Health Care — US monkeypox cases double in one week
Apparently, we should all be living in Peoria, Ill., at least according to this TikTok influencer profiled by BuzzFeed.
The number of likely monkeypox cases in the U.S. has doubled in the past week, though a rise in cases was expected and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are “more than enough vaccines” available to handle the current outbreak.
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
CDC: 20 monkeypox cases detected in 11 states
The number of monkeypox cases identified in the U.S. have doubled in the past week to 20, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to the public remains low and the strain causing these causes is believed to be a less severe version of the disease.
During a press briefing Thursday, officials from the CDC and the White House confirmed that 20 cases had been identified across 11 states.
“The strain of the monkeypox virus affecting patients in this outbreak is the West African clade, and that is less severe than other known clades [such as] the Congo Basin clade, meaning that in historical outbreaks in Africa it has led to fewer deaths,” said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director for the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
While the strain is believed to be a less severe one, McQuiston stressed that it should not be minimized since the virus can still result in pain due to its characteristic rash as well as severe scarring once the lesions have healed.
Most monkeypox cases in the U.S. have been found among men who have sex with men, but the CDC confirmed that one case had been found in a woman who had traveled to West Africa and reported having a heterosexual sex life.
The U.S. is currently following a strategy of containment to limit the spread of monkeypox by isolating cases, identifying people who have possibly been exposed and making sure that vaccines are offered to them. No monkeypox-related deaths have yet been reported.
Progressives slam decision not to cut 2022 premium
Progressives are criticizing the Biden administration’s recent announcement that the 2022 Medicare premium will not be cut despite lower-than-expected costs for a new Alzheimer’s medicine.
The cost of a premium jumped by $21.60 to a minimum of $170.10 and a maximum of $578.30 in 2022, the largest increase in the program’s history.
The jump was blamed in part on a need to shore up funds in case Medicare covered Aduhelm, the first Alzheimer’s medication to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nearly 20 years.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week said the Medicare premium will fall in 2023, but that it will keep the $21.60 hike for the coming year.
Critics have blasted the decision as causing an undue financial burden on many people who live on a fixed income.
Faiz Shakir, an adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called on the Biden administration to send out rebate checks to Medicare recipients this year, while fellow Sanders staffer Warren Gunnels tweeted: “Imagine being able to put more money in the pockets of senior citizens who are struggling to put food on the table right now and doing nothing instead. This is how you blow a slam dunk.”
Alex Lawson, executive director for the progressive group Social Security Works, slammed the administration’s decision to not lower premiums until next year, calling it “bogus.”
CALIFORNIA COUNTY REINSTATES MASK MANDATE
A county in California’s Bay Area is reviving its mask mandate for most indoor public settings to limit the impact of a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Effective Friday, residents in Alameda County will once again have to mask-up inside public places like grocery stores, restaurants and gyms for the first time since the winter omicron wave. County officials cited rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, which have more than doubled over the last month.
The order does not apply to K-12 schools through the end of the 2021-22 school year, but county health officials strongly recommend masking. Masks will be required, however, in other settings such as childcare, summer school and youth programs. The City of Berkeley is exempt from the order as it has its own public health department.
Daily reported coronavirus cases in Alameda County, which is the San Francisco Bay Area’s second-most populous, have surpassed the peak of last year’s delta wave and are now approaching levels observed during the winter 2020-21 wave, health officials said.
Mask mandates now the exception: As cases climb, Americans appear to be shrugging off the risk of the virus. An Axios-Ipsos poll found last month that just 36 percent of Americans said there was significant risk in returning to their “normal pre-coronavirus life.”
DESANTIS SEEKS TO BLOCK TRANSITION-RELATED THERAPIES
The office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week encouraged the state’s board of doctors to follow guidance from the DeSantis administration on transition-related therapies for transgender minors, which would limit or eliminate various hormonal, surgical and other procedures.
State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo told the Florida Board of Medicine in a letter obtained by NBC News that his office found the science supporting these therapies “extraordinarily weak.”
“Available medical literature provides insufficient evidence that sex reassignment through medical interventions is a safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria,” the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration wrote.
Ladapo asked the board to review the agency’s findings to inform its establishment of a standard of care for transgender minors, emphasizing that surgical and hormonal therapies are “complex and irreversible.”
The same day, the Agency for Health Care Administration released a report denying Medicaid coverage for puberty blockers, hormone therapies or transgender-related surgeries.
The agency referred to these procedures as “experimental and investigational with the potential for harmful long term affects.”
Health insurers will pay $1B in rebates this year: analysis
Health insurers will issue $1 billion worth of rebates to consumers this year, according to an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The rebates stem from a requirement in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that health insurers spend at least 80 percent of the money they take in on medical care, as opposed to profits or administrative expenses. If an insurer does not meet that threshold, they have to pay back money to consumers in the form of rebates.
The analysis estimates that 8.2 million people will be receiving rebates, with an average amount received per person of $128.
Most of the rebates will be paid to people who buy health insurance on their own, including through the ACA marketplaces, as opposed to getting coverage from an employer.
“$1 Billion dollars: That’s enough to buy a baseball team, superyacht, or private island,” tweeted Cynthia Cox, one of the authors of the analysis at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s also how much health insurers expect to send out as rebates to individuals and businesses because of the Affordable Care Act.”
The amount of rebates is larger than in some previous years, though down from record amounts in 2020 and 2021.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- For many low-income families, getting formula has always been a strain (Kaiser Health News)
- Genetic data indicate at least two separate monkeypox outbreaks underway, suggesting wider spread (Stat)
- If you’re still waiting for herd immunity for COVID-19, it’s time to move on: Experts (ABC News)
STATE BY STATE
- In Florida, there’s a growing gap between what people say About abortion and what they do (Politico)
- ‘It certainly wasn’t clear’: Licensed psychologist confused about DOJ investigation into how mentally ill are treated in Louisville (WHAS11)
- Will NC Medicaid expansion ride tailwinds or lean into new headwinds? (North Carolina Health News)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.