From Kaiser Health News

Four Things to Know About the J&J Covid Vaccine Pause

April 15, 2021

Four months into the largest U.S. vaccine rollout in decades, it’s become clear that the messaging surrounding covid-19 vaccination efforts is as important as the science behind them.

That was true when the first covid vaccines were introduced in December at hospitals and nursing homes and even more so after the federal government on Tuesday paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of extremely rare but very serious — in one case, fatal — side effects emerged.

Four months into the largest U.S. vaccine rollout in decades, it’s become clear that the messaging surrounding covid-19 vaccination efforts is as important as the science behind them.

That was true when the first covid vaccines were introduced in December at hospitals and nursing homes and even more so after the federal government on Tuesday paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of extremely rare but very serious — in one case, fatal — side effects emerged.

Most health experts largely applauded the government for its decision, saying it showed regulators making vaccine safety their top priority. They said regulators need to strike a balance between addressing small but serious risks while encouraging millions to get inoculated to quickly end the pandemic.

“The pause is a good decision and shows the public health system is working,” said Noel Brewer, a professor in the health behavior department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill….

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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….

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Landmark COVID Relief Law Pumps More Than $100 Billion Into Public Health

March 18, 2021

Acknowledging that chronic underfunding of public health contributed significantly to the nation’s fragmented response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats included more than $100 billion in the recently enacted relief package to address urgent needs and enhance future efforts.

“The pandemic has given us possibly the best chance we’ve ever had of getting on the right track to shore up our public health resources,” said Jeffrey Levi, a professor of health management at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “Tens of millions of us have directly experienced what happens when our country is not prepared.”

Acknowledging that chronic underfunding of public health contributed significantly to the nation’s fragmented response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats included more than $100 billion in the recently enacted relief package to address urgent needs and enhance future efforts.

“The pandemic has given us possibly the best chance we’ve ever had of getting on the right track to shore up our public health resources,” said Jeffrey Levi, a professor of health management at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “Tens of millions of us have directly experienced what happens when our country is not prepared.”

Even so, Levi and other public health advocates worry that momentum will wane once the pandemic abates, as it has after past crises and natural disasters. They also say that more sustained funding will be needed over the next decade and beyond to address long-festering problems….

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Four Vital Health Issues — Not Tied to Covid — That Congress Addressed in Massive Spending Bill

January 28, 2021

Late last month, before President Joe Biden took office and proposed his pandemic relief plan, Congress passed a nearly 5,600-page legislative package that provided some pandemic relief along with its more general allocations to fund the government in 2021.

While the $900 billion that lawmakers included for urgent pandemic relief got most of the attention, some even bigger changes for health care were buried in the other parts of that huge legislative package.

Late last month, before President Joe Biden took office and proposed his pandemic relief plan, Congress passed a nearly 5,600-page legislative package that provided some pandemic relief along with its more general allocations to fund the government in 2021.

While the $900 billion that lawmakers included for urgent pandemic relief got most of the attention, some even bigger changes for health care were buried in the other parts of that huge legislative package.

The bundle included a ban on surprise medical bills, for example — a problem that key lawmakers had been wrestling with for two years. Starting in 2022, because of the new law, patients generally will not pay more for out-of-network care in emergencies and at otherwise in-network facilities….

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Biden Takes the Reins, Calls for a United Front Against Covid and Other Threats

January 20, 2021

Joe Biden on Wednesday took the oath to become the 46th president of the United States, vowing to bring the nation together in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives, enormous economic dislocation and civil unrest so serious that the U.S. Capitol steps where he took his oath were surrounded not by cheering crowds, but by tens of thousands of armed police and National Guard troops.

In his inaugural address, given outside despite concerns for his physical security, Biden emphasized unity, the driving theme of his campaign. “My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our nation,” he said. “And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”

Joe Biden on Wednesday took the oath to become the 46th president of the United States, vowing to bring the nation together in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives, enormous economic dislocation and civil unrest so serious that the U.S. Capitol steps where he took his oath were surrounded not by cheering crowds, but by tens of thousands of armed police and National Guard troops.

In his inaugural address, given outside despite concerns for his physical security, Biden emphasized unity, the driving theme of his campaign. “My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our nation,” he said. “And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”

On health care, Biden made it clear that combating the covid-19 pandemic will be his top priority. “We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” he said. “We will get through this together….”

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