Biden declares pandemic ‘over’

President Joe Biden’s declaration in a national interview that the covid-19 pandemic is “over” has complicated his own administration’s efforts to get Congress to provide more funding for treatments and vaccines, and to bring the audience to go get another encore.

Meanwhile, concerns about a return of medical inflation for the first time in a decade are helping to drive up insurance premiums, and private companies are scrambling to claim their piece of the healthcare spending pie.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, and Lauren Weber of KHN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Biden’s comment to “60 Minutes” that the pandemic was over — even though covid is still an issue — highlights the difficulty of communicating to the public how to move from a public health crisis to a public health issue.
  • Much of the country may agree with the president, as evidenced by fewer people regularly using face masks and fewer covid-related trade restrictions. But several hundred people still die every day, a high toll often overlooked.
  • Insurance premiums appear to be on the rise this fall, although medical costs have not risen as rapidly as in other sectors of the economy in recent months. The increase may reflect insurers’ concerns that as consumers emerge from the covid crisis, they will seek more medical services.
  • One aspect of the healthcare business that is driving up costs is increased investment by private equity firms, which are expanding their reach beyond emergency physicians and a few other specialties to a wider range of medical services, including including gastroenterology and ophthalmology.
  • Another concern for the future of healthcare costs is the move towards healthcare consolidation. Recent developments on this front include Amazon announcing its move into primary care with the purchase of One Medical and CVS’s decision to buy home healthcare company Signify Health.
  • Abortion policies continue to make news in various states. West Virginia passed a law restricting nearly all abortions; several Republican lawmakers in Utah sent cease-and-desist letters to abortion providers in their state; and Puerto Rico has a new political party campaigning on the issue of trying to rein in the liberal Commonwealth abortion law.
  • While Democrats hope the abortion issue will attract more voters in the midterm elections, it’s unclear whether overall support for abortion will be a deal-breaker issue for voters in more conservative states. and will bring changes.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should also read:

Julie Rovner: “Many pharmacies in Alaska are understaffed, resulting in sporadic hours and turned away patients”, by Annie Berman

Joanne Kenen: “Clinicians reject the pain of black women in Capital B. The consequences are dire”, by Margo Snipe

Anna Edney: “The Guardian’s Fury Over ‘Forever Chemicals’ as US States Spread Toxic Sewage Sludge”, by Tom Perkins

Laurent Weber: “Doctors rush to use Supreme Court ruling to evade opioid charges” from KHN, by Brett Kelman

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

  • “KHN Private Equity Sees Billions in Eye Care as Companies Target High Profit Procedures,” by Lauren Weber
  • The New York Times’ “‘Disaster Mode’: Emergency Rooms Across Canada Close Amid Crisis,” by Vjosa Isai
  • JAMA Network Open “Medical Debt Prevalence and Risk Factors and Subsequent Changes in the Social Determinants of Health in the United States”, by Drs. David U. Himmelstein, Samuel L. Dickman, Danny McCormick, et al.
  • Correspondence from the New England Journal of Medicine “Uncovered Medical Bills After Sexual Assault” from Dr. Samuel L. Dickman, Dr. Gracie Himmelstein, Dr. David U. Himmelstein, Katherine Strandberg, Alecia McGregor, Dr. Danny McCormick, and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler
  • “Utah GOP Representatives Birkeland and Lisonbee of the Salt Lake Tribune Say Their Threat to Abortion Providers Was Just Their ‘Opinion,’ Not a Legal Document”, by Emily Anderson Stern
  • “Abortion Helps Realign Politics in Puerto Rico, Giving Conservatives an Opening” from The New York Times, by Patricia Mazzei

This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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