The National Consumers League commends the FDA’s decision to ban JUUL e-cigarettes

June 27, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— NCL applauds the FDA’s decision to ban JUUL e-cigarettes and believes that this is a significant first step towards curtailing the ongoing vaping epidemic. After a blistering and aggressive social media campaign in 2017, JUUL emerged at the forefront of the e-cigarette industry. Targeted advertisement towards youth and the production of fruit flavored nicotine pods highlighted the company’s flagrant disregard for public health and safety. JUUL is a central contributor to the rising rates of nicotine addiction in youth, according to the FDA. The FDA did its job in banning the company’s further advertising and sale of vaping products.

A large increase in the use of e-cigarettes among youth has occurred in recent years. Research indicates that vaping among high school students rose from 2.4 percent in 2019 to 26.5 percent in 2020 – a 1000 percent increase. Eight out of ten teenagers use flavored products and an estimated 59 percent of high school and 54 percent of middle school students who vape prefer JUUL as their brand of choice. As a consumer watchdog, NCL finds JUUL’s deliberate youth-targeted marketing and lack of health transparency shocking. This has led to our children purchasing their products without fully understanding the risk vaping poses to their health.

The FDA’s assessment of the data JUUL provided for their application to sell their products was that it was “insufficient and conflicting”. The agency also expressed concern about the potential toxicological risks of JUUL products. The adverse effects of e-cigarette usage are known. The immediate side effects include, but are not limited to, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and coughing. Long-term, the vaporization of e-cigarette juice pushes ultrafine particles deep into the lungs. This can lead to damaged lung tissue, respiratory issues, reproductive complications, and harm adolescent neurodevelopment.

It is clear that the vaping epidemic jeopardizes consumers’ health and must be addressed. According to the CDC, tobacco product use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. As an organization dedicated to advocating for consumer health and safety, NCL believes that the FDA’s JUUL ban will help mitigate this public health crisis, but for the sake of our children, regulatory agencies and policy-makers must continue to push forward in addressing this issue.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL denounces today’s SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade

June 24, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— Almost 50 years since the Supreme Court ruling in 1973, Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the protections provided by Roe were overturned today by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The ruling is a devastating blow to women, girls, and their families who have long fought for equal access to reproductive health services – health services which includes access to safe abortion, says the National Consumers League (NCL).

“Many women will suffer and will suffer unnecessarily from this egregious ruling by SCOTUS,” says Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. “This decision is an attack on poor women or low-income woman, who represent 75% of abortion patients,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

The final opinion is strikingly similar to the draft that was leaked in May of this year and authored by Justice Samuel Alito. In the opinion, Alito writes, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

In the wake of this June 24 ruling, 26 states are expected to ban all or nearly all abortions.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, laid out a vision that fomented fears about what other rights could disappear: the same rationale that the Supreme Court used to declare there was no right to abortion, he said, should also be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.

In their joint dissent, the three liberal justices of the court, argued that the ruling will affect “countless life decisions.” They also noted that, “It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.”

“NCL applauds responses from many employers, including JPMorgan Chase, which is clarifying its health care benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, saying that abortion has long been a covered service for the bank and starting in July will be included under the company’s health care travel benefit,” says Greenberg. “We applaud Levi Strauss & Co — the 169-year-old jean company — stands strongly against restricting access to abortion and said it will continue to protect employees — making sure they have access to the care they need regardless of where they live.

NCL also thanks officials in many states and the District of Columbia that have pledged to provide abortion access and safe havens including New Hampshire, Michigan, New York governors along with New York Attorney General Letitia James and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

In his address to the nation today, President Joe Biden expressed his disappointment over the SCOTUS ruling: “This is a sad day for the country in my view, but it doesn’t mean the fight is over.” He also added that his administration will use all its appropriate lawful powers and that “Congress must act.” He went on to say, “with your vote, you can act.”

NCL believes that women’s reproductive rights is fundamental and must be protected; this radical decision by the Supreme Court is vastly out of step with American public opinion and a disastrous for women’s rights and freedoms.  We will continue to advocate for federal, state and local protections for women across the country, in keeping with NCL’s long history of championing the rights of women and children, especially those among us who are most vulnerable.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL provided oral testimony to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in support of new pneumococcal vaccine recommendations for adults 65 years of age and older

June 22, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— On June 22, 2022, NCL’s Health Policy Associate Milena Berhane provided oral testimony to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in support of new pneumococcal vaccine recommendations for adults 65 years of age and older. NCL comments appear below.

Thank you, Dr. Lee. My name is Milena Berhane, and today I am representing the National Consumers League. Since NCL’s founding in 1899 by social reformer Florence Kelley, we have advocated for the critical role immunizations play in the preservation and improvement of public health. We extend our gratitude to this Committee for the opportunity to present public comments.

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness throughout the world. In the US, nearly 50,000 people die each year from pneumonia. The death rate is even higher in those age 65 years and older. Vaccination is a critical public health measure for preventing disease, hospitalizations, and death, so it is critical that access to the pneumococcal vaccine is expanded.

We are concerned about the lack of clarity surrounding the current ACIP recommendations regarding the pneumococcal vaccine, for adults ages 65 years of age and older. It is critical that the recommendations for this age groups are clear, so that patients and providers are better able to understand who should receive which vaccine, and when. The pneumococcal vaccine will continue to be a safe and effective measure in protecting Americans from disease, and it is imperative that older adults are able to receive them.

Having clear recommendations for adults 65 years of age and older is also critical in addressing health equity issues, especially among older Black and Latinx populations that already face issues in lacking access to health care. Pneumococcal vaccine uptake needs to increase in these populations so that currently existing health disparities are not further exacerbated. Therefore, in order to promote health equity among all older adults and increase vaccination rates, it is critical that clear recommendations are provided for this age group.

The National Consumers League recognizes the extreme importance of immunizations in protecting the health and safety of all Americans, and will continue its efforts to increase vaccine confidence and uptake across lifespan. We look forward to the upcoming recommendations by this committee regarding the pneumococcal vaccine for older adults.

Thank you.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL backs the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to curtail workplace discrimination

June 21, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League (NCL) believes it is imperative that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065), introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), is enacted by Congress. In the uphill battle for equity in the workplace, NCL views H.R. 1065 as essential to protecting pregnant workers against unjustly losing their jobs and ensuring they receive pregnancy and post-partum accommodations to stay healthy.

Despite the steady decline of births in the United States since 2016, the number of federal pregnancy discrimination cases filed has steadily risen 67% from 2016-2020; and lawsuits are projected to set a new annual record this year. Workers lose approximately two thirds of the cases filed due to gaps in the current legal framework. H.R. 1065 will close loopholes in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which requires pregnant workers to demonstrate that other workers are benefiting from comparatively similar accommodations before gaining approval from their employe

Women of color are more likely to work in physically demanding jobs, which also places the baby at  increased risk for preterm birth, low-birth weight, preeclampsia, birth defects, and more. While these health problems can be severe, long-term, and even deadly, studies illustrate how low-cost and basic accommodations for pregnant and postpartum workers can significantly reduce their risk. These include providing access to a chair to decrease time spent standing and basic accommodations for breastfeeding parents, such as a private space and additional break time to pump.

NCL strongly supports H.R. 1065. It will ask employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers affected by medical conditions relating to pregnancy and childbirth. This will not only reduce health-related risks, but also improve workers’ economic security by safeguarding their jobs, income, health insurance, their baby’s health and more. Furthermore, by directly targeting discriminatory employment practices, H.R. 1065 represents a strong step in addressing sexism and racism in the workplace.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

The National Consumers League applauds the FTC’s decision to investigate PBMs

June 14, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— NCL is deeply concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The pervasive power of PBMs in the pharmaceutical industry has raised out-of-pocket costs for consumers and made it more difficult for them to receive essential medical treatment. NCL believes that the FTC’s investigation into PBMs represents a significant first step to addressing these issues.

The PBM system was originally intended to work on behalf of employers, health plans, labor unions, and states, to negotiate with drug manufacturers and process prescription drug claims. However, as their power and influence in the market has grown, there are major concerns that PBMs have increasingly prioritized profits, with consumers paying the price.

With the highest profit rates of any corporations in the prescription drug supply chain, PBMs have pocketed more than $450 billion in revenue in 2020, a stark $150 billion increase from eight years ago.  More concerning is that now, just three PBMs account for approximately 77 percent of all equivalent prescription claims.

PBMs often demand that drug companies provide them “rebates” or discounts to offer medicines as part of a drug benefit plan. While implemented to lower consumers’ out-of-pocket costs, these theoretical consumer savings seem to be nonexistent. In addition, to increase profits, PBMs intentionally steer consumers to higher-priced drugs, regardless of patient and treatment considerations.

As the most prominent PBMs have vertically integrated with the largest health insurance companies, they are employing monopolistic-like practices to increase prescription prices, limit consumer choice, and stifle market competition. NCL is encouraged that the FTC is taking preliminary action to hold PBMs accountable. In addition to this investigation, policy-makers and the FTC must continue to address the lack of regulatory oversight with the utmost urgency.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

National Consumers League supports the HELP Copays Act to make prescription drugs more affordable for consumers

June 2, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League (NCL) is pleased to support the HELP Copays Act (H.R. 5801), introduced by Representatives Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Rodney Davis (IL-13). NCL stands with other aligned stakeholder groups, as part of the All Copays Count Coalition (ACCC), to protect patients from increased out-of-pocket medical costs and ensure that essential and life-saving drugs are readily accessible for all consumers.

NCL’s support of the Help Copays Act follows our organization’s long history of ensuring access to health care and a fair marketplace for consumers in the United States. Across the nation, the cost of drugs vital to patients’ health and wellbeing are unaffordable for many families. This has made co-pay assistance including discounts, coupon cards, vouchers, donations, and more, a key tool for enabling people to pay for their prescriptions. However, recent policies, mainly copay accumulator adjustment programs instituted by health insurance and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), block these contributions from patients’ deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, resulting in more costs for consumers.

The pandemic has only exacerbated consumers’ struggles to afford the medical treatment they need. A recent report by HIV and HEP Policy Institute, discusses how the average family cannot afford to cover the deductibles of their employer-sponsored health plans. The Help Copays Act will require these health insurance plans to count all forms of co-pay assistance towards patients’ out-of-pocket maximums, making essential drugs and treatments more affordable.

NCL supports H.R. 5801 as a solution to reducing the barriers that prevent our nation’s most vulnerable from receiving the medicines they need to maintain and improve health outcomes. According to a survey conducted by the National Hemophilia Foundation, 80 percent of voters support this bipartisan effort to ensure that copay assistance counts towards patients’ deductibles. NCL strongly urges policy-makers to fulfill their obligation to their constituents and support The Help Copays Act as this legislation is an important step in improving access to health care and establishing a fair marketplace for all consumers.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

Jeanette Contreras portrait

Leaders in Congress support safe OTC hearing aid standards

By NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras

Mild to moderate hearing loss is a difficult reality that millions of Americans struggle with, which is why the availability of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids is exciting for those who are impacted by hearing loss. While making OTC hearing aids more accessible is a promising step for consumers, we at NCL would be remiss if we didn’t underscore our concerns around the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed OTC hearing regulations as they currently exist.

In December of last year, NCL was one of hundreds of organizations who submitted a comment to FDA’s public docket on the issue; and last month we submitted a letter voicing our concerns to the FDA that was supported by 29 not-for-profit, public health organizations across the country. These organizations collectively represent the concerns of millions of consumers, patients, and individuals impacted by hearing loss.

We want to reiterate our enthusiasm for OTC hearing aids, but as the gold standard of safety in our country, it is imperative that the FDA make sure these devices are safe for consumers and do not worsen a problem they are intended to mitigate. As written, the draft regulations would allow for a maximum sound output level of 120 dBA – equivalent to the volume of a chainsaw or fire engine siren. This is concerning, as exposure to sounds at 120 dB can be dangerous in as little as nine seconds according to the CDC. This is why NCL, along with other leading consumer and healthcare voices, encourage the FDA to follow the recommendations of hearing care professionals, including the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery that recommend a maximum output of 110 dB and a gain limit of 25 dB. Without a limit on gain, OTC hearing aids users will be able to amplify sounds to dangerous levels, and far beyond what Congress authorized when it said these devices must be limited to adults with moderate hearing loss or less.

The safety parameters we are recommending would in no way compromise the efficacy of OTC hearing aids intended for individuals with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. In fact, a recent study concluded that commercially-available hearing aids programmed according to parameters typical of those used for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss yield effective output and gain levels and are within the recommended limits specified by leading hearing care organizations and medical experts.

Importantly, the FDA has already cleared several hearing aids for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss that were found to be safe and highly effective during clinical trials. While these devices were authorized under a different category of hearing aids, these devices limit the maximum output to 115 dB or below and gain to 30 dB or less, lower than the amplification limits currently proposed by the FDA. At the very least, the FDA should incorporate these amplification limits in the final OTC hearing aid regulation.

Finally, as we await finalized guidance from the FDA, we applaud leaders in Congress who are standing behind consumers in supporting safe and effective amplification limits. Last month, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to the FDA echoing their safety concerns. The letter states, “[The proposed rule] hurts consumers and patients in two ways. First, it means individuals suffering from greater levels of hearing loss could put off a needed visit with a licensed hearing professional. Doing so could lead to worsening their existing symptoms, delaying an accurate diagnosis and treatment, and even creating irreparable damage to their hearing. Secondly, it means those with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss would be exposed to harmful levels of noise that could result in further damage to their long-term hearing. In order to avoid these concerns, FDA should impose a gain limit of 25 dB and an overall output limit of 110 dB.”

Similar to the countless other experts that have also weighed in, we believe that establishing safe amplification limits would not reduce the efficacy of these devices or limit the advancement of innovative technologies. We thank Congresswomen McCollum and DeLauro for being a voice for consumers and patients on this important issue. To learn more about gain and output and how to protect yourself from hearing loss, check out our infographic.

NCL Briefing: measuring the 340B program’s impact on charitable care and operating profits for covered entities

Join the National Consumers League for a panel discussion with experts from Health Capital Group, the Community Oncology Alliance, and Johns Hopkins on this new white paper, which analyzes 340B’s impact on hospital profit margins and charitable care spending and attempts to quantify the amount of program benefits accruing to covered entities, contract pharmacies and patients.

Child Labor Coalition welcomes the reintroduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety 2022 (CARE Act)

March 31, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C.—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), representing 38 groups engaged in the fight against domestic and global child labor, applauds Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE). The legislation, introduced on Cesar Chavez Day, would close long-standing loopholes that permit children in agriculture to work for wages when they are only age 12. The bill would also ban jobs on farms labeled “hazardous” by the U.S. Department of Labor if workers are under the age of 18. The children of farm owners, working on their parents’ farms, would not be impacted by the CARE Act.

“Today, I am re-introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act) with my friend and co-lead Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva to protect the rights, safety, and future of [children who work on farms],” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, Thursday.

“I’m proud to co-lead this important legislation with Rep. Roybal-Allard to protect the children of farmworkers. Farmworkers remain some of the most exploited, underpaid, and unprotected laborers in our nation. They and their children deserve legal protections, better working conditions, and higher workplace standards to protect their health and safety. It’s past time we updated our antiquated labor laws to give children working in agriculture the same protections and rights provided to all kids in the workforce,” said Rep. Grijalva.

“Children working for wages on farms are exposed to many hazards—farm machinery, heat stroke, and pesticides among them—and they perform back-breaking labor that no child should have to experience,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “Current child labor law discriminates against children who toil in agriculture. It’s time these dangerous exemptions end. We applaud Rep. Roybal-Allard and Rep. Grijalva’s leadership in re-introducing CARE.”

“Ending exploitive child labor on American farms is long overdue and this legislation will result in healthier, better educated farmworker children and help end the generational poverty that afflicts many farmworker families,” said Reid Maki,Coordinator, Child Labor Coalition and Director of Child Labor Advocacy, National Consumers League. The CARE Act has been endorsed by 200 national, regional, and state-based organizations, noted Maki.

“Children as young as 12 are being hired to do backbreaking work on US farms, at risk of serious injuries, heat stroke, pesticide poisoning, and even death,” said Margaret Wurth, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, a CLC member. “Existing US child labor laws are woefully out of date and put child farmworkers at unacceptable risk,” Wurth said. “Congress should act swiftly to adopt the CARE Act and ensure that all children are protected equally.”

The CLC’s strategy for child labor on U.S. farms is guided by its Domestic Issues Committee Chair Norma Flores López who worked in the fields as a young girl. “Decades ago, my family and I were crowding into the back of a pickup truck with our few belongings, and starting our two-day journey towards the fields of Indiana, Michigan, or Iowa. What awaited me, starting at the age of 12, were long hours of back-breaking work earning low wages. I was one of the faces you see in photographs from the fields, hidden behind a bandana.  Fast forward more than 25 years, and we are still fighting for young girls –and boys — who are enduring exploitation, harvesting the fruits and vegetables we eat. The same reality that I once lived awaits the approximately 300,000 children who work on American farms today,” said Flores López, who also serves as Chief Programs Officer of Justice for Migrant Women and was the 2021 recipient of the U.S. Department of Labor Iqbal Masih Award.

“For too long, children laboring in U.S. agriculture have been denied the protections they deserve to ensure their health and well-being. Too often, kids working on commercial farms are subjected to dangerous, unhealthy, work that’s detrimental to their education and far too often results in harm or even death. The CARE Act would address this problem and give children working on farms the same protections as children working in other industries,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization.

In addition to raising the minimum age at which children could work in agriculture, CARE would increase minimum fines for employers who violate agricultural child labor laws when those violations lead to serious injury, illness, or death of minors. The legislation would also strengthen regulations that protect minors from pesticide exposure and improve analysis of child labor health impacts.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL applauds federal funding for maternal health in 2022 appropriations

March 18, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League –  Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— The National Consumers League applauds the passage of the 2022 omnibus appropriations act. The appropriations bill, signed into law, includes over $1 billion in federal funding to support critical maternal health provisions needed to address the nation’s alarming maternal mortality rates.

We are pleased that many provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 were included in the FY 2022 appropriations bill. The new law provides a significant increase in funding for the CDC’s safe motherhood & infant health programs. This additional support will help to identify drivers of maternal death rates in the states and expand evidence-based programs and interventions at hospitals and birthing facilities across the nation. The bill also includes a significant funding increase to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, which will assist state and local health entities in providing the essential health and social services that our most vulnerable birthing people and babies need.

Provisions from the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act were also included in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill. These provisions provide funding that supports health professional schools to train future health care professionals about perceptions and biases in maternal health, which currently contribute to inequities in maternal health outcomes. In addition to racial bias, it is critical to invest in diversifying and expanding the perinatal workforce to include nurses, doulas, behavioral health professionals, and other practitioners. In a recent blog post, NCL Health Policy Associate Milena Berhane discusses the importance of diversifying the workforce and the negative impacts of racial bias on the quality of care for racial and ethnic minorities.

We recognize that perinatal suicides, which occur during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum, are a leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States. We are pleased that this appropriations act provides increased federal funding for maternal mental health programs. The additional funding will be critical in expanding access to community-based treatment and recovery services for pregnant people and new mothers who struggle with mental health or behavioral health conditions. The spending bill also funds additional necessary mental health resources, by increasing funding for the 24/7 maternal mental health hotline that is available to pregnant people and new mothers.

NCL applauds Congress for providing funding for critical maternal health provisions within the FY22 Omnibus bill. We will continue to advocate for the passage of additional maternal health provisions in future legislation and spending bills until we end the maternal mortality crisis in our nation.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.