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Week in Washington
This week includes a few highlights on the status of some legislation, trends in hospital admissions, and COVID updates.
This week the big news was the CBO released its score on major portions of the COVID relief bill. These includes scores for the ACA changes here and Medicaid changes here. For example, the net effect of the ACA changes and COBRA subsidy changes will result in 1.3 million fewer uninsured in 2022. KFF also did analysis on the proposed legislative changes and estimated the impact on state spending the Medicaid Expansion provisions would have. You can find it here. A vote in the House is expected later next week.
Two Democratic senators introduced a bill to implement a public option (which they refer to as Medicare-X). While the bill is not expected to make initial progress it could align with a bill that President Biden eventually does support. Notable in the bill a public option would very slowly phase in and does not include changing the Medicare eligibility age.
Hospital Admission Data
KFF released data on hospital admissions in 2020. Overall they found that, for 2020, total hospital admissions (as of December 5, 2020) were about 94.2% of what was predicted. They did find non-COVID hospitalizations declined in November and the beginning of December, especially in places where COVID cases surged.
Across the country, COVID case numbers continued to rapidly decline. Overall cases fell 25% in the past week, while hospitalizations fell about 18%. While there is no definitive answer on why the declines, explanations have generally included: increased social distancing, vaccination administration, and seasonality.
One question is if the increased pace of vaccinations will forestall a surge later this spring due to the variant first identified in the UK. The variant is likely most prevalent in Florida, so how Florida’s experience goes over the next few weeks could provide insights into the nation’s overall experience in the next few months.
While the news going forward appears brighter, CDC released data on the toll the pandemic has taken to date. In the first half of 2020, the US average life expectancy experienced the largest drop in a single year since World War II, with the effect being particularly felt by African-Americans. To date, about 1 in every 600 Americans have died from COVID since the start of the pandemic.
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