Thursday Miscellany

The Wall Street Journal reports “The Trump administration unveiled Thursday a $750 million deal to buy 150 million rapid Covid-19 tests from Abbott Laboratories, a move that would substantially expand the nation’s capacity for rapid testing.” As noted in yesterday’s post, this $5 antigen test, which received Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization on Wednesday, ” is roughly the size of a credit card. The test could be administered in a doctor’s or school nurse’s office and uses technology similar to home pregnancy tests. It returns results in about 15 minutes.”

While on the subject of COVID-19 testing, Fierce Healthcare informs us that

Out-of-network costs for COVID-19 testing far outpace the costs for in-network tests, according to a new report from America’s Health Insurance Plans. The results suggest that price gouging is a significant problem under the pandemic, the group argues. The AHIP analysis finds that a test for the novel coronavirus costs on average $130 for commercial insurers. However, out-of-network providers charged more than $185 for 40% of diagnostic test and 25% of antibody tests, the lobby organization found.

Shameful. Congress should step in on this one.

In encouraging developments,

Fierce Biotech lets us know that

As the world scrambles to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, one big question looms: How will we face the next pandemic? Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) are teaming up once again to answer that.

Through a joint effort dubbed Blue Knight, the duo aims to boost innovation and “amplify” scientific and technological advancements to prepare for potential health threats—starting with COVID-19. They’ve picked seven startups from J&J’s global JLABS network to participate. The startups will receive up to $500,000 in support, as well as mentorship from BARDA and J&J to help them navigate R&D challenges and regulatory pathways and get medicines and tools to patients and healthcare workers as soon as possible.

and Healthcare Dive reports that

Aetna is partnering with WellBe Senior Medical, a relative newcomer, to deliver primary care services to about 10,000 high-risk seniors in their homes, according to WellBe CEO Jeff Kang, who is also a physician. The program launched in Atlanta last month and is now available for certain seniors in the Chicagoland area. For eligible seniors, this means access to at-home care 24 hours, seven days a week, lessening the burden of getting a ride to an appointment or venturing to a medical facility amid the pandemic. Even COVID-19 testing can be done in their homes. Aetna assigns eligible high-risk patients to WellBe, which is then responsible for managing their care and receives capitated payments from Aetna. Those eligible are typically seniors in their 80s with multiple chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart failure, osteoarthritis and dementia, Kang said in an interview with Healthcare Dive.

There are plenty of elderly annuitants in the FEHBP although most of them have primary Medicare coverage.

Finally in Office of Personnel Management new:

Office of Personnel Management acting Director Michael Rigas [considerately] has issued a new memorandum to agency heads Aug. 27 informing them that [under a new regulation] employees will no longer have to pre-schedule their annual leave prior to the third pay period before the end of the year, so that the agency can then cancel and restore it. [A]ny leave that is forfeited at the end of the year due to a national emergency where the employee was deemed essential and not able to take leave would automatically be considered “scheduled in advance” and restored into a separate leave account for later employee use.

and updates us on the upcoming Combined Federal Campaign. This annual charity drive for federal employees runs from Sept. 21 through Jan. 15, 2021.

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