Based on the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID data tracker and using Thursday as the first day of the week, here is the FEHBlog’s weekly chart of new COVID cases for 2021:
STAT News reports today that Omicron may give Delta a run for its money.
As the Omicron variant snowballs in South Africa and widens its inroads in Europe, evidence is mounting that it can outcompete the highly transmissible Delta variant — a potential warning signal for the United States.
The Wall Street Journal adds that
The U.K. is emerging as a testing ground in the battle for dominance between the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus and Delta, the earlier strain that is currently driving most infections in the U.S. and Europe.
How Britain fares against Omicron will offer clues to the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world about how the variant behaves in a highly vaccinated population, how sick those who are infected get and if its dozens of mutations have given Omicron enough of an advantage on the evolutionary ladder to starve Delta of the hosts it needs to stay on top.
The CDC’s weekly new COVID hospitalizations chart up week to week from 6.500 to 7,500 which is 54% below the number of new hospitalizations in January 2020. The Wall Street Journal adds that
As the pandemic heads into its third year, doctors are screening more effectively for these clots and improving treatment regimens, marking a significant medical advance alongside the vaccines and antiviral pills under review for Covid-19 that get the most attention.
Even before test results come in, doctors may sometimes treat patients with a high dose of anticoagulants if they suspect blood clots, often termed thrombosis, said Michael Streiff, a clot specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
“The incidence of thrombosis was very high in the beginning but has declined over time. I think this is due to better supportive care,” Dr. Streiff said.
Still, some doctors say there’s much to be done to improve outcomes further. Recent studies are helping to define more precise treatment protocols for clots.
Here’s the FEHBlog weekly chart of new COVID deaths for 2021:
The Wall Street Journal notes that
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has so far caused mostly mild cases of Covid-19 in a small group of largely vaccinated people in the U.S., federal data show.
Among at least 43 people infected with the variant in 25 states in recent days, there has been one hospitalization and no deaths so far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
Out of 43 cases identified between Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, nearly 80% of the people infected with Omicron were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, and one-third had received a booster shot. Fourteen percent of the people had a previous Covid-19 infection. Patients most commonly reported mild symptoms like cough, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, the CDC said. Nearly 60% of cases were in people 18 to 39 years old.
Here’s the FEHBlog’s weekly chart of new COVID vaccinations administered and distributed from the 51st week of 2020 through the 49th week of 2021:
This past week was the first week since June 2021 that administered vaccinations topped 10 million. Slightly over 50% of the U.S. population over 65 is boostered according to the CDC.
Here is a link to the CDC’s weekly interpretation of its COVID statistics which urges all Americans aged 16 and older to get boostered.
From the flu front, the CDC reports that seasonal flu activity remains low but continues to increase. The CDC encourages Americans to fight the flu by getting vaccinated, engage in preventative measures, and take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. We are about a month away from the CDC giving the same advice about COVID.
From the Capitol Hill front, FedWeek informs us that
Congress is moving toward passing a compromise version of the annual DoD authorization bill (S-1605) containing a number of provisions affecting personnel policies government-wide, including two new weeks of paid leave for federal employees on the death of a son or daughter.
The new “parental bereavement leave” replaces a House provision that would have expanded the authority for federal employees to take paid time rather than unpaid time for parental purposes covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Senate version had not included any provision on parental leave.
The compromise provision uses the same definitions for children as under the FMLA; rules likely will be needed to define the policy, including the effective date.
The bill also: extends long-running authorities for all agencies to pay certain special allowances to employees working in areas of active military operations; requires OPM to perform a study of allowances for employees working in remote areas; and orders OPM to establish or update occupational series in the fields of software development, software engineering, data science, and data management.
However, the final version drops House language to require OPM to redefine locality pay areas for wage grade employees so that they align with the areas used for the GS system. Currently, in some cases wage grade employees receive smaller raises than GS employees at the same location. The bill however encourages OPM to address that issue.
From the judicial front
- The Society for Human Resource Management brings us up to date on oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court this week on human resources and employee benefit issues.
- The Coalition against Surprise Billing blasted the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association for bringing a lawsuit against the independent dispute resolution regulations under the No Surprises Act.
From the healthcare business front —
- Beckers Payer Issues reports that
New York-based Hydrogen Health, a joint venture between Anthem, investment firm Blackstone and digital primary care company K Health, is launching its virtual primary care offerings nationwide, the provider announced Dec. 9.
Anthem and its partners formed Hydrogen Health in April 2021 to leverage artificial intelligence to drive down healthcare costs in both employer and consumer markets. The joint venture offers employers and insurers text and video-based digital primary care, and taps K Health’s artificial intelligence to personalize that care.
Hydrogen Health shared that since its initial launch with Anthem, its customers now include multiple Fortune 500 companies and other large employers.
Moving into 2022, the plan anticipates it will expand the conditions it can diagnose and manage and grow its membership by 10 million — all digitally, according to the announcement.
- Healthcare Dive reports that on CVS Health’s investors day held yesterday.
— CVS Health plans to ramp up its acquisitions of physician practices and clinics as it continues to pursue its primary care strategy and races with other retail pharmacies to build out medical networks.
— The Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based healthcare behemoth already operates a network of MinuteClinics, urgent care locations staffed by nurse practitioners. But CVS wants to broaden its care delivery strategy into a primary care model, including “physician-led primary care centers with integrated virtual and home assets,” CVS EVP and president of pharmacy services Alan Lotvin said Thursday at CVS’ investor day.
— CVS plans to add a few hundred primary care centers to its network of MinuteClinics, drugstores and health-focused HealthHUB locations launched a few years ago, as it moves from an episodic to more longitudinal approach to care, Lotvin said. CVS also wants to eventually add more specialty services to compete as the retail healthcare market becomes increasingly saturated.
From the benefit design front, Health Payer Intelligence informs us that “Employing personalized, in-home chronic disease management services can have a significant impact on spending for seniors with chronic conditions, a study from Avalere found.”
Patients with quadriplegia saw the highest healthcare spending difference in total cost of care after receiving home healthcare. The group that received the home healthcare solution spent $12,807. In contrast, the group that did not receive in-home chronic disease management support spent nearly $30,000 more, with average spending of $42,709.
The condition that ranked lowest in the top ten chronic conditions was intestinal obstruction or perforation. But even for this condition, patients with the intervention spent on average $17,738 less than their counterparts.
Despite the major differences in total cost of care between the two groups, the group that received the targeted home healthcare intervention did not display drastic differences between healthcare spending levels before and after implementing the intervention.