Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Judge pauses federal employee vaccine mandate

AP-Matt Rourke

Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

The crypto markets crashed today, wiping out more than $1 trillion in market value— an amount bigger than some of the investments in Build Back Better. 

Also crashing: A judge in Texas ruled that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to mandate vaccines for its own employees.  

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com) and Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel 

Let’s get started. 

 

Judge blocks mandate for federal workers  

Another vaccine mandate setback for the Biden administration. 

A federal judge in Texas on Friday blocked President Biden‘s mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the latest blow to the White House’s vaccination efforts. 

Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed by former President Trump, wrote that the order exceeded the president’s authority. 

The case is about “whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment,” Brown wrote. 

But: The Department of Justice immediately said it would appeal. And White House press secretary Jen Psaki said 98 percent of federal workers are in compliance.  

The order comes after the Supreme Court earlier this month blocked Biden’s mandate that employees at businesses with 100 or more workers get vaccinated or regularly tested, while upholding the vaccination mandate for health care workers. 

The federal government’s power to mandate vaccination for its own employees is thought to be on stronger legal footing, though Friday’s ruling underscores the ongoing nature of the dispute. 

“I’m sorry, but this is just insane,” Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote on Twitter. “The federal government lacks the power to require its *own* employees to be vaccinated?” 

Read more here 

CDC studies show benefits of booster shot  

New studies released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday showed that a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine provides robust protection against hospitalization and severe disease. 

The findings, while promising, come as the U.S. is seeing a massive spike in infections due to the omicron variant, which is overwhelming hospitals throughout the country. 

Cuts emergency department visits: One analysis found getting a third dose of an mRNA vaccine was at least 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19-associated hospitalization, both during the delta and omicron periods. 

A third shot reduced a person’s risk of an emergency department and urgent care visit by 94 percent during delta and 82 percent during omicron. 

Fully vaccinated: Despite the findings, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency is not changing the definition of fully vaccinated, but will “pivot the language” to focus on being “up to date.” 

Read more here. 

 

UNVACCINATED SENIORS 50 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE HOSPITALIZED

CDC for the first time on Friday posted data on hospitalizations by vaccination status 

Adults ages 65 and older who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are nearly 50 times more likely to be hospitalized than seniors who are “up to date.” 

According to CDC, unvaccinated seniors are 49 times more likely to go to the hospital than those that have been boosted. Similarly, unvaccinated adults ages 50-64 are 44 times more likely to go to the hospital compared to their vaccinated and boosted counterparts. 

“Those who remain unvaccinated are at significantly higher risk for infection and severe COVID-19 disease,” Walenksy said. “Protection against infection and hospitalization with the omicron variant is highest for those who are up to date with their vaccination.” 

Read more here. 

WHITE HOUSE LAUNCHES CALL LINE FOR FREE TESTS

The White House on Friday launched a new phone line that Americans can use to order free at-home coronavirus tests, in an effort to reach those who cannot easily access the internet. 

Starting Friday, Americans who cannot put in an order for the COVID-19 tests on the website launched by the White House earlier this week can call 1-800-232-0233 to do so, the White House said. The call line, which serves those speaking English, Spanish and more than 150 additional languages, is open 8 a.m. until midnight EST, seven days a week. 

The Biden administration has also set up a text-based line for hearing-impaired callers at 1-888-720-7489. 

The White House said the resources are meant to make the process of ordering the free tests as easy as possible and ensure that Americans with low literacy, those who have challenges accessing the internet and those who need additional support can access the tests. 

The White House also said that the administration is working with national and local organizations that serve communities of color, those with disabilities and other high-risk communities to raise awareness about the free COVID-19 tests and help Americans order them. 

Read more here.

Kemp sues over Medicaid work requirements  

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is suing the Biden administration to force the reinstatement of the state’s Medicaid waiver. 

The plan, which was approved in the final days of the Trump administration but had not yet taken effect, would have imposed work requirements and premiums while covering some additional people. 

The Biden administration rejected those parts of the plan last month, saying the policies would hurt, rather than help, people gain access to coverage, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Simply put, the Biden administration is obstructing our ability to implement innovative healthcare solutions for more than 50,000 hardworking Georgia families rather than rely on a one-size-fits-none broken system,” Kemp said in a statement Friday.  

Coverage expansion only: The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services only rejected premiums and work requirements; the waiver could have continued with a coverage expansion. The state could have also decided to do a full expansion under ObamaCare- it would be cheaper and cover more people.  

But Kemp’s office said without premiums and work requirements, the only thing left is “significant Medicaid expansion in Georgia without condition,” which was “not what Georgia signed up for and represents an egregious regulatory bait and switch on the core terms of a massive federal-state program.” 

Read more here.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Two years since Covid was first confirmed in U.S., the pandemic is worse than anyone imagined (CNBC) 
  • Patient, beware: some states still pushing ineffective Covid antibody treatments (Kaiser Health News) 
  • Is omicron really less severe? ICUs more slammed than ever, doctors say (NBC News) 

 

STATE BY STATE

  • Court battle over a ventilator takes a patient from Minnesota to Texas (New York Times 
  • Anti-vaccine activists, reveling in their pandemic successes, will rally in D.C. against mandates (Washington Post 
  • California kids 12 and older could receive COVID-19 vaccine without parent’s OK (LA Times 

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Monday.

Tags Brian Kemp Donald Trump Jen Psaki Joe Biden

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