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 is generally still on recess although behind closed doors there continues to be discussions on what should be included in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. One of the more hotly debated issues is around the expanded benefits (dental, vision, hearing) in Medicare. The Washington Post has a good rundown on the status of those negotiations here but a quick summary:
CMS thinks it would take 3-5 years to set up a dental program in FFS so there may be vouchers provided in the initial years.
Details are still be thrashed out in terms of cost-sharing, eligibility, concerns over addressing provider shortages, etc.
The American Dental Association pushing for income restrictions (<300%FPL)
Cases and deaths continued to increase this week. Cases reach around 165,000 new cases a day with hot spots shifting to Alabama and Tennessee. Fortunately, the number of hospitalizations have leveled off in recent days. Several recent studies released this week also point to COVID vaccine boosters (at a spaced interval) increase efficacy of the vaccine. The FDA has not yet approved boosters for the general population. It is expected to meet on September 17 to weigh in on the topic.
The much-delayed 2021 annual Trustees report was released this week (you can read it here)
A few highlights
Trust fund is still expected to run out of money in 2026- although the worst case scenario is 2024
The pandemic resulted in no changed to the depletion date (effectively the changes on the income and expenditure sides cancelled each other out).
The report did not take into account the new Alzheimer’s drug Adulhelm
The CDC released its estimate of coverage status in 2021. Overall the CDC found that the uninsured rate decreased by about 1.6 million Americans to 31.6 million. Decreases in private insurance coverage (1.9 million) was offset by increases in public health plan coverage (grew by 2.1 million). This is the second major survey to find that despite the COVID pandemic and resulting economic issues, the number of uninsured did not increase last year.
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