The U.S. House of Representatives Votes to Expand Health Care Coverage for Children

On January 13, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 289-139 to expand health care coverage to 4 million children of working families through the government-sponsored State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). 

The bill will foot the $32.3 billion cost of expanding SCHIP for 4 1/2 years by increasing federal taxes on cigarettes by $0.61-$1.00 per pack. 

Departing President George W. Bush vetoed similar legislation twice in 2007.

Obama hopes that the U.S. Senate acts with the “same sense of urgency so that it can be one of the first measures I sign into law when I am president. … In this moment of crisis, ensuring that every child in America has access to affordable health care is not just good economic policy, but a moral obligation we hold as parents and citizens.”

The Congressional Budget Office projected that nearly 83 percent of the 4.1 million uninsured children who would gain coverage if the bill becomes law are in families with incomes below current eligibility limits. About 700,000 children would gain coverage because their states broadened eligibility. The measure passed by the House included a provision that would expand coverage to children of legal immigrants as well as pregnant immigrants.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to begin focusing on the matter on January 14, 2009.

Opponents suggested that the tobacco tax increase would not keep pace with rising health care costs; particularly as the number of smokers is decreasing and is likely to decrease further as a result of the tax increase.  Ultimately, these critics suggest, the government will have to cut children’s health care, recruit new smokers, or raise taxes.


Health Crisis in Zimbabwe Deepens; Could Be Referred to International Criminal Court

Physicians for Human Rights have suggested that the health crisis in Zimbabwe should be referred to the International Criminal Court for further investigation.  Although the report recognizes that criminal prosecution at the International Criminal Court has not yet “addressed crimes against humanity in the context of willful and state-sponsored actions that lead to massive loss of life resulting from, for example, failures to respond to epidemics, active obstruction of humanitarian aid, or the deliberate destruction of health systems,” such action is not beyond the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction.  Physicians for Human Rights has also called upon the UN to take control of Zimbabwe’s health service.


The report was signed by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Richard Goldstone, a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


Under Robert Mugabe‘s rule, Zimbabwe has battled a cholera outbreak that, according to new numbers from the U.N. World Health Organization, has killed 2,024 since August.  The total number of people infected has surged passed 40,000.  The life expectancy fell from 62 years for both men and women in 1990 to 34 years for men and 37 years for women in 2006, the world’s lowest. Zimbabwe experiences around 400 deaths a day from HIV/AIDS.  Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe has risen from 168 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 to 1,100 per 100,000 in 2005.


Under international law, Zimbabwe is obligated to provide a minimum level of access to health care to its citizens.  Zimbabwe is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Government has a legally binding obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights for all people within its jurisdiction.


The Mugabe-led government has exacerbated the problems facing Zimbabweans blocking international humanitarian organizations from delivering food aid and humanitarian aid to populations in the worst-affected rural areas.

Zimbabwe‘s cholera outbreak has sparked fears that the epidemic has spread to northern neighbor Zambia and southern neighbor South Africa who have seen an increase in cholera-related deaths.

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Flawless or Fallible? A Review of the Applicability of the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive in Relation to Nano-Cosmetics

Diana Megan Bowman
Monash University – Faculty of Law
Geert Van Calster

Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology, Vol. 2, No. 3, 2008

Consumer demand for new products within the cosmetics and toiletries industry has encouraged the industry increasingly to incorporate and experiment with new products and processes, including nanotechnologies. A number of cosmetic products which claim to incorporate engineered nano-materials have already entered the market and include, for instance, anti-ageing creams, make up, hair care products, cleansers and moisturisers. While the use of engineered nano-materials within cosmetics offers a range of benefits, including increased transparency and solubility, there has been increasing debate over the potential risks associated with a number of the nano-materials already found in these products. While such concerns are not unique to the cosmetics sector, due to the direct application of these products onto the human skin, concern has been expressed over the potential health effects of nanotechnology-based cosmetics. This is despite the fact that cosmetic products are subject to regulatory controls within every jurisdiction in which they are sold. With debate over the safety of cosmetics containing nano-materials likely to escalate in line with the number of products entering the marketplace, this article examines the adequacy of the current regulatory framework for cosmetics containing nanoscale materials within one of the world’s largest cosmetic’s market, the European Union. Two case studies are presented, and the effectiveness of the Cosmetics Directive is examined by reference to these two products. By drawing on this analysis, the article articulates the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory regime, and discusses how these may be addressed under the proposed new regulatory framework.

Available at SSRN.