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KHN’s “What the Health?”: Booster Time

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As the Covid-19 cases in the USA continue to increase, the Biden administration is responding with new strategies. Recent efforts include preparing for vaccination boosters starting this fall, which will require vaccination of nursing home workers and rolling back government bans on masking requirements in schools.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is making an early return from summer recess to begin work on a proposed $ 3.5 trillion budget that will address a long list of health issues, including changes to Medicare and Medicaid , the expansion of the Affordable Care Act subsidies and the lowering of prescription drug prices.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein from Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz from The New York Times, and Kimberly Leonard from Business Insider.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Members of the Democratic House of Representatives from the moderate and progressive wings face each other over the fate of two key initiatives: the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package that spans President Joe Biden’s priorities for health care, climate change and other matters . The moderates are pushing for the House of Representatives to vote on the traditional infrastructure bill first and get it on the president’s desk, but the progressives insist that it must be pushed forward along with the more controversial reconciliation plan.
  • House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi appears confident she can get her caucus moving forward without losing support from any of the wings.
  • The reconciliation package, while massive, is still very ambiguous. Most of the proposals and payment options are negotiated. That makes it even more difficult for the legislature to endorse this. The process is reminiscent of the difficult campaign to get the Affordable Care Act across the finish line in 2009 or the Republican effort to repeal and replace the ACA in 2017 when members of Congress did not have many details on what could replace it .
  • The Biden government’s request for booster vaccinations for people vaccinated against Covid has caused some disagreement among public health experts. Some argue that the need in the US is not yet great and that these recordings should be sent to countries with greater need, where a new variant could develop if too many people get Covid. But the government and its supporters argue that it is better to stay one step ahead of the virus rather than trying to contain a resurgence among those vaccinated later.
  • To fuel the country’s vaccination efforts, Biden on Wednesday called for nursing homes to require staff to be vaccinated or lose funding from Medicare and Medicaid. Some other industries – especially those with high risks – have already mandated vaccinations.
  • The president also dismissed this week in his comments against Conservative governors who insist schools may not require students to wear a mask. Public health officials said the masking will help prevent children from getting sick, especially since many are too young to get the shots and the Delta variant appears to be more virulent than previous versions of the virus. In some states that start school early, thousands of children have been quarantined. Administration, educators and public health officials fear that the rampant spread could force many schools to resume distance learning.
  • Nonetheless, some Republican state officials, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, are digging for mandates. For them it is a sensitive political issue, because the delta variant hits the southern states hardest.
  • Medicare Advantage plans are becoming increasingly popular, often because they offer benefits not available in traditional Medicare coverage. However, if the Democrats manage to improve standard Medicare with dental, visual, and hearing services, it could undermine the Medicare Advantage plan’s business model.

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

Julie Rovner: KHN’s “Federal Vaccination Program Did Not Help Those whose Lives Was Changed by Covid Shot” by Arthur Allen.

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Atlantic is “How the pandemic is ending now“By Ed Yong and New York magazine”Don’t panic, but breakthrough cases can be a bigger problem than you’ve been told“By David Wallace-Wells.

Alice Ollstein: The “New Republic”Here’s a terrible new idea: make unvaccinated people pay higher insurance premiums“By Natalie Shure.

Kimberly Leonard: Business Insider “Amazon, investment banks, and even Big Tobacco are spending millions of dollars to achieve cheap marijuana laws“By Kimberly Leonard and Jeremy Berke.

To hear all of our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? At Spotify, Apple Podcasts, stapler, Pocket casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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