Headlines in the News

Inside the CDC’s Battle to Defeat the Virus

April 1, 2021

It’s been a long year for basically everyone — and especially for Dr. Henry Walke. For months on end, Walke has been pulling 13-hour work days as the COVID-19 incident response manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a job he took on last July.

He never expected the job to last this long. “The scale of this pandemic is mind-boggling, and it’s affected all of us — every facet of our work and home,” he says.

It’s been a long year for basically everyone — and especially for Dr. Henry Walke. For months on end, Walke has been pulling 13-hour work days as the COVID-19 incident response manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a job he took on last July.

He never expected the job to last this long. “The scale of this pandemic is mind-boggling, and it’s affected all of us — every facet of our work and home,” he says.

Walke is heading up the largest and most challenging outbreak response in the agency’s history — an all-agency effort involving more than 8,000 employees, working to guide the U.S. out of a public health emergency that has claimed more than 550,000 lives….

Read the full NPR article

Indiana’s Medicaid Expansion — Designed by Pence and Verma — Panned in Federal Report

April 1, 2021

Indiana’s Medicaid expansion — with its “personal responsibility” provisions that require enrollees to pay monthly premiums and manage health savings accounts — proved no better at improving health and access to care than other state expansions, a federally commissioned study found.

Even when compared with states that did not expand Medicaid, Indiana showed only mixed results in improving the health of low-income residents, the report said.

Indiana’s Medicaid expansion — with its “personal responsibility” provisions that require enrollees to pay monthly premiums and manage health savings accounts — proved no better at improving health and access to care than other state expansions, a federally commissioned study found.

Even when compared with states that did not expand Medicaid, Indiana showed only mixed results in improving the health of low-income residents, the report said.

Indiana’s expansion program — known as the Healthy Indiana Plan — has been closely watched not just because of its complexity, but also because its chief architects were former Vice President Mike Pence, who launched the effort as governor in 2015, and his top health consultant, Seema Verma, who directed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Donald Trump….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Democrats Look at Lowering Medicare Eligibility Age in Healthcare Package

March 31, 2021

Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration are planning another round of healthcare initiatives that could include lowering the Medicare eligibility age, following their major expansion of the Affordable Care Act this year.

Democrats are still negotiating over which healthcare policy elements could be in the second of two spending programs the administration plans to unveil soon, according to congressional aides and industry groups.

Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration are planning another round of healthcare initiatives that could include lowering the Medicare eligibility age, following their major expansion of the Affordable Care Act this year.

Democrats are still negotiating over which healthcare policy elements could be in the second of two spending programs the administration plans to unveil soon, according to congressional aides and industry groups.

The package is likely to contain measures to reduce drug prices and expand health coverage, lawmakers said. Proposals to expand Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 60 and to enable the federal government to negotiate drug prices in the health program for seniors—both of which President Biden supported on the campaign trail—are also likely to be included….

Read the full The Wall Street Journal article

AstraZeneca, After Rebuke, Releases New Data Supporting Its Vaccine

March 25, 2021

AstraZeneca reiterated on Wednesday that its Covid-19 vaccine was very effective at preventing the disease, based on more recent data than was included when the company announced the interim results of its U.S. clinical trial on Monday.

The company said in a news release that its vaccine was 76 percent effective at preventing Covid-19. That is slightly lower than the efficacy number that the company announced earlier this week.

AstraZeneca reiterated on Wednesday that its Covid-19 vaccine was very effective at preventing the disease, based on more recent data than was included when the company announced the interim results of its U.S. clinical trial on Monday.

The company said in a news release that its vaccine was 76 percent effective at preventing Covid-19. That is slightly lower than the efficacy number that the company announced earlier this week.

The new results strengthen the scientific case for the embattled vaccine. But they may not repair the damage to AstraZeneca’s credibility after U.S. health officials and independent monitors issued an extraordinary rebuke of the company for not counting some Covid-19 cases when it announced its initial findings this week….

Read the full The New York Times article

Behind the Scenes, Companies Helping Big Covid-19 Vaccine Makers Are Getting Rich

March 25, 2021

Pfizer and Moderna aren’t the only vaccine money-makers. Much of the revenue and profits from Covid-19 vaccines are flowing behind the scenes, going to the contract manufacturers and clinical-trial organizers that turn the shots from lab-bench theory to mass-produced reality.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson publicly committed to not profiting off their products during the pandemic — though AstraZeneca has reserved the right to declare the pandemic over on July 1, even if the World Health Organization has not. Pfizer and Moderna made no such pledge, with Pfizer expected to make $15 billion in vaccine-related revenue this year, while Moderna is forecasting $18.4 billion in vaccine sales.

Pfizer and Moderna aren’t the only vaccine money-makers. Much of the revenue and profits from Covid-19 vaccines are flowing behind the scenes, going to the contract manufacturers and clinical-trial organizers that turn the shots from lab-bench theory to mass-produced reality.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson publicly committed to not profiting off their products during the pandemic — though AstraZeneca has reserved the right to declare the pandemic over on July 1, even if the World Health Organization has not. Pfizer and Moderna made no such pledge, with Pfizer expected to make $15 billion in vaccine-related revenue this year, while Moderna is forecasting $18.4 billion in vaccine sales.

Contractors hired to test and manufacture these vaccines have enjoyed a share of the profits without the same level of public scrutiny….

Read the full Stat article

Biden Extending Obamacare’s Pandemic Enrollment Season

March 24, 2021

The Biden administration is extending a special Obamacare enrollment season it opened for the pandemic, giving Americans three more months to shop for health coverage after Congress recently boosted insurance subsidies in the Covid stimulus package.

President Joe Biden during his first weeks in office opened a new special enrollment period, citing increased need for coverage during the twin economic and health crises. Biden announced the sign-up extension Tuesday evening as he marked the health care law’s 11th anniversary and touted its biggest expansion yet during a speech in Ohio.

The Biden administration is extending a special Obamacare enrollment season it opened for the pandemic, giving Americans three more months to shop for health coverage after Congress recently boosted insurance subsidies in the Covid stimulus package.

President Joe Biden during his first weeks in office opened a new special enrollment period, citing increased need for coverage during the twin economic and health crises. Biden announced the sign-up extension Tuesday evening as he marked the health care law’s 11th anniversary and touted its biggest expansion yet during a speech in Ohio.

“With the American Rescue Plan and the Affordable Care Act, millions of families will be able to sleep a little bit more soundly at night because they don’t have worry about losing everything if they get sick,” Biden said….

Read the full Politico article