Weekend update

In view of the impending national election on Tuesday, Congress is out of session for the next two weeks except for one Committee hearing on November 10.

On the COVID-19 front –

  • The Wall Street Journal reports about research and medical efforts to address the health problems of so-called COVID-19 long haulers.

Nearly a year into the global coronavirus pandemic, scientists, doctors and patients are beginning to unlock a puzzling phenomenon: For many patients, including young ones who never required hospitalization, Covid-19 has a devastating second act.

Many are dealing with symptoms weeks or months after they were expected to recover, often with puzzling new complications that can affect the entire body—severe fatigue, cognitive issues and memory lapses, digestive problems, erratic heart rates, headaches, dizziness, fluctuating blood pressure, even hair loss.

What is surprising to doctors is that many such cases involve people whose original cases weren’t the most serious, undermining the assumption that patients with mild Covid-19 recover within two weeks. Doctors call the condition “post-acute Covid” or “chronic Covid,” and sufferers often refer to themselves as “long haulers” or “long-Covid” patients.

According to the article, the estimated numbers of long haulers varies “widely.” Nevertheless, [w]ith more than 46 million cases world-wide, even the lower estimates would translate into millions living with long-term, sometimes disabling conditions, increasing the urgency to study this patient population, researchers said. What they find could have implications for how clinicians define recovery and what therapies they prescribe, doctors said.” What’s more, “[o]ther viral outbreaks, including the original SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 and the Spanish flu, have been associated with long-term symptoms.”

  • Last Friday, ” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) jointly announced a $12.7 million contract with InBios International Inc., of Seattle, to expand domestic production capacity for two rapid point-of-care tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The first, called the SCoV-2 Ag Detect Kit, detects current infections by identifying antigens – genetic material – of the virus in a nose swab sample. The second test, called the SCoV-2 Detect IgM/IgG Kit, detects antibodies for the virus in a finger prick of blood, indicating whether the person had a previous COVID-19 infection. The contract enables InBios to ramp up production of either or both tests to 400,000 units per week – 20 times the facility’s current output – by May 2021, significantly expanding the nation’s testing capacity.

Fierce Healthcare informs us

According to UnitedHealth Group’s fifth annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, which examines Americans’ opinions about multiple areas of healthcare, a survey-record 56% said it is likely they would use virtual care for medical services.  More than a quarter of respondents (26%) said they would prefer a virtual relationship with a primary care physician, the survey found. And when comparison shopping for care, 55% of respondents said they had used the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for healthcare during the past year, with 1 in 4 patients saying that online or mobile resources were their first option for evaluating health issues.

Follow up on a couple of stories that the FEHBlog has been following:

  • Health Payer Intelligence discusses various angles on the payer transparency rule that the ACA regulators issued last week. That rule is applicable to the FEHBP.
  • A friend of the FEHBlog related that the federal government has noticed an appeal to the D.C. Circuit of District Judge James Boasberg’s September 2, 2020, decision preliminarily enjoining certain provisions of the Trump Administration’s revised ACA Section 1557 rule that adversely affected transgendered people. The government’s 60 day period to notice such an interlocutory appeal would have expired tomorrow.