bronze plans are meant to provide catastrophic coverage for people who are generally healthy.

“The deductible is just under $7,000,” she said. Her husband, who has Medicare coverage, earns too much for her to qualify for a federal subsidy or for Medicaid, even though New Mexico did opt in to the federal expansion of the program.

“I hate it,” said Deeds, who says she voted against Obama but she says there’s plenty of blame to go around for what she sees as the ACA’s failures. “The insurance companies slanted things so they made a lot of money. Obamacare really padded their pockets,” she said.

Now, even though she qualifies for free annual mammograms and well-woman checkups, Deeds doesn’t go. “I’m scared to death. If I got diagnosed with something, how would I pay with that $7,000 deductible?” she asked.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration out there where this law was passed and was supposed to fix problems with the health care system, and people feel they are still paying a lot and don’t understand why the law hasn’t done more to help them,” said Liz Hamel, who leads polling for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

A report out this week from consultancy firm Avalere Health shows that the 11.5 million people getting health insurance on the exchanges in 2017 will pay more and often get less for their money than in previous years, although federal subsidies will close the gap for 81 percent of customers.

“Following several years of single-digit premium growth, premiums increased 12 percent on average for silver plans in 2017—from $496 per month in 2016 to $554 per month in 2017,” Avalere says.

Fewer than a third of policies are the preferred provider organizations (PPO) or point of service (POS) plans that offer customers a wide choice of doctors, hospitals and other providers. Deductibles for the silver plans – the plans that qualify for federal subsidies – grew by 20 percent for 2017.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurance companies, says prices depend on competition in each state, and says some of the ACA’s rules have driven up costs. “Health insurance premiums are set based on a complex set of factors that reflect the cost of providing coverage in a state and in a market,” it says.

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