Week in Washington 100721

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



  • Debt Ceiling - Congress’ attention this week has been on the Debt Ceiling. At the time of writing the blog there has been a tentative agreement on the Debt Ceiling to be raised until December, however no vote has been taken yet. If the Debt Ceiling cannot be raised in the next few weeks, it could result in Federal government default and missed payments (on everything.)

  • Reconciliation – Given the importance of the Debt Ceiling discussion, Reconciliation talks about the Build Back Better bill did not make much progress. Currently there is no timeline for a vote on the bill.

  • Other Items- There are a number of other issues such as sequestration or extension of telehealth waivers that are being discussed in Congress but are unlikely to be voted on until the first two issues are resolved.


  • Numbers – As can be seen in the below map from AXIOS, COVID cases have steadily declined the past few weeks. The declines are largest in the South. Overall cases, hospitalization, and deaths have all declined.

Change in COVID-19 cases per 100k people in the last two weeks

  • Merck – Late last week Merck announced findings from clinical studies on their COVID pill. The pill was found to reduce COVID deaths/hospitalizations by 50%. Merck said it would apply for emergency authorization as soon as possible.

News of Note

  • Missouri Medicaid- Missouri began processing applications for Medicaid expansion with coverage retroactive to July 2021.

  • Pfizer lost its case as to if it could pay out of pocket costs for Medicare patients. Currently Medicare prohibits such arrangement as it would violate federal kickback laws.

  • CMS released guidance as to how Group Plans could use incentives for vaccination take-up (or lack thereof) as part of a Wellness program. You can read it here.

Previous editions: 

09/30/2021: Week in Washington

09/23/2021: Week in Washington

09/09/2021: Week in Washington

9/02/2021: Week in Washington



8/26/2021: Week in Washington

8/19/2021: Week in Washington

8/12/2021: Week in Washington

8/06/2021: Week in Washington


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