Monday Roundup

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The Wall Street Journal reports from Capitol Hill that

The House Budget Committee approved the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Monday, setting up a vote in the full House later this week.

The Budget Committee on Monday officially fused together different portions of the legislation that had advanced earlier this month in nine different House committees. A full House vote is expected Friday or Saturday.

The bill moving through the House would provide $400-a-week unemployment benefits through Aug. 29, send $1,400 per-person payments to most households, provide billions in funding for schools and vaccine distribution, expand the child tax credit, broaden child-care assistance and bolster tax credits for health insurance. It would also increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over four years, a point of division among Democrats.

From the COVID-19 front:

  • The Hill reports that “Johnson & Johnson said Monday [February 22] that it plans to have enough doses of its vaccine for more than 20 million Americans by the end of March if its vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.”
  • The Wall Street Journal informs us that

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it will quickly analyze any vaccine booster shots against Covid-19 variants such as those from South Africa and the U.K., and won’t require further large clinical trials of the new shots’ effectiveness.

The agency issued new guidance for vaccine manufacturers as it looks to establish speedier procedures to deal with virus mutations that could worsen the pandemic. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement the agency is seeking ‘efficient ways to modify medical products that either are in the pipeline or have been authorized for emergency use to address emerging variants.’”

  • Federal News Network points out that federal agencies have been issuing new COVID-19 safety plans for employees and visitors. Here is a link to OPM’s plan.

Healthcare Dive informs us that “The Biden administration [officially] nominated Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as CMS administrator Friday [February 19]. A press release touted her more than 20 years of experience in health policy and previous work guiding the ACA through passage and implementation.” This position requires Senate confirmation. The White House sent her nomination to the Senate today.

Health Payer Intelligence discusses a Health Action Council and UnitedHealth Group report about the following five conditions other than COVID-19 that fuel costs for employer sponsored health plans: (1) asthsma, (2) diabetes, (3) hypertension, (4) back disorders, and (5) mental health / substance use. Check it out.

Earlier this month, the Health Care Cost Institute announced

the launch of its new health care claims dataset for research. The new dataset is more than 25% larger than the original HCCI dataset, containing more than 1 billion claims per year for more than 55 million people who receive health care coverage from their employers. Researchers will initially have access to data from 2012 to 2018, with 2019 and 2020 information being added as soon as possible. The data is sourced from Aetna/CVS, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and more than 30 non-profit health plans included in the Blue Health Intelligence® national dataset , enabling researchers to conduct analysis at the national, state, and sub-state level. HCCI’s patient-, provider-, and payer-deidentified dataset contains comprehensive diagnostic, procedure, site of care and cost information, including payments made by insurers as well as what patients pay out of pocket. 

“This rich new claims data enables the critical research and reporting that will be needed in the coming years, to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges facing the health care system as the US approaches spending 20% of GDP on health care,” said Niall Brennan, President and CEO of HCCI. “HCCI is a critical national resource for researchers, policymakers, employers, journalists, and the public to understand trends in health care access, spending and utilization.”

Good luck.

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