Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, August 28, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
Controversial Change in Guidelines about Coronavirus Testing Directed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force: The CDC website was updated quietly this week with new testing guidelines indicating that individuals without symptoms of COVID “do not necessarily need a test.”
AstraZeneca is Not Involved in Talks over Emergency COVID-19 Vaccine Use: Earlier this week reports spread that the Trump Administration was working with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to fast-track approval of a COVID-19 vaccine before the upcoming election. However, a spokesperson from the company has indicated that they are not involved in these talks and that it’s too early to speculate about when the vaccine will be ready.
Abbott’s $5 COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests Gets Emergency-Use Status from FDA: The FDA has approved a new test about the size of a credit card that can return results in about 15 minutes.
Coronavirus Cases Fell by 15% This Week: The US is averaging just over 41,000 new confirmed cases a day, down from 49,000 per day last week. While this is good news, things can change quickly and these numbers vary vastly by state.
Race & Insurance: The NAIC has released a special edition of its podcast, The Regulators, focusing on racial disparities in the insurance industry.
COVID-19, Mental Health, and the 2020 Election: A Review of Candidate Platforms: A KFF issue brief examines the 2020 presidential nominee’s positions on mental health and substance abuse disorders, issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Talks Over Congressional COVID-19 Relief (Still) Stalled: Talks between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House have failed to gain steam, creating uncertainty about if and when a deal will be reached. Beyond an initial concession of $200 billion, Democrats have reinforced that it is Republicans who will have to move to bridge the $2 trillion gap between the two proposals. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows stated earlier this week that he is not optimistic that a deal will be reached before the end of September, when Congress will have to negotiate and pass a year-end spending bill to keep the government open.
Pelosi, White House Battle Over Postal Service Legislation: On Saturday, House Democrats passed a bill that would provide the U.S. Postal Service with $25 billion in emergency funding and block recent operational changes by Postmaster General DeJoy. While House speaker Nancy Pelosi is putting pressure on the GOP-controlled Senate to pass the bill, the White House has dismissed it as a messaging bill that doesn’t address the long-term sustainability of the Postal Service.
Dems Will Need to Win Senate to Push Biden’s Priorities: To achieve much of his agenda, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will need voters to give his party control of the Senate this November. Even then, a slim Senate majority would end up igniting a different fight: whether to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Although Biden currently has a sizable lead over President Trump heading into the final two months of the campaign, where things stand in battleground Senate races is much harder to gauge. Democrats will likely need to pick up at least four Republican-held seats and win the White House to control the Senate with 50 seats. States with a history of voting Republican, such as Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, are Democrats’ main targets.
Amwell Files IPO with $100M Boost from Google: Google is investing $100 million in Amwell, one of the biggest telehealth companies in the country. The two companies are partnering up to streamline the telehealth experience, automating waiting room intake and billing, offering translation services in real-time, and offering data analytics for population health. Amwell filed IPO paperwork on Monday.
Hospital Operating Margins Down 28% Through July: According to the latest edition of Kaufman Hall’s National Hospital Flash Report, operating margins were down 28% in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period last year. Without federal funding, margins were down 96%. The report, which includes data through July 2020, does indicate that a slow recovery has been underway since April.
Uber Health Forays Into Prescription Drug Delivery: Rideshare company Uber is partnering with on-demand prescription drug platform NimbleRx to provide prescription deliveries in Seattle and Dallas. Plans to extend to other parts of the country in the coming months have also been announced.
Aetna Turns to WellBe Senior Medical to Deliver At-Home care to High-Risk Seniors: Aetna and WellBe are partnering to deliver primary care services to approximately 10,000 high-risk seniors in their homes. The program started in Atlanta and has expanded into Chicago.