Debt Ceiling Deal Takes Back “Some” Unspent COVID Funds
The debt ceiling agreement, passed this week in the House by a 314-117 bipartisan vote, includes the withdrawal of $30 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds, which was a top priority for Republican negotiators. However, funding for two COVID-19 programs will remain untouched: an initiative to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to the uninsured, and a project to develop the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. According to the Biden administration, some of the unspent money can be used to offset cuts to nondefense spending. The bill would also prevent steep cuts to health care programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill by keeping nondefense discretionary spending levels nearly flat for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 and allowing a 1% increase for FY 2025.
KFF: 600K Have Lost Medicaid Coverage since April 1
Over 600,000 Americans have lost Medicaid coverage since the beginning of April, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). April 1 marked the earliest date that states could begin to terminate Medicaid enrollment for individuals no longer eligible. According to KFF, the overwhelming majority of people who lost coverage in most states were dropped because of technicalities, not because state Medicaid offices determined they no longer meet Medicaid income limits. Some of the technicalities that result in disenrollment include a failure to complete the enrollment process. The large jump in disenrollments is stoking fears that the end of continuous Medicaid enrollment could mean a significant number of enrollees will eventually lose coverage. Before April 1, KFF estimated that over a quarter of Americans, or 93 million, had coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
CMS Announces Limited Coverage Plan for Alzheimer’s Drugs
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare will eventually cover a new class of Alzheimer’s drugs in specific cases, but only after the Food and Drug Administration grants traditional approval. According to the announcement, Medicare will cover the drugs when a physician and clinical team participate in the collection of evidence about how these drugs work in the real world, known as a registry. Under current CMS policy, Medicare only covers the drugs if the patient is participating in a clinical trial. Known as Leqembi and Aduhelm, these new Alzheimer’s disease treatments work by targeting amyloid plaques in the brain, which is associated with a slower progression of memory loss. However, these treatments have been marred with controversy for the past few years, both for their high price tag, mixed results on efficacy, and side effects related to brain bleeding and swelling.
Study Finds Similar Patient Outcomes Between MDs and Dos
There are no major differences between medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathy (DOs) when it comes to patient experience and clinical outcomes, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Of the nearly 330,000 Medicare admissions analyzed in the study, patient mortality rates for MDs and ODs were nearly identical at around 9.5%, while hospital readmission rates for both stood at just under 16%. Additionally, the length of stay for both MDs and ODs was 4.5 days. While DOs and MDs must both follow a lengthy education process, DOs focus on a more holistic or whole-person approach to care delivery, while MDs focus on diagnosing and treating medical conditions.
ICYMI: National Zoo Welcomes First Baby Gorilla in 5 Years
Lucky visitors to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park this summer might get a chance to see the zoo’s first baby gorilla in five years. The infant, who was born late last week, is a critically endangered lowland gorilla. The Great Ape House space in the zoo provides its gorilla residents access to private space, so visitors may not be able to always see the youngest member of the zoo’s lowland gorilla family.