From Politico

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….

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Inside America’s Unending Testing Snafu

April 22, 2020

It’s hard to tell from watching President Donald Trump and members of his Coronavirus Task Force just how many people can be tested for coronavirus in the U.S. and whether there’s enough testing capacity to reopen the economy.

Task force officials have been citing the millions of swabs and test tubes now in production as manufacturers ramp up capacity. They handed out lists of labs in each state to governors this week, suggesting that states just haven’t been asking labs to do the work.

It’s hard to tell from watching President Donald Trump and members of his Coronavirus Task Force just how many people can be tested for coronavirus in the U.S. and whether there’s enough testing capacity to reopen the economy.

Task force officials have been citing the millions of swabs and test tubes now in production as manufacturers ramp up capacity. They handed out lists of labs in each state to governors this week, suggesting that states just haven’t been asking labs to do the work.

But doubling the number of tests conducted from the current 1 million per week, as the White House recommends, is far more complicated than that. In addition to solving the complex global supply chain problems with test and lab materials, it will likely require large purchases of high-speed lab equipment and greater national coordination….

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The Virus-Fighting Agency Trump Gutted (It’s Not the WHO)

April 15, 2020

Donald Trump may be threatening to defund the World Health Organization, the United Nations agency he accuses of “severely mismanaging” the coronavirus epidemic.

But diplomats and public health experts at the WHO and elsewhere say the U.S. president has already gutted the agency that has traditionally taken the lead in battling global pandemics: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Donald Trump may be threatening to defund the World Health Organization, the United Nations agency he accuses of “severely mismanaging” the coronavirus epidemic.

But diplomats and public health experts at the WHO and elsewhere say the U.S. president has already gutted the agency that has traditionally taken the lead in battling global pandemics: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is the world’s preeminent disease-fighting body. Its staff of more than 20,000 people is mostly based in Atlanta, but they’re also spread around the U.S. and dozens of countries….

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Trump Team Failed to Follow NSC’s Pandemic Playbook

March 25, 2020

The Trump administration, state officials and even individual hospital workers are now racing against each other to get the necessary masks, gloves and other safety equipment to fight coronavirus — a scramble that hospitals and doctors say has come too late and left them at risk. But according to a previously unrevealed White House playbook, the government should’ve begun a federal-wide effort to procure that personal protective equipment at least two months ago.

The Trump administration, state officials and even individual hospital workers are now racing against each other to get the necessary masks, gloves and other safety equipment to fight coronavirus — a scramble that hospitals and doctors say has come too late and left them at risk. But according to a previously unrevealed White House playbook, the government should’ve begun a federal-wide effort to procure that personal protective equipment at least two months ago.

“Is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?” the playbook instructs its readers, as one early decision that officials should address when facing a potential pandemic. “If YES: What are the triggers to signal exhaustion of supplies? Are additional supplies available? If NO: Should the Strategic National Stockpile release PPE to states?”

The strategies are among hundreds of tactics and key policy decisions laid out in a 69-page National Security Council playbook on fighting pandemics, which POLITICO is detailing for the first time. Other recommendations include that the government move swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, secure supplemental funding and consider invoking the Defense Production Act — all steps in which the Trump administration lagged behind the timeline laid out in the playbook….

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Trump’s Next Health Care Move: Giving Silicon Valley Your Medical Data

February 19, 2020

The Trump administration’s push to give patients more control over their health records could turn over a massive trove of very personal data to giant tech companies, app designers and data brokers.

The Trump administration’s push to give patients more control over their health records could turn over a massive trove of very personal data to giant tech companies, app designers and data brokers.

If proposed policy changes go through, patients would be able to download their health records on to their smartphones and direct it to apps of their choice. But there’s a major privacy pitfall: As soon as those records leave the software system of the doctor or hospital, they are no longer protected by HIPAA, the landmark medical privacy law….

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