KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Boosting confusion

Numerous governors and mayors are extending the availability of booster shots unilaterally, a move that comes ahead of federal health officials, especially as covid casesloads continue to rise across the nation.

Concerning federal health officials, President Joe Biden has finally selected a nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration. If confirmed by the Senate, it will be Dr. Robert Califf’s third stint at the agency that oversees about one-fifth of all the products sold in the United States. Califf was previously under the presidency of President Barack Obama for less than one year.

The nomination of Califf, however, could be slowed by the announcement of a significant increase in Medicare premiums for 2022, prompted largely by the FDA’s approval of a controversial drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease that has not yet confirmed to be to be effective.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Tami Luhby of CNN, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet and Rachel Cohrs of Stat.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • According to House Democratic leaders they are planning to approve a bill that funds Biden’s social policies and climate change agendas soon. Even moderates who are concerned about the cost of passing the bill seem to believe it’s likely. The Congressional Budget Office has not yet released its full estimates of costs for some of the most controversial provisions in the bill. This could result in calls for revisions.
  • Because he is expected by the majority of Democrats and a few Republicans to gain support, Califf appears to be on track for Senate confirmation. However, a number of Democrats have already criticized the nomination, claiming that the FDA wasn’t as tough on the drug companies that are the cause of the opioid epidemic. They need a leader who will change this culture.
  • At the Department of Health and Human Services, at least three Senate-confirmed positions related to social services remain vacant. Those include the assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families and an administrator for the Administration for Native Americans and the commissioner of the agency’s children youth and families bureau.
  • Medicare officials announced that the standard monthly premium for the Part B program which covers doctor visits and other outpatient medical care, would rise next year by more than $20. A portion of the increase is to prevent Medicare from paying for the cost of Aduhelm the drug that is a source of controversy for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Aduhelm is priced at $56,000 a year and involves other expenses related to the testing for adverse effects. Officials from Medicare stated that, although the drug is unlikely to be used by many beneficiaries, the high price of the drug has led to an increase in the cost of the drug.
  • If Medicare opts not to cover Aduhelm, it’s unclear whether or how beneficiaries will recoup the money spent on the premiums.
  • The FDA seems to be heading in the direction of the Biden administration’s desire that all Americans be eligible for additional shots of covid which are also called boosters. Although some scientists in the administration were hesitant to make the change new evidence from drug makers suggests that it is a good idea to give younger people more vaccine shots.
  • The decision of cities and states to make young adults eligible for the boosters may not be legal under the authorization to use special-use drugs the FDA gave to several of the vaccines. But it hasn’t been challenged.
  • The confusion over who is eligible for shots could undermine the federal government’s efforts to assure the nation that the vaccines are safe and a good option. People who aren’t convinced to get the shots don’t seem to be convinced by the arguments.
  • The federal court is currently arguing against Biden’s directive that large employers establish vaccine mandates. The matter will likely end up before the Supreme Court, and some workers’ advocates fear that the justices could take advantage of the case to weaken federal protections for workers.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Dan Weissmann host of the ” An Arm and A Leg” podcast on his latest project that is which is a ” first-aid kit” newsletter to assist consumers in making better decisions about their health care.

For extra credit panelists can also recommend their top health-related stories to you to read each week:

Julie Rovner: The Atlantic’s ” Why Health Care Workers Are quitting in Droves,” by Ed Yong.

Also, Stat’s The Catholic Hospital System ascension Is running a Wall Street-style Private Equity Fund,” Rachel Cohrs.

Tami Luhby: Politico’s ” “‘We Can’t Fix It Because We Just Don’t Care about Old People,’” by Joanne Kenen.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: KHN and InvestigateTV’s ” As Big Pharma and Hospitals fight over Drug Discounts Patients are left out of Millions of Benefits,” by Sarah Jane Tribble and Emily Featherston.

Rachel Cohrs Modern Healthcare’s Reasons Justice Department Is Targeting private Equity, by Tara Bannow

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Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an independent news outlet that is editorially independent is a part of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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