Headlines in the News

Coronavirus Drives Health Insurers Back to Obamacare

May 14, 2020

Health insurers fled the Affordable Care Act in the early years of the law, fearing that losses from covering too many sick people would eat away at their profits.

Now the insurers increasingly view Obamacare as a boon while job-based health coverage faces its biggest threat yet in a crashing economy.

With tens of millions of people losing their jobs — and their health benefits — along with major cuts to Medicaid, the insurers see stability and the promise of enough healthy enrollees in a marketplace that offers government subsidized private insurance to millions of Americans during a pandemic.

Health insurers fled the Affordable Care Act in the early years of the law, fearing that losses from covering too many sick people would eat away at their profits.

Now the insurers increasingly view Obamacare as a boon while job-based health coverage faces its biggest threat yet in a crashing economy.

With tens of millions of people losing their jobs — and their health benefits — along with major cuts to Medicaid, the insurers see stability and the promise of enough healthy enrollees in a marketplace that offers government subsidized private insurance to millions of Americans during a pandemic.

United Healthcare, the nation’s biggest insurer, on Tuesday said it’s re-entering Maryland’s Obamacare market and planning other expansions after abandoning 34 states’ ACA exchanges since 2016. Anthem and Cigna have also made incremental moves over the past two years….

Read the full Politico article

Trump Taps Slaoui, Gen. Perna For ‘Warp Speed’ Vaccine Project

May 13, 2020

President Donald Trump plans to name Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s vaccines division, and Gustave Perna, a four-star U.S. general, to lead a Manhattan Project-style effort to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, two people familiar with the matter said.

Slaoui, 60, and Perna will oversee the initiative known as Operation Warp Speed, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement expected later Wednesday. Slaoui will work on a volunteer basis.

President Donald Trump plans to name Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s vaccines division, and Gustave Perna, a four-star U.S. general, to lead a Manhattan Project-style effort to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, two people familiar with the matter said.

Slaoui, 60, and Perna will oversee the initiative known as Operation Warp Speed, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement expected later Wednesday. Slaoui will work on a volunteer basis.

The Trump administration project seeks to produce 300 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year, hastening development by simultaneously testing many different candidates and beginning production before they’ve completed clinical trials….

Read the full Bloomberg article

Covid-19 Experts Examine Where the U.S. Response Went Wrong

May 13, 2020

From testing failures to downplayed virus risks to the disproportionate effect on communities of color, two Covid-19 experts emphasized at a Tuesday forum what is now a familiar refrain: The U.S. response has been fundamentally flawed.

“We had information and we discounted it,” said panelist David Williams, a professor of public health, African and African American studies, and sociology at Harvard. “We didn’t take it as seriously as we could have. I do think that we could have been in a better position than we currently are if we had acted promptly.”

From testing failures to downplayed virus risks to the disproportionate effect on communities of color, two Covid-19 experts emphasized at a Tuesday forum what is now a familiar refrain: The U.S. response has been fundamentally flawed.

“We had information and we discounted it,” said panelist David Williams, a professor of public health, African and African American studies, and sociology at Harvard. “We didn’t take it as seriously as we could have. I do think that we could have been in a better position than we currently are if we had acted promptly.”

Williams appeared at the hourlong virtual event held by the Kennedy Library Forums with STAT senior infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell and moderator Rick Berke, STAT’s executive editor….

Read the full Stat article

U.S. Shelves CDC’s Detailed Guide to Reopening Country

May 7, 2020

The Trump administration has shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

The Trump administration has shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity….

Read the full The Associated Press article

Will Gilead Price Its Coronavirus Drug for Public Good or Company Profit?

May 6, 2020

Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) faces a new dilemma in deciding how much it should profit from the only treatment so far proven to help patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

The drugmaker earned notoriety less than a decade ago, when it introduced a treatment that essentially cured hepatitis C at a price of $1,000 per pill.

Public outrage over the cost of Sovaldi in 2013 – despite that it was a vast improvement over existing equally expensive therapies – ignited a national debate on fair pricing for prescription medicines that the pharmaceutical industry has fought to deflect ever since.

Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) faces a new dilemma in deciding how much it should profit from the only treatment so far proven to help patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

The drugmaker earned notoriety less than a decade ago, when it introduced a treatment that essentially cured hepatitis C at a price of $1,000 per pill.

Public outrage over the cost of Sovaldi in 2013 – despite that it was a vast improvement over existing equally expensive therapies – ignited a national debate on fair pricing for prescription medicines that the pharmaceutical industry has fought to deflect ever since.

That backlash has subsided considerably in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, during which drugmakers’ efforts to develop vaccines and treatments is considered essential to battling a disease that has infected some 3.7 million people and killed over 258,000 worldwide….

Read the full Reuters article

Mounting Promises on Covid-19 Vaccines Are Fueling False Expectations, Experts Say

May 6, 2020

Vaccines to prevent Covid-19 infection are hurtling through development at speeds never before seen. But mounting promises that some vaccine may be available for emergency use as early as the autumn are fueling expectations that are simply unrealistic, experts warn.

Even if the stages of vaccine development could be compressed and supplies could be rapidly manufactured and deployed, it could take many more months or longer before most Americans would be able to roll up their sleeves. And in many countries around the world, the wait could be far longer still — perpetuating the worldwide risk the new coronavirus poses for several years to come.

Vaccines to prevent Covid-19 infection are hurtling through development at speeds never before seen. But mounting promises that some vaccine may be available for emergency use as early as the autumn are fueling expectations that are simply unrealistic, experts warn.

Even if the stages of vaccine development could be compressed and supplies could be rapidly manufactured and deployed, it could take many more months or longer before most Americans would be able to roll up their sleeves. And in many countries around the world, the wait could be far longer still — perpetuating the worldwide risk the new coronavirus poses for several years to come.

That reality is being obscured by reports that some of the earliest vaccine candidates — including one from the biotechnology company Moderna and another from University of Oxford — may within months have enough evidence behind them to be administered on an emergency use basis….

Read the full Stat article