From the Federal Employee Benefits Open Season front, Govexec offers Open Season guidance to annuitants. Annuitants make up half of the FEHB’s enrollment.
From the Omicron and siblings front —
STAT News offers epidemiologist / infectious disease expert views on our situation nearly three years since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.
[W]e wondered if people who work in the infectious diseases sphere are still taking steps to try to avoid catching the virus, and if so, which ones. We also wondered whether — maybe even hoped — they are feeling less stressed about Covid and are starting to lower their guard.
The short answer: Some appear to be, a little. But most are still using multiple measures to try to avoid Covid.
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans reports
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the Health+ Long COVID Report highlighting patients’ experience of Long COVID to better understand its complexities and drive creative responses by government leaders, clinicians, patient advocates and others.
The Health+ Long COVID Report builds on the President’s Memorandum on Addressing the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 and the two previously issued HHS Long COVID reports.
- Provides recommendations on how to deliver high-quality care, and relevant and intentional resources and supports to individuals and families impacted by Long COVID;
- Compliments the existing landscape of Long COVID scientific literature with the narratives and expertise of caregivers, frontline workers, and people experiencing Long COVID and its associated conditions; and
- Offers a variety of short-term and longer-term recommendations that come directly from the patient experience. For example, insurance providers should update plan guidelines that align coverage with medical treatments that improve health outcomes for people with Long COVID. Employers should support accommodations for people living with Long COVID that allow them to continue to work and study. Federal agencies should disseminate Long COVID messaging to let people know Long COVID is real and is a serious public health issue.
Fierce Healthcare tells us
Pharmaceutical companies are aiming to continue evolving COVID-19 vaccines as the virus mutates, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness of an annual booster strategy.
For example, Moderna this week announced that it has developed a new booster to battle subvariants BA.5 and BA.4 of omicron that the company said will prove more effective than the booster the government rolled out in September, partly because the new version includes data from human beings, not just animals, as Fierce Pharma reports.
As payers are going to be on the hook for coverage of these products, they’re going to have to push for critical data on how these vaccines are working for members, experts say.
Paul Offit, M.D., the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said insurance companies should hold pharmaceutical companies’ feet to the fire. “They should say, ‘Show me the data. Show me the data as to why everyone needs another dose of vaccine. A yearly dose of vaccine. Who benefits? You’ve done those three or four initially. But prove that you need another dose of vaccine. Prove it.’ Because right now it should always be about the data,” he said in an interview.
He added that payers should ask the same questions of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The FEHBlog does not expect that this financial burden will shift soon because he expects Congress to provide more Covid funding next month. Nevertheless it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In other vaccine news, MPR relates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has published an updated recommendation to include the use of Priorix (measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, live) as an additional option for active immunization for the prevention of measles, mumps and rubella in individuals 12 months of age and older. * * *
The recommendation was based on safety data from 4 randomized controlled clinical studies, 4 observational studies and 1 systematic review. In the randomized controlled trials, participants received at least 1 dose of either Priorix or a US-licensed MMR virus vaccine, live (M-M-R® II).
Results showed that immune responses after Priorix administration were noninferior to those observed with M-M-R II. Additionally, no significant difference in the frequency of vaccine-related serious adverse events was reported in these studies.
Based on these findings, the CDC considers Priorix and M-M-R II to be fully interchangeable. Either vaccine may be administered when an MMR virus-containing vaccine is indicated.
In healthcare executive news, Bloomberg reports
Walmart Inc. health-care executive Cheryl Pegus [a cardiologist with a master’s in public health] will join JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Morgan Health venture as a managing director, with aims to improve employer-sponsored health care.
The move creates a vacancy at the nation’s largest retailer, as rivals like Amazon.com Inc. and CVS Health Corp. broaden their reach into the $4 trillion US health-care industry. It’s also a high-profile hire for Morgan Health, which the bank launched last year after shutting its joint venture with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway Inc, known as Haven.
From the innovations front, the Wall Street Journal informs us
Vending machines stocked with overdose-reversing nasal spray are part of the latest attempt to diminish a record tide of drug deaths.
The Food and Drug Administration and some states have loosened restrictions on drugs including Narcan that are sprayed into the nose to reverse an opioid overdose.
Nonprofits that work with opioid users are distributing more of the drugs as a result. Getting Narcan as close as possible to people at risk for an overdose is essential to saving lives, they said.
“If we hadn’t had that vending machine, I might not have had my brother alive today,” said LuDene LoyaltyGroves, who works at a homeless shelter in Moses Lake, Wash. People staying with her brother in a nearby encampment retrieved Narcan from a vending machine at the shelter and used it to revive him repeatedly, she said.