Health Care — Schumer searches for path forward on COVID-19 aid
Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here.
New York and New Jersey are locked in a legal battle over the fate of a commission originally intended to fight….the mafia.
Today we’ll look at Senate Democratic leaders working with some Republicans to try to find a path forward on new COVID-19 relief money, though prospects are murky.
Let’s get started.
Schumer working with GOP on coronavirus aid deal
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday he is working with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and other Republicans to try to find a way to pay for new coronavirus relief funding after it was dropped from a massive government spending bill earlier this month.
“We are trying to get COVID relief. I’m working with Senator Romney and other Republicans in good faith to find some pay-fors that are acceptable to Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. We hope to get it done,” Schumer told reporters.
Congressional leaders initially agreed to include in a massive government funding bill roughly $15 billion in response to the Biden administration‘s request for new funding for vaccines, treatments and testing. The funds would have been paid for with some of the money coming from shifting around funding allocated for state and local governments as part of previous coronavirus relief bills.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday said that any new coronavirus-related spending in response to the administration’s request needs to come from previously approved coronavirus relief legislation.
SCHUMER BACKS INSULIN TALKS
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday he supports bipartisan talks on a bill aimed at lowering insulin costs for patients and that the measure could soon get a vote on the Senate floor.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are leading the talks.
“This being bipartisan, has a good chance of passing,” Schumer told reporters. “The effort has my support. Over the next few weeks those offices will work on getting that bill finalized and I intend to put that bill on the floor as soon as possible after Easter recess.”
Democrats had previously touted a bill from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) to cap patients’ out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month.
Collins and Shaheen, though, had their own bill aimed at insulin costs that they introduced in 2019, and they are currently working on updating that measure for reintroduction.
Schumer on Tuesday gave his support to that bipartisan effort, saying that it could be combined with Warnock’s measure.
Path forward: It remains unclear if any insulin legislation can gain the 10 Republican votes needed to advance in the Senate.
Senate GOP aides had said that the Warnock bill as it currently stands was seen as partisan and was not expected to gain much, if any, Republican support.
PFIZER TO SUPPLY UNICEF WITH ORAL COVID TREATMENT
Pfizer has agreed to provide nearly 4 millions courses of its oral COVID-19 treatment to UNICEF to be used in 95 low- and middle-income countries.
The two-drug treatment, known as Paxlovid, will be divvied up depending on the demand, clinical recommendation and necessary approvals. Paxlovid has been granted emergency use authorization in the U.S. and is currently under assessment by the World Health Organization.
“This agreement will help ensure that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have timely access to this novel COVID-19 therapeutic. Supply will be made available for procurement and delivery to 95 LMICs, which includes some upper-middle income countries,” said UNICEF in a press release on Tuesday.
Pfizer said it expects to be able to supply orders beginning in April and throughout 2022.
The financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed, though Pfizer said it was offering the treatment with its not-for-profit price to low- and lower middle-income countries.
State Dept. to help transfer Ukraine pediatric patients
The State Department will assist in the evacuation of four Ukrainian pediatric cancer patients to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in the United States amid the Russian invasion.
“Our partnership with, and commitment to, the people of Ukraine is steadfast and enduring,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement released Tuesday.
“To that end, the Department of State has coordinated with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to provide necessary life-saving and immediate care to four Ukrainian children whose ongoing cancer treatment was disrupted by President Putin’s war of choice.”
Earlier this month, Ukraine said a cancer hospital had been damaged after being shelled by Russian forces. Even though a few hundred patients were inside at the time, no deaths were reported.
Out of Poland: Price said the department will assist in airlift operations from Poland of the patients and some of their family members to the international airport in Memphis, Tenn.
“There, the patients will be able to safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by the Kremlin’s aggression. They will receive the specialized care they desperately need, and their family members will be afforded sustenance, security, and support from St. Jude,” Price said.
PSAKI TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, though she said she is not considered a close contact of President Biden.
“Today, in preparation for travel to Europe, I took a PCR test this morning. That test came back positive, which means I will be adhering to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] guidance and no longer be traveling on the President’s trip to Europe,” Psaki said in a statement.
“Thanks to the vaccine, I have only experienced mild symptoms. In alignment with White House COVID-19 protocols, I will work from home and plan to return to work in person at the conclusion of a five-day isolation period and a negative test,” Psaki said.
Psaki previously tested positive for COVID-19 in October ahead of Biden’s trip to Europe for a climate summit.
The White House no longer requires individuals to wear masks, in accordance with CDC and Washington, D.C., guidelines. Psaki’s results follow a string of high-profile positive tests among individuals in Biden’s orbit. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for the virus last week, and the prime minister of Ireland tested positive for the virus last Wednesday.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Fewer medical students trained for abortion procedures (NBC News)
To Families’ dismay, Biden nursing home reform doesn’t view them as essential caregivers (Kaiser Health News)
Latest version of omicron accounts for most new infections in many parts of the U.S., genomics testing shows (Washington Post)
STATE BY STATE
‘We are not in alarmist mode:’ Hochul stresses context amid latest COVID variant fears (NBC New York)
Maryland Senate passes bill requiring comprehensive trans Medicaid coverage (WYPR)
Reynolds says banning abortion in Iowa requires ‘complex’ moves (Radio Iowa)
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 Wednesday.
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