August 23, 2021
Newsletter | Tea Leaves

Access & Coverage:

  • A new report by the Urban Institute found that the uninsurance rate held steady at 11 percent between March 2019 and April 2021 due to increased enrollment in public coverage. During that time, the number of adults younger than 65 with employer-sponsored insurance coverage dropped from 65 percent to 62.3 percent. Simultaneously, the share reporting public coverage increased from 13.6 percent to 17.5 percent. The uninsured rate in states without Medicaid expansion was more than double expansion states in April 2021, at about 18 percent and 8 percent, respectively. (Report here)

D.C. News:

  • The House will meet today to vote on Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution, despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi not having the votes to pass it. House moderates have threatened to oppose the resolution unless the chamber first approves the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure deal. Republicans are expected to unanimously vote against the budget resolution; thus, moderates’ nine votes would be more than enough to sink the measure. (Articles here, here, here, and here)

Health IT:

  • Google says it is ramping up its investment in health-focused initiatives even as it unwinds its three-year-old health division. Last week, Google Health chief David Feinberg, M.D. announced he was leaving to become Cerner’s new CEO and president. According to an internal memo, the projects and teams that make up Google Health will now be scattered across different parts of the company. (Articles here and here)

Life Sciences:

  • The FDA is reportedly set to grant the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval as soon as this week. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said his hope is that a “full approval,” as opposed to its current “emergency” one, would push more Americans to get their shots. He also defended the Biden administration’s plans to begin rolling out booster shots for many Americans in mid-September, despite criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO) and others that the U.S. should not offer booster shots to Americans while many countries lag in vaccine access. This morning, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a two-month moratorium on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines as a means of reducing global vaccine inequality and preventing the emergence of new variants. (Articles here, here, here, here, and here)


  • Pfizer announced it will buy the remaining shares of Trillium Therapeutics in a deal that values the cancer drugmaker at $2.26 billion. Last year Pfizer acquired a $25 million stake in Trillium. Trillium is developing drugs that help patients’ immune systems detect and destroy cancer cells, and its two leading candidates are in early-stage studies. (Article here)

Opioid/Substance Use Disorders:

  • A Bloomberg Law article explores how the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating health equity efforts, particularly as they relate to the Biden administration’s plans to tackle the addiction crisis. Thus far, the administration has lowered restrictions for operating mobile methadone dispensaries to reach underserved areas, eased guidelines for doctors to prescribe at-home drugs for fighting addiction, and requested $10 billion to continue its efforts. However, advocates say work needs to be done to make treatment more accessible to the communities that need it most, including bilingual treatment specialists, housing assistance, and keeping services within a reasonable geographic reach. (Article here)


  • A new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis found that the spike in hospitalizations of unvaccinated adults cost the U.S. health system $2.3 billion in June and July. Using CDC data, KFF estimated that there were around 37,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults in June and another 76,000 in July, each with an average cost around $20,000. The monetary cost of treating unvaccinated people for COVID-19 is borne not only by patients but also by taxpayer-funded public programs and private insurance premiums paid by workers, businesses, and individual purchasers. (Analysis here)