August 9, 2021
Newsletter | Tea Leaves

Access & Coverage:

  • Nearly 20 Senate Democrats reintroduced legislation Friday to create a new Medicaid-based public option. According to the press release, the bill could help state residents who may make too much to qualify for ACA income-based subsidies on the exchanges but don’t have employer coverage. However, legislation’s passage is uncertain as it has not been added to the $3.5 trillion budget bill that includes other reforms on drug pricing and expanding Medicare benefits. (Article here)

D.C. News:

  • The Senate voted to cut off debate on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, clearing the way for a vote on the final passage of the bipartisan bill. Sixty-eight senators, including 18 Republicans, voted to invoke cloture to break the filibuster and push the process forward. The Senate is expected to vote on passage of the bipartisan deal possible by Tuesday. Senators are confident the bill will pass, but it still faces significant challenges in the House. (Articles here, here, here, here, and here)
  • The CMS released a proposed rule on Friday that would nullify a Trump-era regulation that ties Medicare Part B prices for certain products to prices paid overseas. The decision is a big win for the pharmaceutical industry and the hospital industry and comes in response to a series of legal defeats that the Biden administration faced over the controversial model. The agency stated that, if finalized, the rule would give the agency time to further consider issues raised by commenters. (Articles here and here)

Health IT:

  • According to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, telehealth use in the U.S. stabilized in May following three months of decline earlier this year. Telehealth use rose 2 percent nationally from April to May 2021, increasing from 4.9 percent of medical claim lines in April to 5 percent in May. Substance use disorders joined the top five telehealth diagnoses for the first time, while mental health conditions remained in the number one spot among telehealth diagnoses and rose nationally and in every region in May 2021. (Tracker here)                                               

Life Sciences:

  • In a preliminary study, 88 percent of people who received a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine said they had similar or fewer side effects than they did after their second dose. Thirty-one percent said they had side effects like pain or swelling where they got the shot. About 500,000 Israelis have received the third dose so far, and Pfizer has been pushing for booster shots in the U.S. (Article here)

Public Health/Prevention:

  • Top U.S. health officials called for COVID-19 vaccination mandates to be instituted at the local level. Anthony Fauci and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said they support mandates, with Dr. Fauci saying universities, businesses, and other groups will be empowered to set those requirements once the shots gain full regulatory approval, which could come within weeks. Meanwhile, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the union would reconsider its opposition to vaccination mandates for teachers because “circumstances have changed.” (Articles here, here, here, here, here, and here)
  • Canada is lifting restrictions for Americans crossing the border for nonessential travel. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are required to be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their trip. The Biden administration has said it will keep restrictions in place for Canadian travelers through at least August 21, but the White House is making plans for a phased reopening of the border. (Article here)