Biden declares the pandemic ‘over’

President Joe Biden’s declaration in a national interview that the Covid-19 pandemic was “over” has complicated his own administration’s efforts to get Congress to allocate more funding for treatments and vaccines, and the public to do so bring to get another refresher.

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

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Joanne Kenen of the 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 on “60 Minutes” that the pandemic is over – although Covid is still a problem – underscores the difficulty of communicating to the public how to move from a public health crisis to a public health problem.
  • Much of the country may agree with the president, as evidenced by fewer people regularly using face masks and a reduced number of Covid-related commercial restrictions. But still several hundred people die every day, a high number that is often overlooked.
  • Insurance premiums appear to be rising this fall, although medical costs have not risen as rapidly as other parts of the economy in recent months. The rise may reflect insurers’ concerns that consumers will seek more medical services after the Covid crisis.
  • One aspect of the healthcare business that’s driving up costs is the increasing investment by private equity firms, which are expanding their reach beyond emergency physicians and a few other specialties to a broader spectrum of medical services, including gastroenterology and ophthalmology.
  • Another concern for the future of healthcare costs is the trend towards consolidation in healthcare. Recent developments on this front included Amazon’s announcement of its move into primary care with its purchase of One Medical and CVS’s decision to buy home health care company Signify Health.
  • Abortion policies continue to make headlines in various states. West Virginia passed legislation 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 curbing the Commonwealth’s liberal abortion law.
  • While Democrats hope the abortion issue will reach more voters in the midterm elections, it’s not clear whether popular support for abortion will be a crucial issue for voters in more conservative states and bring about change.

Also, for added recognition, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read too:

Julie Rowner: “Many Alaskan pharmacies are understaffed, leading to sporadic opening hours and patient turnaround” by Annie Berman in the Anchorage Daily News

Joanna Kenen: “Clinicians Dismiss Black Women’s Pain. The Consequences Are Dire”, by Margo Snipe, by Capital B

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

Lauren Weber: KHN’s “Doctors Rush to Use Supreme Court Judge to Escape Opioid Charges” by Brett Kelman

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

  • KHN’s “Private Equity sees eye care making billions as companies target highly profitable procedures,” by Lauren Weber
  • The New York Times’ “‘Disaster Mode’: Emergency Rooms Across Canada Close Amid Crisis” by Vjosa Isai
  • JAMA Network Opens “Prevalence and Risk Factors for Medical Debt and Subsequent Changes in the Social Determinants of Health in the US” by Dr. David U. Himmelstein, Samuel L. Dickman, Danny McCormick, et al.
  • “Uncovered Medical Bills After Sexual Assault” of the New England Journal of Medicine, correspondence of Dr. Samuel L Dickman, Dr. Grace Himmelstein, Dr. David U. Himmelstein, Katherine Strandberg, Alecia McGregor, Dr. Danny McCormick and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler
  • “Utah GOP Reps. Birkeland, Lisonbee” of the Salt Lake Tribune say their threat to abortion providers is only their “opinion, not a legal document,” by Emily Anderson Stern
  • “Abortion Helps Reframe Puerto Rico Politics and Gives Conservatives an Opening” by Patricia Mazzei in the New York Times

Kaiser Health NewsThis 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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