President Joe Biden's declaration in a national interview that the covid-19 pandemic is "over" has complicated his own administration's efforts to get Congress to provide more funding for treatments and vaccines, and to get the public to go get yet another booster.
Meanwhile, concerns about a return of medical inflation for the first time in a decade is helping boost insurance premiums, and private companies are scrambling to claim their piece of the health care spending pie.
This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, and Lauren Weber of KHN.
Among the takeaways from this week's episode:
- Biden's comment to "60 Minutes" that the pandemic was over — even though covid is still an issue — highlights the difficulty in communicating to the public how to transition from a public health crisis to a public health problem.
- Much of the country may agree with the president, as evidenced by fewer people using face masks regularly and a decreased number of commercial restrictions related to covid. But several hundred people are still dying each day, a high toll often overlooked.
- Insurance premiums appear to be on the upswing this fall, even though medical costs have not been rising as quickly as other parts of the economy in recent months. The increase may reflect insurers' concerns that, coming out of the covid crisis, consumers will be seeking more medical services.
- One aspect of health business that is driving up costs is the increased investment by private equity companies, which are expanding their reach beyond emergency room doctors and a few other specialties to a wider range of medical services, including gastroenterology and ophthalmology.
- Another concern for the future of health costs is the move toward consolidation in health care. Among recent developments on that front were Amazon's announcement it is moving into primary care with the purchase of One Medical and CVS' decision to buy home health care company Signify Health.
- Abortion policies continue to make news in various states. West Virginia passed a law that restricts nearly all abortions; several Utah Republican legislators sent cease-and-desist letters to abortion providers in their state; and Puerto Rico has a new political party campaigning on the issue of trying to curb the commonwealth's liberal abortion law.
- While Democrats hope the issue of abortion will swing more voters their way in the midterm elections, it's not clear whether overall support for abortion will be a deciding issue for voters in more conservative states and bring any changes.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: The Anchorage Daily News' "Many Alaska Pharmacies Are Understaffed, Leading to Sporadic Hours and Patients Turned Away," by Annie Berman
Joanne Kenen: Capital B's "Clinicians Dismiss Black Women's Pain. The Consequences Are Dire," by Margo Snipe
Anna Edney: The Guardian's "Fury Over 'Forever Chemicals' as US States Spread Toxic Sewage Sludge," by Tom Perkins
Lauren Weber: KHN's "Doctors Rush to Use Supreme Court Ruling to Escape Opioid Charges," by Brett Kelman
Also mentioned in this week's episode:
- KHN's "Private Equity Sees the Billions in Eye Care as Firms Target High-Profit Procedures," by Lauren Weber
- The New York Times' "'Disaster Mode': Emergency Rooms Across Canada Close Amid Crisis," by Vjosa Isai
- JAMA Network Open's "Prevalence and Risk Factors for Medical Debt and Subsequent Changes in Social Determinants of Health in the US," by Drs. David U. Himmelstein, Samuel L. Dickman, Danny McCormick, et al.
- The New England Journal of Medicine's "Uncovered Medical Bills After Sexual Assault," correspondence from Dr. Samuel L. Dickman, Dr. Gracie Himmelstein, Dr. David U. Himmelstein, Katherine Strandberg, Alecia McGregor, Dr. Danny McCormick, and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler
- The Salt Lake Tribune's "Utah GOP Reps. Birkeland, Lisonbee Say Their Threat to Abortions Providers Was Only Their 'Opinion,' Not a Legal Document," by Emily Anderson Stern
- The New York Times' "Abortion Helps Realign Puerto Rico's Politics, Giving Conservatives an Opening," by Patricia Mazzei
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.