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As unemployment surges, Medicaid will likely see a reflective wave of new enrollees. But hefty investments into the program will be needed to absorb those extra costs. “You definitely see in the data that as unemployment goes up, the Medicaid rolls go up,” said Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute. “That’s good, and it’s supposed to happen: It’s a safety net. But this is a quick enough shock that it could be a huge financial burden on Medicaid systems across the states.”
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center treats the world’s top celebrities, while Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital serves some of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable populations. But the distinctions between the two are fading fast as they both brace for an onslaught. Other hospital news comes out of Massachusetts and Texas.
Jobless claims in the U.S. skyrocket to historic levels, with twice as many people filing last week as they did the week before. Analysts forecast that the trend will continue as businesses continue to layoff more employees due to the coronavirus-driven shutdowns.
When President Donald Trump was asked what people should do who lose their jobs because of the outbreak and don’t qualify for Medicaid, he said, “I think it’s a very fair question . . . and it’s something that we’re really going to look at because it doesn’t seem fair.” Earlier in the week, administration officials said they would not launch a special enrollment session. Meanwhile, data released from last year’s health law enrollment for show about 11.4 million consumers signed-up for 2020 exchange coverage.
Democrats are confronting the fact that it might be hard to oversee the $2.2 trillion stimulus spending when the physical act of congregating in the Capitol is dangerous. The Trump administration is also using the pandemic as a way to stop senior officials from having to report to Congress. Meanwhile, differences between Republicans and Democrats on the need for a fourth stimulus package signal rougher governing waters ahead.
Opinion writers weigh in on public health topics stemming from the pandemic.
“During a time I need to commit all the energy I have to really save lives and expand access and not skimp on resources, now I have to worry about how we’re going to continue to pay our bills,” said Dr. David Perlstein, CEO of St. Barnabas Hospital. In other hospital news: rural areas worry about already tight resources, outbreak deniers film activity outside facilities, White House asks for data on patients, cities and states scramble to set up overflow locations, and more.
Doctors have been bracing themselves to cope with the looming threat of having to ration care because of a lack of ventilators and other medical equipment. As other New York hospitals split ventilators between two patients, NYU Langone Health has started telling doctors to “think more critically” about who gets care. In other news on equipment shortages: how taxpayer-funded low-cost ventilators ended up overseas, innovators who are rising to solve the problem, and tariffs that may be hurting the country’s efforts to fight pandemic.
Congress just passed a record-breaking $2.2 trillion stimulus package, but House Democrats are already planning for phase 4: “Our first bills were about addressing the emergency. The third bill was about mitigation. The fourth bill would be about recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Republicans are less sure that another massive relief package is needed and are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile, a top Pentagon watchdog is tapped to oversee the distribution of the trillions of dollars in stimulus.
Editorial pages express opinions about ways to deal with COVID-19.
The ideas being floated on Capitol Hill include extending last week’s package to make the benefits last longer, as well as plugging in holes in the hastily assembled bill.
Depending on how many people need care, insurers, employers and individuals could face anywhere from $34 billion to $251 billion in additional expenses. “No insurer, no state, planned and put money away for something of this significance,” said Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California. Meanwhile, two major health insurers say they will waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatment.
Meanwhile, states and Congress are trying to make it easier for Americans who lose health coverage because their job has been affected by the outbreak to get insurance. And CMS withdrew its proposed rule to crackdown on state Medicaid eligibility.
Just three weeks ago, barely 200,000 people applied for jobless benefits, a historically low number. This is “widespread carnage,” said Jacob Robbins, an assistant economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “And it’s going to get worse.”
President Donald Trump has said he wants to restart the economy and normal life in America by Easter, but not all of the businesses that shift might help want to lift social distancing practices. Meanwhile, eventually life will have to move forward, but is there a safe and responsible way for it to happen? Stat talks to experts about the possibilities.
The deal is the product of a marathon of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and President Donald Trump’s team that nearly fell apart as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections, more funds for hospitals and state governments, and tougher oversight over new loan programs intended to bail out distressed businesses. “A fight has arrived on our shores,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said. “We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.” The House is set to vote on Friday.
Gilead could keep lower-priced generic versions of the medicine off the market for several years if remdesivir is approved for use. Gilead was able to secure the status because as of now there are fewer than 200,000 cases in the U.S.
The measure is the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history and would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to pass the legislation on unanimous consent so that she doesn’t have to call lawmakers back to the Capitol, but Republicans signal at least one member is protesting that move.
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical development and pricing stories from the past week in KHN’s Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
Congress mandated that all testing for the virus should be free, but insurers can still bill patients for cost of care. Meanwhile, some states are moving to give uninsured residents a chance to sign up for their exchanges, while others ban insurers from canceling policies amid the crisis.