On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, the Trump Administration issued a statement regarding the recent outbreak of illnesses and deaths related to the use of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”). Soon after, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) quickly followed suit. The Trump Administration’s statement comes after reports of 380 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes in 36 states, in addition to 7 deaths. Both political parties have pressed for flavor bans, age restrictions, and other restrictions on the sale of vaping products. They have urged the FDA to move quickly and decisively to investigate and regulate e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been touted by manufacturers as a way to wean people from traditional cigarettes but have recently led to an “epidemic” of youth vaping of nicotine. E-cigarettes are popular among teens due to their availability, advertisements, e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they are safer than cigarettes. The long-term risks of vaping are currently unknown, but a growing numbers of studies show that e-cigarette vapor has severe health risks, including damaging lung tissue and blood vessels.
On January 31, 2019, the Trump administration proposed yet another regulation in efforts to control rising prescription costs for Americans. If the regulation becomes final, drug manufacturers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (“PBM”) will no longer be able to harbor from Anti-Kickback violations when negotiating discounts with Medicare and Medicaid managed care programs. The Administrations, continuing the tone of transparency, will instead provide Medicare Part D beneficiaries with the ability to receive discounted prices at the pharmacy counter. The administration hopes this will allow patients to not endure high out-of-pocket costs by purchasing medications at a more affordable price necessary to sustain their health.
The Trump administration recently delivered a one-two punch to late Obama administration environmental regulations designed to curb the release of methane gas into the atmosphere while simultaneously encouraging its capture for sale. Two Obama era regulations were modified. The first, from the Department of the Interior, was effectively abrogated, while the other stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA)” is expected to retain only a fraction of its original force. Environmental groups have already responded to the repeal of the department of interior regulation with a lawsuit in federal court. Methane gas pollution became a greater concern in recent years as the production and use of natural gas as an energy source continues to increase. Proponents of earlier regulations point to methane’s potent contribution to the greenhouse effect, while critics argued the regulations were unnecessary given the natural gas industry’s own efforts and incentives to reduce leaks and capture as much usable gas as possible.
With the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed in 2017, there have been several changes to the tax system. The Opportunity Zone program was a small piece of the tax reform that has recently gained more publicity. The Opportunity Zone program provides tax benefits to real-estate investors. The Trump Administration recently released definitions and rules in a package of proposed regulations.
The battle over pesticide use has long plagued the agricultural sector. The legal challenges to the use of chlorpyrifos has created a debate about how to protect our agricultural system and the harm caused by these dangerous chemicals. A lawsuit was filed based on the EPA’s failure to follow advice of their own scientists. The battle over the use of certain pesticides, and the shifting focus of the EPA has created concerns over the ethical standards of officials in key positions.
Access to quality, comprehensive health care services seems to always be at the forefront of our health care industry. One’s ability to gain access measured in terms of utilization, is dependent upon financial affordability, and physical accessibility. While a seemingly small issue under the overarching ‘access to health care’ topic, talks about access to medication and its affordability in particular for the vulnerable and underinsured patients must also be addressed. A number of health organizations have sued HHS for delaying the implementation of rules that would force drug companies to be transparent about their pricing and punish them for overcharging participating hospitals in the federal program that discounts outpatient medication. Due to HHS’ delays, hospitals cannot challenge drug manufacturers for overpricing outpatient medication thus they cannot access refunds of discounts that are due to them under statute.
Compliance professionals all over the country are paying close attention to the Trump administration’s deregulatory campaign. While deregulation in finance has received the most media attention, the uranium mining industry has been a quiet beneficiary of the President’s new regulatory scheme.
As the president and the Republican Party inch closer to finalizing their proposed tax overhaul, one major proposed change is the repeal of the estate tax. The estate tax is a tax on an individual’s right to transfer property upon his or her death, usually to the individual’s surviving relatives or heirs. Currently, estates are taxed at a rate of 40% after the first 5.5 million. While the tax itself only impacts the wealthiest 0.2% of Americans, the inclusion or repeal of the tax in the Republican tax bill will affect Americans of all income brackets.
On October 26, 2017, the United States government released files relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the investigation that followed. The majority of the documents generated by the investigation – about 88% of all FBI, CIA, and other agencies’ files – have been available for years, but the rest of the documents were due to be released this year. On the recommendation of the investigatory agencies, President Trump decided to keep some of this remaining information redacted due to “national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.” Speculation as to the contents of these documents and the reasons for redacting secure information have renewed a continuing discussion about what information the public should be privy to and how this information can be accessed.
Chinese foreign investment policies have long favored investments that bring the country technological advances from foreign companies. In recent years, China has increasingly developed policies which force foreign companies to share their intellectual property with China and to allow Chinese companies to conduct business with the foreign country China has backed off their previous requirements to transfer such information in an attempt to meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) since joining the organization in September of 2001. Evidenced by President Donald Trump recently signing a directive to initiate an investigation into Chinese trade practices regarding the attainment of intellectual property from foreign companies, many companies and trade organizations believe that China is not adequately protecting intellectual property rights of foreign companies.