Week in Washington is brought to you by Michael Cohen, PhD. Tune in each week to read the latest on healthcare policy and get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon.
Week in Washington
Congress continues to discuss the COVID relief bill, currently titled “The American Result Plan Act of 2021.” The House is expected to vote (and pass) the bill on Friday. The Senate will take up the legislation soon after. One of the key sticking points is the issue of whether minimum-wage increases should be included in the bill. Democratic party leadership continues to target passing a bill before March 14.
HHS Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra had confirmation hearings this week. Becerra stated that he’d push for permanently expanding telehealth payment policies and voiced some support for the transparency requirements the previous Administration put in for providers and insurers.
COVID vaccine distribution is expected to increase dramatically in the coming weeks. Partly this is because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, a one-dose vaccine, is expected to be approved on Saturday for emergency usage. Currently, the US is providing about 1.4 million doses a day.
As the below data shows, the vaccine distribution is having an impact on COVID-related deaths. Nursing home residents have been vaccinated at a far higher rate than the general populace, and the results have been fairly stark as shown below.
Picture via NYTIMES/David Leonhardt
COVID hospitalizations generally declined, although case declines (a leading indicator for hospitalizations and death) have slowed if not stopped. Unfortunately, given the bad weather experienced by large parts of the country, which interfered with reporting, it’s difficult to determine the root cause. There continues to be the concern of a pickup in cases as a result of the UK COVID variant next month/April.
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