Government Watchdogs Attack Medicare Advantage for Denying Care and Overcharging

Congress should crack down on Medicare Advantage health plans for seniors that sometimes deny patients vital medical care while overcharging the government billions of dollars every year, government watchdogs told a House panel Tuesday.

Witnesses sharply criticized the fast-growing health plans at a hearing held by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations. They cited a slew of critical audits and other reports that described plans denying access to health care, particularly those with high rates of patients who were disenrolled in their last year of life while likely in poor health and in need of more services. read more


CDC raises monkeypox alert as global cases surpass 1,000

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stepped up its monkeypox guidance, urging people to take extra precautions as global cases of the virus surpass 1,000.

The CDC ramped up its alert to a level 2 on Monday, encouraging people to “practice enhanced precautions” to stem the outbreak, which has spread to 29 nonendemic countries in the past month. The highest level alert — level 3 — would caution against nonessential travel. read more


Mask Mandates Now Banned For Local Governments And Schools In Growing Number Of GOP States

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law early Thursday prohibiting local governments and schools from imposing their own mask mandates—less than two days after Texas did the same—as more Republican-led states go a step beyond lifting their mask orders by ensuring local officials cannot put their own rules in place.

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White House

Big Government Is Set for a Rerun With Biden’s Economic Plan

Big government is back.

Four decades after Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of lowering taxes and shrinking government took hold — culminating in Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts — Joe Biden is turning U.S. economic policy in the opposite direction.

Over the past 14 months, Congress passed three pandemic-relief packages that injected almost $5 trillion into the economy. The president, according to his latest plan unveiled Wednesday, will make the case for an additional $1.8 trillion in spending and tax credits on initiatives from education and child care to paid family and medical leave.

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Mental Health

Supreme Court agrees to review Trump rule on immigrants needing government aid

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will review a Trump administration limit on accepting immigrants considered likely to become overly dependent on government benefit programs.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in 2019 that it would expand the definition of “public charge” to be applied to people whose immigration could be denied because of a concern that they would primarily depend on the government for their income.

In the past, that was largely based on an assessment that an immigrant would be dependent upon cash benefits. But the Trump administration proposed to broaden the definition to include non-cash benefits, such as Medicaid, supplemental nutrition aid and federal housing assistance.

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Doctor with vaccine

HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Pharmacies to Get Direct Vaccine Shipments

President Joe Biden’s administration will begin to test a program to provide Covid-19 vaccines directly to pharmacies, as officials seek to increase the pace of U.S. inoculations.

Biden’s team announced yesterday that they will ship roughly one million doses per week to about 6,500 pharmacies across the U.S. as a trial run, beginning Feb. 11. They also will boost shipments to states by 5% to 10.5 million doses per week, up from the 10 million doses that were announced a week earlier.

“This pharmacy program will expand access in neighborhoods across the country,” Jeff Zients, who serves as Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a briefing with reporters. The shipments will increase as supply permits, but “due to the current supply constraints, this will be limited when it begins next week,” he said.

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Medical Syringe & Vaccine

PA. Health Officials Say They Haven’t Received Enough COVID-19 Vaccines From Federal Government

(WKBN) – Pennsylvania’s new acting Secretary of Health talked about vaccine shortages during a press conference Tuesday to provide an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Secretary of Health Alison Beam recently took over for Dr. Rachel Levine, who was tapped by President Joe Biden for a job in his administration.

Governor Tom Wolf said he is frustrated by the limited supply of doses from the federal government.

“Pennsylvania has not received enough doses to vaccinate the number of Pennsylvanians who need it, and that’s frustrating to all of us,” Wolf said. “The Trump Administration asked states to give more doses to more people, but the national stockpile was depleted.

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Rainbow Flag

Joe Biden Picks Transgender Woman As Assistant Health Secretary

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide. She won past confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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What Democratic Control of Government Means for Health Care Policy

Following the two U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5, the chamber is split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, but with Democrats in control (and with an effective majority) since incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, can break tie votes. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats also have a five-seat majority.

SHRM Online has gathered the following articles that look at how U.S. health care policy may be altered with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling Congress.

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Covid Vaccine

Washington Department of Health Partially Blames Slow Vaccine Rollout on Federal Government

SPOKANE, Wash.– Washington’s vaccine rollout has been a mess, much like it has been across the rest of the United States.

Many of you have reached out to us every day, asking when you and your loved ones could get the vaccine.

We took those questions straight to local and state health officials, but they haven’t really given us an answer.

Just as we’re asking for more transparency from our local and state health officials, the Washington Department of Health is doing the same.

The state’s Secretary of Health said it’s on the federal government to not only send more doses to states, but to also create a better a plan.

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