Health Highlights: Dec. 23, 2019

Enrollment in Obamacare Holds Steady Despite Court Challenge Congress Approves Raising Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Enrollment in Obamacare Holds Steady Despite Court Challenge

Enrollment in Obamacare coverage for next year has surpassed 8 million, a sign that many Americans still turn to the government health insurance program to help pay for their medical care.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 17, 8.3 million people enrolled in the embattled program, a 2 percent drop from last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report issued Friday. More than 2 million enrollees were new customers, an increase of 36,000 from last year, the Associated Press reported.

The number of new customers had been slipping for several years after the Trump administration slashed the program's ad budget, Joshua Peck, a former Obama official, told the AP . This year's uptick "is a really clear sign that the marketplace is more resilient," he added.

Medicare agency administrator Seema Verma said the preliminary numbers show "stable" enrollment, and counter "hysterical and inaccurate" claims that the Trump administration is trying to sabotage the health insurance markets.

Notably, two big states that President Donald Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election showed higher enrollment numbers. Florida sign-ups topped 1.9 million, according to the report, an increase of more than 100,000 customers. In Texas, about 1.1 million enrolled, nearly 30,000 more than last year, the AP reported.

But the fate of the program, which provides private health insurance to people without workplace coverage, remains uncertain.

Just last week, a federal appeals court declared part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) unconstitutional, throwing other key parts of the law into doubt.


Congress Approves Raising Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21

A measure to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 has been approved by the U.S. Congress and is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

"This is a big win for public health," said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, The New York Times reported. "Raising the minimum smoking and vaping age to 21 will protect our kids and save lives."

The measure was supported by many tobacco and e-cigarette companies.

Currently, 19 states and more than 500 cities and towns restrict tobacco and e-cigarette sales to people 21 and older, The Times reported.

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