KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Oh, Oh, Omicron

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This week, the US passed the milestone of 800,000 deaths from covid-19, as hospitals began to fill up after the Thanksgiving holiday and the ominous omicron variant began to spread rapidly.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has signaled it will likely withdraw abortion rights next year, and Congress has run out of time to pass President Joe Biden’s Reconstruction Better bill in 2021.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz, Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and CQ Roll Call’s Mary Ellen McIntire.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Recently Article on the Atlantic Ocean tap into a troubling mindset surrounding the nation. In large areas of the country, the pandemic has become severe. Many people – either because they have been vaccinated and feel impervious or because they question the veracity of reports about the disease – do not pay much attention to the call by public health officials to follow protective measures, such as using a mask or avoiding large gatherings.
  • Despite that indifference, the death toll in the US has increased by more than 40% in recent weeks, and about 1,300 people die every day.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision last Friday to allow abortion providers in Texas to continue pressuring to overturn a state law that bans abortions after six weeks also restricts the routes that providers take. offers can use in their legal challenges. And abortion rights advocates are disappointed that the court allowed the law to remain in effect while the legal battle continued.
  • Judges are also considering a case from Mississippi, and some abortion opponents believe they could use it to overturn or significantly reduce local abortion rights guarantees. Roe v. Wade decision. It could lead to at least 22 states banning all abortions, experts say, leaving women with little choice. Many women seeking abortions are low-income and traveling to other states is not easy for them because of the cost, the need to care for children, and the lack of time to work.
  • A decision from the Food and Drug Administration is said to be imminent on whether to relax federal regulations on prescribing drugs used for medical abortions. Initially, the FDA required doctors to deliver drugs directly to patients. The agency eased that restriction during the covid pandemic because of concerns about the spread of the virus in medical facilities. Abortion rights advocates are urging the FDA to continue allowing people to receive the drug through a telemedicine appointment.
  • Dr. Robert Califf, the nominee to head the FDA, had a confirmation hearing before the Senate this week. Although he faces tough questions about the FDA’s response to the opioid epidemic, he is expected to win enough bipartisan votes to confirm.
  • Most Democratic lawmakers are realizing that the Senate will not meet Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s pledge to vote on Biden’s climate and social spending package before the end of the year. Biden and Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) are still negotiating the terms of the bid. To pass, the package needs the backing of all 50 Democratic senators – so until Biden or Schumer can get Manchin’s vote, the package will wait.
  • A particularly common provision in that law would limit the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for many consumers to $35 a month. It is a blunt instrument in trying to reduce the cost of a life-saving drug, and the public generally favors widespread and inexpensive access. But there can be a strong legal argument that the effort cannot pass as part of the budget bill; Senate rules allow a simple majority to pass, but also require that all provisions directly affect federal spending.
  • The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association filed lawsuits last week seeking a change in the Biden administration’s implementation of a law that protects consumers from unexpected medical bills. . These expensive fees occur when a patient unexpectedly receives care from a doctor or hospital outside of their insurance provider’s network. The new law will protect consumers from those higher fees. The groups are not trying to thwart the law, but instead seek to change the calculation so that arbitrators decide how much healthcare providers should pay.

Also for extra “credit,” the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read, too.

Julie Rovner: KHN of “West Virginia Senator Manchin Introduces Democratic Seniors Dental Care Plan,” By Phil Galewitz

Margot Sanger-Katz: HuffPost’s “Insulin prices could have a pretty big swing if Democrats get their way,” By Jonathan Cohn

Alice Miranda Ollstein: AP’s “How a Kennedy Built a Juggernaut Anti-Vaccine Juggernaut Amid COVID-19,” By Michelle R. Smith

Mary Ellen McIntire: CQ Attendance of “Outbreak among pharmacists slows COVID-19 booster shots, ”By Emily Kopp and Ariel Cohen

To listen to all of our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? above Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitchers, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom specializing in the production of in-depth coverage of health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Exploration, KHN is one of the three main activities in KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). The KFF is a nonprofit organization privileged to provide information on health issues to the nation.


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