Biden’s Budget Calls for Strengthening Medicare, Lowering Health Care Costs 

Released on Thursday, President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget request contains several major proposals that reinforce the administration’s view that health care is a right, not a privilege.  The budget aims to protects Medicare by extending the solvency of the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund by 25 years without cutting benefits or raising costs.  Additionally, the budget proposes the establishes a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that will allow up to 12 weeks off for situations such as caring for a loved one or recovering from an illness.  The budget proposal also builds on the success of the Inflation Reduction Act by permanently extending Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium tax credits, and expands the number of drug  eligible for Medicare to negotiate from 10 to 20 by 2026.  However, the budget proposal is largely a messaging exercise for the White House, as many of its proposals are dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House. 

FDA Grants First Full Approval to COVID-19 Test  

On Wednesday, QuidelOrtho’s COVID-19 rapid antigen test became the first such test to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, 444 COVID-19 diagnostic tests and sample collection devices had been approved via emergency use authorizations (EUAs), although the number of EUAs issued in recent months have declined as the FDA has been urging test and device manufacturers to go through the traditional approval pathway instead.  While results from QuidelOrtho’s rapid test are available within 10 minutes, compared to 15 minutes for all other rapid tests, the company’s test is only available by prescription for people showing signs of an upper respiratory infection. 

JAMA: Diabetes, Obesity Rates On the Rise in Young Adults 

Diabetes and obesity rates are climbing in US adults ages 20 to 44, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study published earlier this week.  The study found that the prevalence of diabetes rose from 3% in 2009 to 4% in 2020, while obesity rates rose from 33% to 40% over the same period. The researchers noted that the rise in obesity corresponds with increases in sedentary behaviors over the same time period.  The study also noted that hypertension, or high blood pressure, was more prevalent in Black and Hispanic Americans than in white Americans.  The report underscores the growing need for more public health efforts to address heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US. 

McConnell Hospitalized for Concussion after Fall 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will spend the next few days in the hospital for observation after suffering a concussion from a fall at the Waldorf Astoria Washington on Wednesday.  The 81-year-old Republican was at the hotel to attend a dinner for the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that spent $290 million in the last election cycle.  While news of McConnell’s fall and subsequent hospitalization first broke on Wednesday evening, details on his condition remained scarce until Thursday afternoon.  Wednesday’s incident isn’t the first time McConnell suffered injuries from a fall as in 2019, the senator fractured his shoulder after falling in his Kentucky home. 

ICYMI: Peak Cherry Blossom Bloom Estimated for March 22-25 

Washington, DC’s storied cherry blossoms will likely see peak bloom on March 22-25 – that is, unless a cold snap in the next few weeks changes things.  While temperatures in Washington are expected to be lower-than-average for mid-March 2023, few weather experts see temperatures dipping below freezing, which means the cherry blossoms should be safe.  Even if temperatures stay in check, the National Park Service remains concerned that rising sea levels, record heat, heavier rains, and more severe weather could negatively impact the cherry blossoms’ longevity.