August 18, 2021
Newsletter | Tea Leaves

D.C. News:

  • More than 100 House lawmakers sent a letter to the FDA asking when regulators will authorize COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12. The lawmakers noted that the current rise in infections is “alarming for parents” as schools reopen for in-person learning and requested a briefing from the FDA within 10 days. (Article here)

 Inequities and SDOH:

  • A study published in JAMA found that per-person health spending is highest for white individuals compared to patients of other races, even after adjusting for factors like age and health conditions. Of the $2.4 trillion spent across six types of care included in this study, per-person spending for white individuals averaged $8,141 and accounted for 72 percent of health care spending. The average per-person spending for Black individuals and Hispanic individuals was $7,361 and $6,025, respectively. The researchers also observed differences in utilization by race. For instance, white individuals received an estimated 15 percent more spending on ambulatory care than the all-population while Black individuals received an estimated 26 percent less. (Study here; Articles here and here)

Life Sciences:

  • A growing number of studies suggest that COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe disease and hospitalization, but their ability to prevent illness is waning. Preliminary data from seven states show that breakthrough infections in vaccinated people accounted for at least one in five newly diagnosed cases in six of these states and higher percentages of total hospitalizations and deaths than had been previously observed in all of them. The U.S. reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, equating to around 42 fatalities an hour. (Articles here, here, here, and here)

 Opioid/Substance Use Disorders:

  • The owners of Purdue Pharma threaten withdraw from the opioid settlement lawsuit unless they are shielded from lawsuits related to company. David Sackler, a former board member at Purdue Pharma LP and grandson of one of the company’s founders, made the statement during a confirmation hearing for the drugmaker’s bankruptcy plan. The deal had been negotiated over two years to settle thousands of lawsuits brought by states, cities and other plaintiffs. (Articles here and here)


  • Senior-focused provider CareMax and Anthem are partnering to open 50 new medical centers. The centers will be located in Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut, and Virginia and focus on areas where Anthem offers value-based care models to improve outcomes. In addition, Anthem affiliate Empire BlueCrossBlue Shield, in partnership with nonprofit payer Emblem Health, won a contract with New York City to administer Medicare Advantage plans to some 250,000 retirees. (Press release here; Article here)


  • An updated analysis finds that hospital admissions remained below expected levels in early 2021, suggesting much of the care people put off during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been forgone altogether or delayed for longer. The analysis, conducted by Epic Health Research Network and KFF and based on admissions data from 250 hospitals across 47 states, estimates hospital admissions during the first three months of 2021 were 89.4 percent of what would be expected in the absence of the pandemic. The pattern continued through the week of April 3, when admissions were 85.5 percent of expected levels. (Analysis here)

 Public Health/Prevention:

  • The Transportation Security Administration said it will extend the mask mandate for air travelers and passengers on public transit to Jan. 18, 2022. The requirement had been set to expire September 13, but the TSA extended the mandate as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread. (Articles here and here)