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
The big news this week is the House of Representatives approved a framework for a $3.5 trillion dollar package. As part of the agreement, the goal is for the bill to be voted on by September 27. This means that the exact language should emerge over the next 4-5 weeks. As part of the instructions, the bill aims to find approximately $1.7 trillion in savings. The need for savings in the bill is part of the force driving discussions on the Hill around drug negotiations or potential changes to the Medicare Advantage program.
Pfizer’s COVID vaccine was officially approved by the FDA. Previously, the vaccine had been approved under emergency use authorization. The full approval is expected to increase vaccine take-up among those hesitant and may also make it easier for doctors to prescribe off-label (i.e., easier time for individuals to receive boosters or for those under 12 to get a vaccine).
COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continued to increase. A number of states, such as Florida and Kentucky, announced record number of hospitalizations. Overall, AXIOS reported that 77% of the US’s ICU beds are currently being used (well above average).
Georgetown researchers reviewed Q2 earnings statements for several major insurers. Overall they found that of six major issuers, all had lower profits in in 2021 Q2 compared to 2020 Q2. Insurers generally reported health care utilization rebounded higher than expected in Q2.
Uninsured Rate Held Steady
Researchers at the Urban Institute found that the uninsured rate stayed steady between March 2019 and April 2021 (at approximately 11%). What did change was that an estimated 5.5 million nonelderly adults shifted out of employer-sponsored coverage (due to job loss) and shifted to public coverage. (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and other government plans). There were differences between Medicaid Expansion states and non-Expansion states as the uninsured rate did increase in Non-expansion states but went down in Expansion states.
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