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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is trying to win over the Republican-controlled Legislature with details of her plan to enact a historic repeal of the state’s tax on groceries. But to deliver on the campaign promise, the Republican governor must convince lawmakers the state can also afford to tackle inflation and a long list of items pressing on the state’s budget. This fall, Noem made the grocery tax repeal a centerpiece of her reelection campaign. She says it would help alleviate the squeeze of inflation on household budgets. Inflation, however, also has lawmakers focused on other budget items, including helping state employees, teachers and government-funded health care workers cope with inflation.

The Biden administration is actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women. But those efforts are bumping up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right. After midterm elections there’s a renewed purpose at the White House to find ways to help women in states have virtually outlawed or limited the treatment, and to enforce policies already in place. But the administration is shackled by a ban on federal funding for most abortions, a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and a split Congress.

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A Memphis hospital says it has paused, not stopped, its gender-affirming services in response to possible legal action by civil rights advocates who argue the hospital’s move is illegal and discriminatory. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee last week accused Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare of halting all gender-affirming surgeries due to a newly adopted policy. The hospital said in a statement it has not changed its practices “regarding the treatment of transgender and/or non-binary patients.” A spokesperson for the ACLU-TN hasn't responded to an email requesting comment Monday. MLH's website says the hospital serves more than 128,000 adult Medicaid patients each year.

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It's now a lot easier and cheaper for Americans to get hearing aids. The government recently began allowing the sale of hearing aids without a prescription. These over-the-counter hearing aids began hitting the market in October at prices that can be thousands of dollars lower than prescription hearing aids. They are for people with mild-to-moderate hearing problems — not those with more severe hearing loss. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that around 30 million people in the United States deal with hearing loss. Only about 20% of the people who could use a hearing aid seek help.

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A 62-year-old Missouri man has admitted that he cashed his mother's Social Security checks for 26 years after her death. Reginald Bagley, of Dellwood, pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing money belonging to the United States. The U.S. Attorney's Office in eastern Missouri said in a news release that Bagley did not report his mother's death in March 1994 to the Social Security Administration. He set up a bank account in 1998 to directly deposit her benefits, and the bank statements went to Bagley's home. The scheme ended in 2020 when the Social Security Administration tried to reach Bagley's mother because she was not using her Medicare benefits. Bagley stole $197,329 in Social Security benefits.

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Civil rights advocates say a Memphis hospital is no longer providing gender-affirming surgeries. In a letter sent Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee claims the Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has halted all gender-affirming surgeries due to a newly adopted policy. Their client, Chris Evans, had been scheduled for a surgery at MLH in less than a week. MLH is one of Tennessee’s largest providers of Tennessee’s Medicaid and uninsured patients. The ACLU says if the hospital does not respond by Friday, it will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. A spokesperson for the hospital did not immediately return an email requesting comment.

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An Oklahoma man is preparing to try to gather over 173,000 signatures and millions of dollars in fundraising to put abortion access up for public vote in a state with one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. It's part of a growing trend of citizen-led initiatives across the nation. Voters in six states this year rejected measures to restrict abortion access and supported efforts to protect it. Carolyn Ehrlich is a senior political strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union. She says such initiatives can serve as a “roadmap in states where the legislature is a roadblock.”

North Carolina government is appealing a judge’s order that demands by certain dates many more community services for people with intellectual and development disabilities who otherwise live at institutions. Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley announced the formal challenge on Wednesday. He says his agency has grave concerns about some directives issued four weeks ago by Judge Allen Baddour. One in particular says new admissions to new admissions for people with such disabilities in state-run development centers, privately intermediate care facilities and certain adult care homes must end by January 2028. Kinsley says the decision could shutter small facilities and leave clients without accommodations.

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Mississippi's leading public health official says over half of the state's rural hospitals are at risk of closing immediately or in the near future. State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney spoke to state senators at a Monday hearing about the financial pressure on Mississippi hospitals. Edney says 38 rural hospitals could close. That would be 54% of the state’s total number of rural hospitals. The potential closures threaten to exacerbate poor health outcomes in one of the nation’s poorest states. Experts at the hearing say the crux of the problem facing Mississippi’s hospitals is that revenues have not kept pace with rising costs to provide care.

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez has defeated rival Democrat David Kim in a Los Angeles district after a battle on the party’s progressive flank. With nearly all the ballots counted, Gomez has 51.3% to 48.7% for Kim, or a margin of about 3,000 votes. The race was a rematch from 2020 when Gomez defeated Kim, an immigration lawyer. The heavily Democratic 34th district is a diverse, urban mix of neighborhoods that cuts across income, racial and ethnic groups. It includes downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown and the heavily Latino Boyle Heights. Earlier this week, Republicans regained control of the House.

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President Joe Biden is declaring that his Democratic Party “had a strong night” in the midterm elections. But he also is acknowledging that many remain dissatisfied with the country’s direction. He said Wednesday, that ”The voters were also clear that they’re still frustrated. I get it.” Democrats may still lose control of at least one chamber of Congress. But Biden pledged to stay the course on his agenda, predicting the results will vindicate his choices. He questioned whether Americans really want the major changes some Republicans are calling for — such as debate and votes on whether to continue Social Security or Medicare.

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North Carolina Republican legislative leaders say they're shuttling the idea of Medicaid expansion to 2023, rather than attempting to negotiate a bill that could be voted on by December. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said so on Wednesday. The House and Senate approved several months ago competing bills designed to cover hundreds of thousands of additional low-income adults. Republicans have disagreed over whether additional health care access changes should be attached to expansion. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's office criticized the delay as “wasteful, irresponsible and cruel.” South Dakota voters on Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment directing the state to accept expansion.

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South Dakota voters have approved the expansion of Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income residents through a constitutional amendment. South Dakota is the 39th state to expand eligibility for the government health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. The amendment will extend Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level — currently about $18,800 for an individual or $38,300 for a family of four. The Republican-controlled Legislature had long resisted expanding Medicaid eligibility, and GOP Gov. Kristi Noem opposed it. But a coalition of South Dakota health care groups and progressive organizations backed a well-funded ballot campaign this year.

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Millions of retirees are in the thick of Medicare open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, but many find the process challenging. Some don’t understand the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, many are overwhelmed by Medicare advertising, and only 4 in 10 people review their plan options each year, according to a recent report. This leads to Medicare open enrollment misses, including not confirming that your providers are in-network for the next plan year and not comparing your prescription drug coverage with other available options. Here’s how to make the most of your Medicare choices this year.

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Democrats Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas both won reelection to Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st and 2nd Districts, defeating two pro-Trump Republicans. Pappas defeated Karoline Leavitt, who worked in the White House press office under former President Donald Trump, and Kuster beat Robert Burns, who runs a pharmaceutical quality control business. Leavitt would have been the youngest women elected to Congress at age 25. Both Democrats championed their support of the Inflation Reduction Act. Both Leavitt and Burns contended that the act will actually increase inflation. The Republicans were both endorsed by Trump and defeated candidates favored to win in their primary races.

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Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has won another term, beating Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 race. The 59-year-old Kemp earlier overcame attacks from Donald Trump that threatened to snuff out Kemp’s support among fellow Republicans and lured a primary challenger. Kemp emphasized the state’s economic strength and his moves to hand money back to voters. Abrams is 48-year-old lawyer whose earlier loss to Kemp helped launch her into Democratic stardom. She proposed a broad range of plans she said would improve Georgians’ lives. Abrams lost despite raising more money than Kemp.

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Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson holds a narrow lead as he seeks to win a third term in battleground Wisconsin against Mandela Barnes, a Democrat hoping to make history as the state’s first Black senator. Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest backers, painted Barnes as “dangerous” and soft on crime, hitting on one of the GOP’s biggest campaign themes this cycle. Barnes, already the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, tried to make the race about abortion, highlighting Johnson’s long support for overturning Roe v. Wade.

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State Treasurer Seth Magaziner has won the congressional seat in Rhode Island being vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, keeping it in Democratic control. Magaziner defeated Republican Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor, in the general election. National Republican leaders had hoped to flip the state’s 2nd Congressional District to GOP control for the first time since 1991. Langevin, a Democrat retiring after two decades representing the district, had endorsed Magaziner to replace him. Magaziner, the state’s treasurer since 2015, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Fung is aligned with extremists, though Fung says he’s a moderate Republican.

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South Dakota voters are weighing whether to expand Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income residents through a constitutional amendment after the state Legislature resisted expansion for years. If Constitutional Amendment D is approved by a majority vote, it would remove South Dakota from a list of 12 states that have not expanded eligibility for the government health insurance program. People earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level would become eligible for Medicaid. The Republican-controlled Legislature has resisted Medicaid expansion under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act. But a wide coalition of health care groups backed a well-funded ballot campaign this year.

The Supreme Court seems likely to reject a call to overturn decades of precedent and limit the ability of individuals to use federal civil rights law to sue. The justices had been asked to use a case about a nursing home resident who claimed a violation of his rights to more broadly limit the right to sue. The justices were told that result could leave tens of millions of people who have rights under federal programs including Medicare and Medicaid without access to the courts But members of both the court’s six-justice conservative majority and three-justice liberal wing seemed to have little appetite to rule broadly in the case.

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