Pro-Life Groups Want IVF Regulated; Private Equity Eyes Autism; Medicaid Takes Homes

Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative reporting on healthcare each week.

Anti-abortion Groups Want IVF Regulation

Following the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are “unborn children,” Republicans on Capitol Hill are facing pressure from influential supporters to “ramp up” their defense of this stance and advocate for legislation that would codify what has historically been a cornerstone of anti-abortion policies, the Washington Post reported.

Some anti-abortions groups have urged lawmakers toward regulating in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the U.S. This potentially includes limiting the number of embryos created during a round of IVF, codifying the recommended guidelines for embryos transferred during cycles, and limiting the use of pre-implantation genetic testing, the Post reported.

There has also been a focus on legislation first introduced by House Republicans in 2021, and again in 2023, that recognizes a fertilized egg as a human being, which would ban nearly all abortions nationwide, the Post reported. Notably, the House version of the bill differs from the Senate version in that the former does not designate an exception for IVF.

“Some House Republicans have recently backed away from the bill that had previously been viewed primarily as a messaging vehicle but has now become a political liability,” the Post wrote.

“Yet for anti-abortion advocates, the bill does not go far enough in addressing IVF, lacking clear guidelines around embryos,” the article stated. “Some prominent voices in the anti-abortion movement have been concerned by what they view as a lack of consistency among GOP lawmakers who are now shying away from the issue.”

A Gallup poll from last year showed a “record-high” 69% of Americans favor legal abortion in the first 3 months of pregnancy, and a recent CBS News-YouGov poll found that 86% of Americans think IVF should be legal, the Post noted.

Private Equity Targets Autism Care

In 2017, Misty Richard found a clinic close to her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that could help her son, Javier Bautista, known as J.J., NBC News reported.

J.J. initially did well at the facility, operated by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), NBC News reported. But things changed after the New York-based private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, acquired CARD the following year.

For instance, J.J. “came home one day agitated about thunderstorms, a deep-seated fear for him,” even though the weather outside was clear, NBC News reported.

“It’s stressful for me to watch my child be so upset when he had not a care in the world,” Richard told NBC News of the experience. Finally, she added, clinic officials “tried to say it was part of an emotional lesson to help him identify what he was scared of.”

“Many of the companies swarming the autism services industry are backed by private-equity firms,” NBC News wrote. “These entities use borrowed money to buy companies they hope to sell quickly for more than they paid. The industry has taken over a vast array of healthcare businesses in recent years, even as research has shown that patient care declines at some entities run by private-equity firms.”

When Blackstone bought CARD, the firm promised to “expand access to treatment and services for those affected by autism,” NBC News wrote. But 5 years later, CARD filed for bankruptcy, having closed more than 100 facilities in several states.

A spokesperson for Blackstone denied that the firm’s ownership of CARD had caused the quality of care there to decline and said in a statement that the company’s financial issues were the result of “well-documented, industry-wide challenges stemming from the crushing impacts of the pandemic and its aftershocks and insufficient reimbursements from insurers,” NBC News reported.

In July, CARD’s founder bought back most of its operations, NBC News reported.

J.J., who is now attending a new autism services clinic that is not owned by private equity, is thriving there, Richard told NBC News.

Medicaid Goes After Family Homes

After the death of a loved one for whom Medicaid paid for long-term care, surviving family members may have to sell their loved one’s home to repay Medicaid, or a state may seize the property, the New York Times reported.

The practice dates back to 1993, the Times reported. At the time, Congress mandated that, when Medicaid beneficiaries over the age of 55 have used long-term services like nursing homes or home care, states must try to recover the expenses from beneficiaries’ estates.

Medicaid “is the only public benefit program from the United States of America that requires states to seek to get money back,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told the Times. Just this month, Schakowsky reintroduced a bill, the Stop Unfair Medicaid Recoveries Act, to end the practice.

“For a lot of these people, the home is a product of a lifetime’s worth of working and scrimping,” Eric Carlson, JD, a directing attorney at Justice in Aging, told the Times. “It could be a foundation for their children and grandchildren. That’s pulled away from the family under these claims. It imposes recovery against the families and communities least able to pay it.”

Some states have been working to reduce the financial impact on low-income families, the Times reported. Schakowsky’s bill, which extends beyond this to prohibit Medicaid estate recovery altogether, continues to face an uphill battle.

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    Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.


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