Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Medicaid enrollment reaches new high | White House gives allocation plan for 55M doses | Schumer backs dental, vision, hearing in Medicare

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. If you live in DC, you might have Dr. Fauci come by to encourage you to get a vaccine. Fauci was out knocking on doors with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser over the weekend. 

If you have any tips, email us at  nweixel@thehill.com psullivan@thehill.com jcoleman@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8.

Today: Medicaid enrollment is up, the White House is making plans to share more vaccine doses with the world, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer backs adding dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare. 

We’ll start with Medicaid: 

Medicaid enrollment reaches high of 74M Americans during pandemic

The number of Americans enrolled in Medicaid reached a record of almost 74 million earlier this year after ballooning in enrollees during the pandemic, the administration announced on Monday. 

A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report documented the jump in Medicaid’s enrollees by 9.7 million between February 2020 — before the U.S. declared public health emergency — and January 2021 in a 15 percent increase.

The enrollment count marks the highest since the CMS started tracking the data in its current form in 2013, The Washington Post noted

Compared to Medicaid, enrollees in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) remained relatively stable throughout the time period, as states were not mandated to keep all enrollees during the emergency. The number of CHIP enrollees saw an uptick from almost 6.7 million to nearly 6.8 million in a 1.8 percent increase. 

Why the increase: The federal agency attributes the boost in enrollees to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in March 2020.

The first relief bill approved by Congress included a provision giving states a temporary 6.2 percent increase in funds to cover expected higher Medicaid costs, as long as these states did not remove any enrollees until after the emergency was declared over. 

“The increase we are seeing is exactly how Medicaid works: the program steps in to support people and their families when times are tough,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.

Read more here

White House announces allocation plan for 55M more global vaccine doses

The White House on Monday announced where the U.S. would send 55 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated for other countries.

The Biden administration had already committed these doses as part of a pledge to allocate 80 million by the end of June, and an initial 25 million doses, announced earlier this month, have “begun shipping,” the White House said. 

It’s not quite what the administration originally said: The White House had previously said it would “send” 80 million doses by the end of June, but on Monday it said it would “allocate,” but not necessarily have the shipments on their way by that time. Asked about the delay, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said logistical hurdles, not the supply of doses, is at issue. 

“What we’ve found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply, we have plenty of doses to share with the world, but this is a Herculean logistical challenge and we’ve seen that as we’ve begun to implement,” Psaki said, pointing to issues of sharing “safety and regulatory information,” and ensuring proper storage and temperature requirements. 

Where are the doses going? About 41 million will be shared through COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed program to equitably distribute doses worldwide. About 14 million of those will go to Latin America and the Caribbean. About 16 million will go to Asia. About 10 million will go to Africa, for countries “selected in coordination with the African Union.”

Another 14 million doses will be shared outside of COVAX, with “regional priorities and other recipients.” Those countries include Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. 

Read more here.

Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday threw his support behind a push, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare.

“There is a gaping hole in Medicare that leaves out dental, vision, and hearing coverage. This is a serious problem,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.

“I’m working with @SenSanders to push to include dental, vision, and hearing Medicare coverage in the American Jobs and Families Plans,” he added.

State of play: Expanding Medicare benefits is one of a range of health proposals that could make it into a massive reconciliation package, along with extending enhanced ObamaCare subsidies, and providing Medicaid expansion in states that have so far rejected the expansion. 

Read more here.  

Speaking of health coverage measures…. Democrats seek new ways to expand Medicaid in holdout states

Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would expand Medicaid in states that have so far refused to do so, seeking to fill one of the major remaining holes in the Affordable Care Act.

There are currently 12 states where Republicans have refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid eligibility provided under ObamaCare, meaning 2.2 million low-income people are left without coverage they otherwise would have, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The details of how to do that, however, are still up for debate and pose thorny questions of cost and potential health care industry opposition.

Possible options: One idea is simply creating an entirely federally run Medicaid program in the holdout states or expanding the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces to give heavily subsidized private coverage to people falling through the cracks.

Read more here

COVID-19 vaccination coverage for younger Americans lagging behind older adults: CDC study

COVID-19 vaccination coverage for younger Americans has lagged behind rates for older adults, even since the vaccine became available to all adults nationally in mid-April, according to a study released on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study determined that 80 percent of those aged 65 and older had received at least one vaccine dose by May 22, compared to 38.3 percent of those aged 18 to 29. 

Vaccine coverage has also increased more slowly among younger adults compared to among older ones, according to the study.

The rate of weekly vaccination initiation — people getting their first shot out of the total population — among those 65 and older peaked at 8.2 percent during the week beginning with Feb. 7.

But the weekly vaccination initiation rate decreased across all age groups from April 19 to May 22, with those aged 18 to 29 seeing a 1.7 percent drop in people getting their first shot. For 30- to 49-year-olds, there was a 1.8 percent reduction in vaccination initiation.

“Despite recently expanded eligibility for vaccination to all adults, increases in weekly initiation among younger age groups have not reached peak weekly initiation rates that occurred in January and February among adults aged ≥65 years,” the study said. 

What this means: Researchers predicted if current vaccination rates continue through August, coverage for young adults will “remain substantially lower than among older adults,” meaning the age group will be more at risk for cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

Read more here.

Virtual Event Announcement–Mental Health, Addiction & the COVID-19 Pandemic–Tuesday, June 22 at 1:00 PM ET

Over the past year, stress and anxiety have taken an unprecedented toll on our mental health and in the shadow of the pandemic, the opioid epidemic has gathered speed. As we grapple with the physical and mental challenges posed by the pandemic, workers everywhere are feeling the pressure. How can leaders at the federal, state and local levels address the worsening crises of mental health and opioid use in our ongoing pandemic response? Join The Hill on Tuesday, June 22nd for a comprehensive discussion on prioritizing a healthy and productive workplace during the pandemic and beyond. Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine, Reps Jahana Hayes, Dave Joyce and John Katko, and a standout panel join The Hill’s Steve Clemons. RSVP today.  

Virtual Event Announcement — America’s Unfinished Business: An LGBTQ+ Summit –Wednesday, June 23 starting at 1:00 PM ET

From pending legislation like the Equality Act to advancements in visibility and equity in media, workplaces, healthcare, and governing bodies, The Hill will explore the impact of hard-fought wins and the road still ahead for the issues most affecting LGBTQ+ communities this Pride month. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Rep. Ritchie Torres, NYC Pride Grand Marshal Wilson Cruz, The Knot’s Kristen Cooper Maxwell, filmmaker David France and more join The Hill’s Steve Clemons on June 23rd for America’s Unfinished Business: An LGBTQ+ Summit. RSVP Today. 

What we’re reading:

New book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts inside Trump’s pandemic response (The Washington Post

America is ready to return to normal. Biden’s CDC chief isn’t so sure. (Politico)

HHS withdraws 340B drug discount opinion amid lawsuits by pharma companies (STAT)

State by state:

Missouri leads nation in highest rate of new COVID cases (The Associated Press)

‘We are running out of time’: LSU board urges state health department to require COVID vaccines (Lafayette Daily Advertiser)

The pandemic rocked this small hospital in a mostly Black suburb. Now it’s trying to grow. (The Washington Post)

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Jahana Hayes Jen Psaki John Katko Kate Brown Muriel Bowser Rachel Levine

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