What Happened, What You Missed: January 31-February 4


Biden Reboots Cancer Moonshot with Ambitious New Goal

President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that his administration is relaunching the Cancer Moonshot with the ambitious goal of halving the nation’s death rate from cancer over the next 25 years.  To accomplish this, the White House is forming a “Cancer Cabinet” consisting of representatives from several cabinet-level agencies and urging more Americans to get screened for cancer.  Biden also called on Congress to pass proposals that create and fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which would drive innovation in biomedical research.  President Biden initially helmed the Cancer Moonshot when former President Barack Obama first formed the initiative back in 2016.

Pfizer Asks FDA to Authorize Vaccine for Kids under 5

On February 1, Pfizer formally requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years old.   In an unprecedented move, the FDA urged Pfizer to request an EUA for its vaccine in order to address rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among children under 5.  Pfizer is currently testing a third COVID-19 dose in its clinical trials after data showed a two-dose regimen did not produce sufficient antibody protection in children ages 2 to 5, although it did in children ages 6 months to age 2.  By issuing an EUA for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before data on a third dose is available, the FDA hopes it can give parents a head start on vaccinating young children before a third dose can be approved.  If all goes well, children under 5 could start getting vaccinated by the end of the month.

CMS Emphasized Health Equity in 2023 MA, Part D Advance Notice

On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its proposed Advance Notice for Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D drug programs in 2023.  To promote equity, the notice includes a proposal for a new quality measure for its star ratings that assesses how often health plans screen for social determinants of health like transportation and food security.  Additionally, the notice seeks input on how MA payment impacts care provided to underserved populations in rural or urban areas.  Comments are due on March 4, and the final Advance Notice will be released no later than April 4.

CR Becomes More Likely as Government Funding Deadline Looms

Congress  failed to reach an agreement this week on a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus appropriations agreement, increasing the likelihood that lawmakers will resort to a continuing resolution to keep federal agencies open beyond the February 18  funding deadline.  While lawmakers started the week with a sense of optimism that they could find a consensus on topline funding levels, policy riders over controversial issues like the Hyde Amendment and disagreements over parity between defense and non-defense spending increases kept both parties from reaching a deal.  Fortunately, however, the odds of a government shutdown later this month remain slim.

ICYMI: “Racing President” Is the Hottest Job Vacancy in Washington

The Washington Nationals, DC’s Major League Baseball team, posted a job announcement this week that’s calling on eager fans to be one of its Racing Presidents.  The team currently has six presidential mascots – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge – who race against one another halfway through the fourth inning.  To be considered, applicants must be between 5 foot 7 inches and 6 foot 6 inches tall and able to run about 200 years in a 50-pound costume.  The ideal candidate is also expected to “uphold team values” and hold a GED or high school diploma.

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