From the public health report, here are the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker and the CDC’s FluView this week. Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to trend down, while Covid deaths leveled off after reaching a pandemic low last week. FluView notes, “CDC estimates that, so far this season [which runs from October through April], there have been at least 26 million illnesses, 290,000 hospitalizations, and 18,000 deaths from flu.”
The American Hospital Association adds
The Food and Drug Administration today released final guidance for transitioning medical device enforcement policies and emergency use authorizations established during the COVID-19 public health emergency to normal operations. The Biden Administration plans to end the COVID-19 PHE declaration on May 11. The COVID-19 EUA declaration for COVID-19 diagnostics, personal protective equipment, other medical devices, and drug and biological products will remain in effect until there is no longer a “significant potential” for a COVID-19 PHE or the authorized devices or products have been approved.
From the Covid vaccine mandate front, per Fierce Healthcare, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held en banc (all of the active judges not a three judge panel), held that Feds for Medical Freedom have standing to challenge the Covid vaccine mandate on federal employees. This means that the nationwide preliminary injunction that has blocked enforcement of the mandate remains in force.
As you may recall, earlier this week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reached the opposite result. Such a split in decisions from different circuits is grounds for the Supreme Court to review the case, if requested (cert petition). It remains to be seen whether the end of the public health emergency also will bring down the curtain on the various Covid vaccine mandate challenges.
In other litigation news, Beckers Hospital Reviews brings us up to date on Cigna’s efforts to prevent a former executive from joining CVS Health.
From the opioids PHE front, the Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. government has begun deploying X-ray scanners for trucks crossing the border from Mexico, first in Brownsville, Texas:
The scanners in Brownsville beam energy at a truck in varying levels of intensity. Beaming less energy at the cab allows drivers to stay inside, speeding the process. Directing more energy at the trailer produces an image of the truck that officials can use to spot suspect material within. Sometimes the payload is illicit drugs including fentanyl. * * *
The U.S. aims to deploy 123 large-scale scanners along the border by fiscal 2026, growing its ability to perform nonintrusive scans to 70% of cargo vehicles and 40% of passenger vehicles, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Historically, the U.S. has only performed such scans on 17% of cargo vehicles and 2% of passenger vehicles, the office said.
Adding more scanning technology has to be part of an effort that includes trying to reduce drug demand and the odds overdoses will prove fatal, said David Luckey, a senior Rand Corp. researcher. He co-led a team that produced a report last year for a commission on synthetic opioids that includes members of Congress and law-enforcement agencies.
“There’s no silver bullet,” he said.
From the No Surprises Act front, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told the Senate Budget Committee on March 22
Becerra said the agency has received more than 10 times as many No Surprises Act claims than it expected when the law was first implemented. Many of these claims are frivolous, he said, because there is no cost to payers or providers to file a claim.
“Everyone’s just filing all sorts of claims, and these arbitrators are trying to figure out what cases to handle,” Mr. Becerra said. “That’s what’s bogging down the system.
The agency is staying true to Congress’ intent with the law, Mr. Becerra said, but more legislative action is needed to deal with the high number of claims.
“What we’re trying to do is have a system that works. I plead with you to help us make sure that we get to the legitimate cases, so a provider that’s looking for real payment, or an insurer that’s saying, You’re asking for too much,’ we can adjudicate that,” Mr. Becerra said.
The FEHBlog is metaphysically certain that providers are submitting 99.4% of the faulty arbitration claims. While the law is working for patients, Congress should tweak that law as the good Secretary requests.
From the U.S. healthcare business front, Fierce Healthcare informs us
Average physician pay fell by 2.4% from 2021 to 2022, and that decline in physician compensation comes at a time when U.S. healthcare workers are facing significant challenges, including economic strains, a growing physician shortage issue and high rates of work-related burnout, according to the sixth annual Physician Compensation Report from professional medical network Doximity.
Fierce Healthcare’s report is chock-a-block full of summary data from this report.
In other news
- The New York Times reports
- The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in American children rose between 2018 and 2020, continuing a long-running trend, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. In 2020, an estimated one in 36 8-year-olds had autism, up from one in 44 in 2018. The prevalence was roughly 4 percent in boys and 1 percent in girls.
- The rise does not necessarily mean that autism has become more common among children, and it could stem from other factors, such as increased awareness and screening.
- “I have a feeling that this is just more discovery,” said Catherine Lord, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles medical school, who was not involved in the research. “The question is what’s happening next to these kids, and are they getting services?”
- HR Dive discusses a recent survey on employee use of employer-sponsored mental health benefits.
- CNBC tells us
- Drugmakers Sanofi and Regeneron * * * released data on a jointly developed drug that shows promise in treating COPD.
- The drug is already approved for asthma and some skin conditions, such as eczema, but it could become the first new treatment in over a decade for COPD.
- The results are a win for Dupixent, as competing COPD drugs from drugmakers such as AstraZeneca and GSK struggle to make successful strides toward approval.