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Insurance NewsFirst Edition: April 29, 2021 | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly

First Edition: April 29, 2021 | #insurance | #seniors | #elderly


Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Some County Jail Inmates See Vaccination As Ticket To A Better Life — In The State Pen

The inmates huddled near the front or lingered on the bunk beds lining both sides of their narrow, crowded dorm at the Men’s Central Jail, listening as Lt. Sheriff Dwight Miley and nurse practitioner Marissa Negrete offered them covid vaccinations and answered their questions. Those who wanted the vaccine should line up at the door, Miley and Negrete said. They’d be taken into a short, cramped hallway where medical workers waited with loaded syringes. (Wolfson and de Marco, 4/29)

Covid Forces Cohousing Communities To Examine Shared Values And Relationships 

Tensions were running high at PDX Commons, a cohousing community for adults 55 and older in Portland, Oregon. Several people wanted to keep visitors off-site until all 35 residents were vaccinated. Others wanted to open to family and friends for the first time in a year. How do communities with dozens of members decide what to do during a public health crisis when members have varying tolerance for risk and different opinions about safe practices? (Graham, 4/29)

What A Difference A Year Makes In Colorado’s Case For A Public Option Plan 

Before the pandemic, Colorado looked set to become the second state to pass what’s known as a “public option” health insurance plan, which would have forced hospitals that lawmakers said were raking in obscene profits to accept lower payments. But when covid-19 struck, legislators hit pause. Now, after a year of much public lionizing of doctors and other health professionals on the front lines of the covid fight, it’s a lot harder to make the case hospitals are fleecing patients. (Hawryluk, 4/29)

In Poisoned Montana Town, Warren Buffett-Owned Railroad Accuses Clinic Of Medicare Fraud 

Patricia Denny and her husband, Jeff, had hoped to one day get an RV and travel the country. Instead, Jeff has been forced into retirement at age 54 by a lung disease caused by the asbestos that’s polluted the small town of Libby, Montana, for decades. Jeff Denny’s lungs are damaged from the asbestos he breathed while participating in an Environmental Protection Agency-run cleanup of the asbestos contamination caused by the vermiculite mine that closed 30 years ago in this community in the Cabinet Mountains. Patricia Denny is afraid she will get asbestos-related disease as well, given how many residents of the town have become sick. Barbed fibers, a byproduct of vermiculite, attach to the lungs when breathed in. (Reardon, 4/29)

The New York Times:
Biden Seeks Shift In How The Nation Serves Its People 

President Biden laid out an ambitious agenda on Wednesday night to rewrite the American social compact by vastly expanding family leave, child care, health care, preschool and college education for millions of people to be financed with increased taxes on the wealthiest earners. Invoking the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion social spending plan to accompany previous proposals to build roads and bridges, expand other social programs and combat climate change, representing a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal. (Baker, 4/28)

The Hill:
Biden Vows US Will Be ‘Arsenal Of Vaccination’ For Other Countries 

President Biden on Wednesday vowed that the United States will become an “arsenal of vaccination” for the rest of the world to fight COVID-19.”As our own vaccine supply grows to meet our needs — and we are meeting them — we will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy in World War 2,” Biden said in a speech before a joint session of Congress. But Biden said that won’t happen until “every American” has access to a vaccine. (Weixel, 4/28)

Biden’s Speech Urges Vaccines, Skips Over Masks And Pivots From Covid

President Joe Biden’s speech to Congress focused heavily on the promise of a post-pandemic rebound, with only brief warnings of the virus’s staying power and slowing vaccination rates, and no mention of masks. Biden’s first speech to Congress on Wednesday was centered on policies designed to lead America out of the pandemic, including trillions of dollars in new spending designed to propel the recovery. But, as he touted his recovery plan, Biden didn’t dwell on the pandemic that has fueled the crisis in the first place. He took note of its toll and pleaded with Americans to get their vaccine doses, but didn’t reprise any public health advice on masks or other measures and then pivoted swiftly to other policy initiatives. (Wingrove and Chen, 4/29)

CBS News:
Biden Says It’s “Within Our Power” To End Cancer And Pushes For More Visionary Health Research 

President Biden on Wednesday told the nation that it’s “within our power” to end cancer, as part of a larger argument for creating an advanced health research agency similar to the Defense Department’s DARPA. The president grew emotional when discussing the disease, which claimed the life of his son Beau Biden in 2015. (Albert, 4/28)

Biden Pitches A New Health Agency To Help ‘End Cancer As We Know It’

In one of the most emotional moments of his first major address to Congress, President Biden on Wednesday called on lawmakers to help him “end cancer as we know it.” The bold pledge came after Biden gave a high-profile endorsement of his administration’s proposal to create a new biomedical research agency aimed at developing “breakthrough” treatments for conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. (Facher, 4/28)

The Washington Examiner:
‘I Know Of Nothing That Is More Bipartisan’ Than Curing Cancer, Biden Says During Joint Address 

President Joe Biden said that ending cancer was a bipartisan issue during his joint address to Congress on Wednesday. … The Biden administration will dedicate a high-risk, high-reward federal scientific research agency known as ARPA-H as part of his 2021 budget allocation request. While details about the new agency are scarce, researchers will first focus on developing treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. (Morrison, 4/28)

NBC News:
Biden Veers Off Script To Thank McConnell But Makes Few Other Bipartisan Overtures

In a House Chamber mostly empty because of Covid-19 restrictions, Republicans stood to applaud only a handful of times, such as when Biden called for defeating cancer and said most police officers “serve their communities honorably.” “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan, so let’s end cancer as we know it. It’s within our power to do it,” Biden said as lawmakers from both parties stood to cheer. (Seitz-Wald, 4/28)

The Hill:
Biden Calls On Congress To Pass Drug Pricing Legislation This Year

However, Biden notably did not include a drug pricing component in his American Families Plan unveiled earlier Wednesday, a major legislative package with proposals on paid leave and child care. The absence of a drug pricing plan, despite pressure from congressional Democrats to include one, has raised questions about Biden’s commitment to moving forward on the legislation. Still, Biden made forceful remarks in Wednesday’s speech, while presenting health care as a separate topic from the Families Plan. (Sullivan, 4/28)

The Washington Examiner:
Biden Endorses Controversial Drug Pricing Plan To Pay For Obamacare

House Democrats first passed the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now legislation, or H.R. 3, in December 2019, but it stalled before getting a vote in the majority-GOP Senate. The sweeping drug pricing reform package would allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare. The bill would also require a drug’s price to be set at or below 120% of the average price across six high-income countries — Australia, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. (Morrison, 4/28)

Modern Healthcare:
Biden Won’t Pull The Plug On Price Transparency, Experts Say

CMS’ plan to stop requiring hospitals to report their median payer-specific negotiated charges with Medicare Advantage insurers is a win for hospitals. Experts said that it’s an easy way for the Biden administration to reduce administrative work for providers without giving up much in price transparency. But it probably doesn’t say much about the Biden administration’s thoughts on price transparency, according to Avalere Health consultant Tom Kornfield. “I wouldn’t read anything more into this than a push for some administrative simplicity,” Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, said in an email. (Brady, 4/28)

Biden Wants To Permanently Extend Enhanced Obamacare Premium Subsidies

A temporary federal policy aimed at making health insurance more affordable for tens of millions of Americans could become permanent. Under President Joe Biden’s $1.8 trillion plan to help families and children, which he will propose to Congress on Wednesday night, he would permanently extend recently expanded premium subsidies available for private health insurance through the public marketplace. The $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill enacted in March made the subsidies more generous for two years and expanded who can qualify for them. (O’Brien, 4/28)

The Hill:
Biden Calls For Congress To Pass Gun Control Bills: ‘Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done’ 

President Biden on Wednesday evening urged Congress to pass gun legislation, calling on Senate Republicans to support House-passed bills on the matter. During a speech made to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, Biden called the problem of gun violence an American problem, rather than a partisan issue. He called on GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber to enact gun reform legislation.  (Gangitano, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal:
Biden’s Joint Address To Congress: Key Takeaways

Mr. Biden touted the pace of vaccinations in his first 100 days and the passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid-relief package that sent payments to qualifying Americans. He said his administration’s handling of the pandemic was “one of the greatest logistical achievements the country’s ever seen.” (Parti, 4/28)

The Washington Post:
Top 5 Takeaways From Biden’s American Families Plan 

President Biden formally announced his American Families Plan on Wednesday, a $1.8 trillion proposal to give all Americans access to community college, preschool, affordable child care and paid leave, among other initiatives. He wants to fund it by increasing taxes on the rich. Supporters and detractors are already lining up, but most agree on this: It’s an ambitious plan. And it will be a challenge to get Congress to pass it, especially after the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was enacted in March and Biden’s more than $2 trillion infrastructure bill that Congress is starting to consider. (Long, 4/28)

The New York Times:
What’s In Biden’s Spending Plan: Free Preschool And National Paid Leave 

President Biden’s $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan is aimed at bolstering the United States’ social safety net by expanding access to education, reducing the cost of child care and supporting women in the work force. Like the $2 trillion infrastructure plan that preceded it, Mr. Biden’s latest proposal is funded by raising taxes on wealthier Americans, and it is likely to encounter Republican resistance for that reason. (Karni, 4/28)

The Washington Post:
Fact-Checking Biden’s 2021 Address To Congress 

In his 64-minute address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden was on mostly factual ground when he stuck to the script. But he got in trouble when he ad-libbed some lines that stretched the truth. Here’s a roundup of nine claims that caught our attention. (Kessler, Rizzo and Usero, 4/28)

The New York Times:
Biden’s $4 Trillion Economic Plan, In One Chart 

President Biden released the second portion of his economic plan on Wednesday: $1.8 trillion in new spending and tax cuts over 10 years for workers, families and children. That’s on top of the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan he released at the end of March. Together, here’s what’s included. (Parlapiano, 4/28)

The New York Times:
Biden’s Speech To Congress: Full Transcript 

President Biden delivered an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Because of the pandemic, Mr. Biden spoke to a socially distanced audience of less than 200 lawmakers and officials, a small fraction of the packed audience that typically attends such an address. The following is a transcript of his remarks. (4/29)

CBS News:
In Republican Response, Tim Scott Dismisses Biden’s Infrastructure Plan As “Big Government Waste” 

Republican Senator Tim Scott delivered a speech responding to President Joe Biden’s first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening. The response provides an opportunity for Scott, a rising star in the Republican Party, to outline an alternative to the president’s ambitious legislative agenda. Scott began his speech by saying that Mr. Biden “seems like a good man,” but argued that his policies were divisive. “Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Scott said. “Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.” (Segers, 4/28)

The Hill:
White House Provides ASL Interpretation Of President’s Joint Address For First Time 

The White House livestream of President Biden’s joint address to Congress on Wednesday evening included an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, the first time in history an administration has provided ASL interpretation for such a congressional address. Prior to his address on Wednesday, Biden announced on Twitter that the White House livestream would include ASL interpretation to make the speech “accessible for all Americans.” (Schnell, 4/28)

CBS News:
CBS News Poll: Most Viewers Approve Of Biden’s Speech

Most viewers who tuned in to watch President Biden’s speech liked what they heard and came away feeling optimistic about America. Speech viewers described the president as “Presidential, “Caring,” “Inspiring” and “Bold.” … Eighty-five percent of Americans who watched Mr. Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress overwhelmingly approve of his speech. Fifteen percent disapprove. (De Pinto, Khanna, Backus and Salvanto, 4/29)

The Washington Post:
Fed Says Vaccinations And Strong Policies Are Helping Economy As Inflation Rises 

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell on Wednesday said that more widespread access to vaccines and “strong policy support” are helping economic activity and employment, with sectors hardest hit by the pandemic showing signs of improvement. Inflation is also rising in certain areas, but Powell said that those increases aren’t expected to persist through the entire economy. Fed leaders say they expect to see temporary price bumps if the economy rebounds strongly this year, buoyed by President Biden’s stimulus package and progress controlling the pandemic. (Siegel, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal:
Moderna To Boost Covid-19 Vaccine Production To Meet Rising Global Demand 

Moderna Inc. plans to spend billions of dollars to boost production of Covid-19 vaccines and potentially triple its yearly output of doses in 2022, as the company seeks to meet rising global demand. The Cambridge, Mass., biotech company said Thursday it could produce up to three billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2022, compared with a projected output of up to one billion this year. (Loftus, 4/29)

Moderna Covid Vaccine Can Remain Stable At Refrigerated Temperatures For 3 Months, Company Says

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine can remain stable at temperatures found in refrigerators for 3 months, the company said Thursday, citing new data. The mRNA vaccine is currently approved to be stored in the refrigerator between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days and up to seven months in the freezer at minus 4 Fahrenheit, according to the company. But Moderna said Thursday it now has data that could support a three-month refrigerated shelf life for the vaccine. (Lovelace Jr., 4/29)

USA Today:
Vaccination Keeping Elderly Out Of Hospitals

Fully vaccinated adults 65 years and older were 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people of the same age who were not vaccinated, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Even people in that age group who had only gotten one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine were 64% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people who were not vaccinated. Currently two-thirds of Americans 65 and over are fully vaccinated, according to CDC. These are the first large scale, real-world findings in the United States confirming clinical trial data showing the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines prevent severe COVID-19 illness. People were considered partially vaccinated two weeks after their first dose of mRNA vaccine and fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. (Bacon and Aspegren, 4/28)

BioNTech Expects Vaccine Trial Results For Babies By September 

BioNTech expects results by September from trials testing the COVID-19 vaccine that it and Pfizer have developed in babies as young as six months old, German magazine Spiegel cited the company’s CEO as saying. “In July, the first results could be available for the five to 12 year olds, in September for the younger children,” BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Spiegel. He added it takes about four to six weeks to evaluate the data. (Dowson, 4/29)

Fox News:
Swollen Lymph Nodes Following COVID-19 Vaccination Could Mean You Already Had Virus, Study Suggests

Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, public health officials have warned of the possible side effects following vaccination, such as pain at the injection site, fever, or muscle aches, among others. But a new study suggests that some recipients may experience swollen lymph nodes after receiving the jab, a side effect that the researchers found was more common among those who already had a coronavirus infection. Researchers in a study recently published to the preprint server medRxiv analyzed some 947 health care workers in the United Kingdom who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. About 265 of those health care workers had already been infected with the novel virus prior to vaccination, the study authors said. (Farber, 4/28)

The Wall Street Journal:
Vaccines Appear To Be Slowing Spread Of Covid-19 Infections 

Vaccines appear to be starting to curb new Covid-19 infections in the U.S., a breakthrough that could help people return to more normal activities as infection worries fade, public-health officials say. By Tuesday, 37.3% of U.S. adults were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with about 2.7 million shots each day. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day average for new U.S. cases has fallen below the 14-day average for more than a week, which epidemiologists said is a strong signal that cases are starting to slide again after a recent upswing. When the seven-day average is higher than the 14-day average, it suggests new cases are accelerating. (Whelan and Kamp, 4/28)

The New York Times:
In U.S., Virus Cases Have Recently Dropped In Over Half Of States 

More than half of U.S. states have seen a significant decline in new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, as federal health officials suggest that the virus’s trajectory is improving. Still, the uneven distribution of vaccinations point to the challenge of persuading reluctant Americans to get vaccinated. As of Wednesday, the United States was averaging over 52,000 new cases a day, a 26 percent decline from two weeks ago, and comparable to the level of cases reported in mid-October before the deadly winter surge, according to a New York Times database. Since peaking in January, cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide have drastically declined. (4/29)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Wisconsin Reports 34 COVID-19 Deaths, Highest Mark In Over Two Months

The Department of Health Services reported 34 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, the highest mark since Feb. 16. “The 34 deaths have been added since yesterday, but the deaths didn’t necessarily occur yesterday. The number recorded reflects when COVID-19 deaths are confirmed and reported,” said Jennifer Miller, Department of Health Services spokesperson. The reported high counts from last week combined with Wednesday’s death count brings the seven-day average of daily deaths to 12, up nine deaths from a month ago. (Bentley, 4/28)

Some Californians Can’t Get Vaccine Despite Surge In Supply

Hearing of excess vaccine and unfilled appointments frustrates Dr. Aaron Roland, a family physician who has been lobbying for doses to inoculate his patients, many of whom are low-income, immigrants or elderly. The San Francisco Bay Area doctor has more than 200 patients who have inquired when he will offer inoculations against the coronavirus. One patient, who is 67, said he walked into a Safeway supermarket because signs said doses were available. (Har, 4/29)

Arkansas Governor Signs Bills Banning Vaccine Requirements

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday signed into law measures preventing state and local governments from requiring the coronavirus vaccine or proof of vaccination in order to access services. The ban on requiring a vaccine would also prohibit it as a condition of unemployment. The measure includes some exceptions, such as state-owned medical facilities, if approved by Legislative Council. (4/29)

The Washington Post:
Maryland Lifts Outdoor Mask Mandate, Limits On Outdoor Bar Service 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday repealed the state’s outdoor masking mandate with the exception of large-scale ticketed venues such as concerts or sporting events, citing the latest guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hogan (R) also said restaurants could drop social distancing and capacity requirements for outdoor dining and outdoor stand-up bar service starting Saturday. (Cox, 4/28)

New Orleans Times-Picayune:
New Orleans Keeps Mask Mandate, Pushes Inoculation: ‘This Is A Race Between Variants And The Vaccine”

New Orleans officials are keeping the COVID-19 mask mandate in place until vaccination rates increase, unlike other parts of the state. Coinciding with the ongoing mask requirement, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office is expected to loosen some restrictions tomorrow. Gov. John Bel Edwards eased up on previous restrictions, including removing the statewide mask mandate and leaving the decision of whether to require face coverings up to local leaders. (Ravits, 4/28)

Fox News:
Multi-Layered Cloth Masks As Effective As Surgical Mask, Study Suggests

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that fully vaccinated people can go without masks while outdoors, officials noted that there are still many instances in which a mask is necessary, including in crowded settings. As such, research continues into which face coverings are most effective, with a recent finding suggesting that multi-layered cloth masks are as viable as surgical masks. The team, made up of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Surrey, went so far as to say that if both an infected person and a healthy individual are both wearing well-fitted masks, cloth or surgical, there is a 94% less chance of coronavirus exposure. (Hein, 4/28)

Roll Call:
FEMA’s Tasks Pit COVID-19 Vaccinations Against Hurricane Prep 

Staffing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency is at critical lows as the agency has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which experts say is setting back preparations for hurricanes. With about five weeks to prepare for hurricane season, 77 percent of staff are already deployed, according to a memo released at a short daily briefing Sunday. The United States saw a similar level of depletion of FEMA staff in reserve in 2017, when three Category 4 hurricanes made landfall and wildfires raged. (Kopp, 4/28)

Colorado’s Main Public Universities Requiring Vaccinations

Colorado’s biggest public universities will require students, faculty and staff to receive COVID-19 vaccinations before the beginning of the fall semester, school leaders announced Wednesday. The University of Colorado system’s four campuses will require the shots along with the Colorado State University system, the University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State University of Denver, The Denver Post reported. (4/28)

Washington State University To Require COVID-19 Vaccine

Washington State University will require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations this fall for students and employees. University President Kirk Schulz made the announcement Wednesday, The Spokesman-Review reported. (4/29)

The Wall Street Journal:
Cruise Lines Could Start U.S. Sailings By Mid-July, CDC Says 

Cruise operators could restart sailings out of the U.S. by mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, paving the way to resume operations that have been suspended for longer than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The CDC, in a letter to cruise-industry leaders Wednesday evening, also said cruise ships can proceed to passenger sailings without test cruises if they attest that 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. The move was a result of twice-weekly meetings with cruise representatives over the past month, the agency said. (Sebastian, 4/29)

The Wall Street Journal:
At-Home Covid-19 Tests Might Cost Too Much For Regular Use 

Covid-19 tests for people to use to get quick results at home are finally becoming available to buy at pharmacies and retailers. Yet an obstacle might stand in the way of regular use: cost. Many health authorities have been looking forward to the introduction of the fast-acting tests, which people could take at home to see if they are infected. The paper-strip tests also could help curb the spread of the coronavirus, supporters say, if people used them a few times a week. (Abbott, 4/28)

Study Finds Low Uptake Of HPV Vaccine In Young US Men

A research letter yesterday in JAMA shows that less than 20% of US men 18 to 21 years old have had at least one dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, was based on data collected during the 2010 through 2018 National Health Interview Surveys. Only 16.2% of men ages 18 to 21 during any year of the survey said they had received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, compared with 42% of women in that age-group. (4/28)

USA Today:
Kids Mental Health Problems Linked To Prenatal Exposures, Study Says

Doctors have long known that unplanned pregnancies in women with certain chronic health problems and exposure in the womb to substances like drugs and alcohol can lead to a child’s increased risk for psychiatric or behavioral problems. But a study published Wednesday by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found the combined exposure of two or more specific risk factors significantly increases that likelihood. “While individually these factors had previously been associated with similar risks in prior, often smaller studies, this is the first time that we were able to gauge the effect of cumulative exposures, which were fairly dramatic,” said lead author Dr. Joshua Roffman, director of the Massachusetts General Early Brain Development Initiative. (Rodriguez, 4/28)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Custom 3D Printed Casts Offer A Telemedicine Solution For Some Orthopedic Injuries

Umpire Pat Hoberg was behind the plate at Citizens Bank Park last July when he was struck by a broken bat. In just the second inning, the Phillies trainer taped Hoberg’s split and bruising hand, allowing him to finish the game. The next day Michael Rivlin, a hand specialist at Rothman Orthopaedics, determined Hoberg’s knuckle was fractured but he didn’t need surgery. “Dr. Rivlin took x-rays and put me in a splint,” recalled Hoberg, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and travels between Major League baseball cities from March through October. His injury would need monitoring, but during the pandemic, Hoberg was mostly sequestered in his hotel or the stadium due to COVID-19 safety guidelines. So getting back to Philadelphia for regular follow-up visits would be nearly impossible. (Akman, 4/29)

Missouri Senate Votes Down Funding For Medicaid Expansion

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday voted against paying to expand Medicaid as called for by voters last year. The late-night Senate vote locked in the House’s decision to refuse funding for the program, likely setting up a court battle with supporters of greater access to health care. The vote divided Republicans and came after hours of sometimes-heated debate. (Ballentine, 4/29)

Detroit Free Press:
Lawmaker Wants To Create A Marijuana Blood-Level Limit For Drivers

A Michigan lawmaker wants to specify how much of the intoxicating chemical contained in marijuana can be in someone’s blood in order for that person to be deemed a dangerous driver. The measure introduced Wednesday by Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, is a controversial move that contradicts the recommendations of a state commission created under former Gov. Rick Snyder that studied the concept of THC blood levels and intoxication. (Boucher, 4/28)

‘Fetal Heartbeat’ In Abortion Laws Taps Emotion, Not Science

Dr. Michael Cackovic has treated his share of pregnant women. So when Republican lawmakers across the U.S. began passing bans on abortion at what they term “the first detectable fetal heartbeat,” he was exasperated.That’s because at the point where advanced technology can detect that first flutter, as early as six weeks, the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and it doesn’t have a heart. An embryo is termed a fetus beginning in the 11th week of pregnancy, medical experts say. “You cannot hear this ‘flutter,’ it is only seen on ultrasound,” said Cackovic, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, where some 5,300 babies are born each year. (Smyth and Kruesi, 4/28)

CBS News:
Why New York City’s Homeless Rates Skyrocketed For Single Adults But Dropped For Families During The Pandemic 

A new report shows the rate of homeless, single adults in New York City reached record levels during the pandemic, while the number of homeless families declined. Experts say the trend is tied to short-term pandemic relief, like eviction moratoriums, but is likely not sustainable.  An all-time high of 20,822 single adults slept in New York City shelters each night in February, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless. (Kendall, 4/28)

The Washington Post:
U.S. Coronavirus Aid To Begin Arriving In India Amid Record Surge, White House Says 

U.S. flights carrying urgent coronavirus aid for India will begin arriving on Thursday, the White House said in a statement, as health officials there reported another record number of new cases and deaths. The U.S. government will deliver more than $100 million worth of supplies for overstretched hospitals and front-line health care workers, the White House said late Wednesday, including oxygen support, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and rapid diagnostic tests. (Cunningham, 4/29)

US Tells Citizens To Leave India As Soon As Possible Due To Covid-19 Crisis

The U.S. told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible as the country’s Covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace. In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest of its kind issued by the State Department — U.S. citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.” There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said. (Whitley, 4/29)

The New York Times:
India Blames Covid-19 Variant For Its Pandemic Crisis 

At Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, a huge facility in the middle of India’s capital, 37 fully vaccinated doctors came down with Covid-19 earlier this month. The infections left most with mild symptoms, but it added to their growing fears that the virus behind India’s catastrophic second wave is different. They wonder if a more contagious variant that dodges the immune system could be fueling the epidemic inside the world’s hardest-hit nation. (Gettleman, Venugopal and Mandavilli, 4/28)

The Washington Post:
In Desperate Hunt For Oxygen And Hospital Beds, India Turns To Twitter

With India’s coronavirus crisis becoming increasingly more desperate and beds, medicine and oxygen supplies scarce, people in cities across the country are relying on Twitter and the kindness of strangers for help during a time of national upheaval. About 360,000 new cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours alone. Some are using the platform to share locations where gas cylinders, which are in limited supply, can be refilled. Others are posting details about patients in urgent need of help. Some posts advertise which hospitals have empty beds and others ask for blood plasma donors. There are tweets that offer advice on how to stay safe and others that beg for ambulances before it is too late. (Hassan, 4/28)

The New York Times:
German Intelligence To Surveil Coronavirus Deniers

Germany’s domestic intelligence service said on Wednesday that it would surveil members of the increasingly aggressive coronavirus denier movement because they posed a risk of undermining the state. The movement — fueled in part by wild conspiracy theories — has grown from criticizing coronavirus lockdown measures and hygiene rules to targeting the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the press and globalism, to name a few. Over the past year, demonstrators have attacked police officers, defied civil authorities and in one widely publicized episode scaled the steps of Parliament. (Schuetze, 4/28)

CBS News:
Scientists Back Brazil’s Move To Ban Import Of Russian “Sputnik V” COVID Vaccine 

Scientists have backed the Brazilian drug regulator’s decision to stop the import of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, on the basis that batches they tested carried a live version of a common cold-causing virus. Top virologist Angela Rasmussen told AFP the finding “raises questions about the integrity of the manufacturing processes” and could be a safety issue for people with weaker immune systems if the problem were found to be widespread. (4/29)

The Wall Street Journal:
Japan’s Top Covid Adviser Urges Caution About Proceeding With Tokyo Games

The Japanese government’s top medical adviser on Covid-19 urged caution about going ahead with the Summer Olympics in Tokyo as highly contagious variants of the coronavirus drive a surge in new infections in Japan. “It’s time for the organizers and other related parties to thoroughly consider the level of infection and the strain on the medical system,” Shigeru Omi, the head of the government’s advisory panel on the coronavirus, said in a parliamentary committee. (Gale and Radnofsky, 4/28)

Athletes At Tokyo Olympics To Be Tested Daily For Coronavirus

The organizers of Japan’s Summer Olympics, due to start just weeks from now, say they will administer daily coronavirus tests to athletes and will decide in June on what is a safe number of spectators. At a virtual meeting on Wednesday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and representatives of the other organizers discussed measures to keep the coronavirus in check during the games, which begin July 23. “The IOC is fully committed to the successful and safe delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” Bach said in his opening remarks. (Neuman, 4/28)

NBC News:
Canadian Diplomats Say Their Government Is Withholding Info On More ‘Havana Syndrome’ Brain Injury Cases

A group of Canadian diplomats is accusing Canada’s government of withholding information about what the diplomats say are three new cases of brain injury resulting from “Havana Syndrome” that have been identified in the past two years. In a letter obtained by NBC News, the diplomats said “at least three additional cases were identified in 2019 and 2020” of the mysterious illness that also affected U.S. personnel in Cuba. In its most recent public update about new cases, in January 2019, Canada’s government said “the last confirmed case of unusual health symptoms” had been in 2018. (Lederman, 4/28)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.


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