What Happened, What You Missed: June 12-16, 2023


Health Spending to Make Up One-Fifth of US Economy

National health expenditures will comprise 20% of the US economy, or $7.1 trillion, by 2031, according to the latest projections from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). While health care spending actually grew at a slower rate than the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021 and 2022, the latest figures project that health care spending will once again outpace GDP growth starting this year, due to the aging population and people seeking medical services that were delayed during the pandemic. CMS also found that the insured portion of the population reached a historic high of 92% in 2022, although that portion is expected to drop to 90.5% by 2031 due to people losing Medicaid coverage as the redetermination process resumes.

Biden Administration Reaches Deal to Preserve Preventative Services Coverage

The Biden administration finalized a deal with the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the federal mandate for health insurers to fully cover preventative care services like HIV prevention drugs and cancer screening. The agreement thus keeps in place the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) preventative services coverage mandate while a lawsuit that challenges the mandate proceeds. Of note, the agreement allows the plaintiff in the case, Brainwood Management, to stop covering preventative services without co-payments for its employees. Brainwood and other plaintiffs are challenging the mandate because they believe it challenges their religious beliefs by supporting homosexuality and drug use. The Biden administration will continue to appeal the lawsuit.

Sanders Blocks Bertagnolli’s Nomination over Drug Pricing

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says he’ll oppose National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli’s nomination to lead the National Institutes of Health (NIH) until the Biden administration issues a plan to lower prescription drug prices. Sanders’ support is critical for Bertangnolli’s nomination to move forward, as he chairs the Senate panel responsible for confirming the nomination. In a statement, the White House pointed to the drug pricing provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act as a sign that the administration shares Sanders’ dedication to lowering drug costs without committing to releasing further plans. Meanwhile, organizations in the medical research community are urging Sanders and other key Senate Democrats to quickly confirm Bertagnolli to ensure the nation does not lose momentum on scientific research.

FDA Advisers Recommend Monovalent COVID-19 Boosters for Fall

Members of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that the 2023-2024 formula of the COVID-19 vaccines be updated to a monovalent XBB Omicron subvariant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, XXB is responsible for nearly all COVID-19 cases in the US. The decision to go with a monovalent vaccine is a departure from the bivalent vaccines that included both the original strain of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. The FDA advisers also opted to roll out the boosters in the fall to align with the availability of annual flu shots, despite a noted lack of certainty on the degree to which COVID-19 is seasonal.

ICYMI: Senators Celebrate Seeksucker Day

The Senate celebrated Seersucker Day last week as it has for years, with various senators and their staff donning seersucker suits. Senators took the occasion to the next level this year by approving a resolution from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to make June 7 National Seeksucker Day, the month of June as National Seersucker Month, and every Thursday in June through August as Seersucker Thursday. Then-Sen. Trett Lott (R-MO) first introduced Seeksucker Day in 1996, and since Lott’s retirement, Cassidy has served as the “coordinator” of Seersucker Day.

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