First Edition: Sept. 23, 2021


Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.


KHN:
Biosimilar Drugs Are Cheaper Than Biologics. Are They Similar Enough To Switch? 


It took years for Elle Moxley to get a diagnosis that explained her crippling gastrointestinal pain, digestion problems, fatigue, and hot, red rashes. And after learning in 2016 that she had Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, she spent more than four years trying medications before getting her disease under control with a biologic drug called Remicade. So Moxley, 33, was dismayed to receive a notice from her insurer in January that Remicade would no longer be covered as a preferred drug on her plan. Another drug, Inflectra, which the Food and Drug Administration says has no meaningful clinical differences from Remicade, is now preferred. It is a “biosimilar” drug. (Andrews, 9/23)


KHN:
Democrats Roll The Dice On Sweeping Abortion Rights Bill — Again 


A newly conservative Supreme Court agreed to hear a case most assumed it would use to overrule the 1973 landmark abortion-rights ruling, Roe v. Wade. And Democrats on Capitol Hill, convinced the issue would play to their political favor, vowed to bring up legislation that would write abortion protections into federal law. “We’ll debate it. We’ll vote on it. And we’ll pass it,” the Senate Democratic leader promised. Sound familiar? The year was 1992. The Supreme Court case in question was Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. After the court surprised almost everyone by upholding the right to abortion, the legislation, called the “Freedom of Choice Act,” never reached the floor of the Senate, nor the House. (Click on the hyperlink to go back in time.) (Rovner, 9/23)


KHN:
The Checkup Is In The Mail? Soliciting Letter Carriers To Help Deliver Health Care


Two of America’s toughest problems can be tempered with one solution. The baby boom generation is graying, creating an ever-larger population of older people, many isolated, whose needs the nation is ill equipped to meet or even monitor. Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service has gone $160 billion into debt, in part as digital communications have replaced snail mail. This year it has requested two rate increases for stamps and other services, bringing the price of a first-class stamp to 58 cents. It is running an aggressive TV ad campaign, presumably to build support for Congress to step in with some kind of rescue. (Rosenthal, 9/23)


Stat:
FDA Authorizes Pfizer’s Covid-19 Booster For People Over 65 Or At High Risk


The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday granted an emergency use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine booster, though for now the FDA said use of the booster should be restricted to people over the age of 65, adults 18 and older at high risk of severe Covid, and those who, like health care workers, are at higher risk of infection because of their jobs. That list includes teachers. (Branswell, 9/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
Pfizer Covid-19 Booster Shouldn’t Be For Moderna, J&J Vaccine Recipients, Health Official Says 


A federal health official said Wednesday there isn’t enough data to support giving a Pfizer Inc.booster dose to people who have received other Covid-19 vaccines. Doran Fink, a deputy director in the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccines division, made the remarks at a meeting of a key vaccine advisory panel that would recommend who should get an additional dose of the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE. (Schwartz and Hopkins, 9/22)


Politico:
Covid-19 Boosters: 5 Takeaways From CDC’s Big Vaccine Meeting


The CDC panel’s role begins once the FDA authorizes the booster dose. The CDC’s vaccine advisers will refine exactly who is eligible — in this case, that will likely involve defining “high risk.” Those discussions are set to culminate on Thursday afternoon, but only if FDA authorizes the shot by that morning. Here are five key takeaways from the first day of the CDC vaccine meeting. (Gardner, 9/22)


The Washington Post:
Americans Await Booster Details After FDA OK’s Pfizer-BioNTech For Some Groups 


The Biden administration got the green light it was waiting for to start rolling out some coronavirus booster shots next week, as the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for Americans over 65 and those at heightened risk of severe illness. But another key decision is expected today, when advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are set to recommend who should get boosters and when. (Timsit, 9/23)


AP:
Biden Doubles US Global Donation Of COVID-19 Vaccine Shots


President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year. The stepped-up U.S. commitment marks the cornerstone of the global vaccination summit Biden convened virtually on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where he encouraged well-off nations to do more to get the coronavirus under control. It comes as world leaders, aid groups and global health organizations have growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots between residents of wealthier and poorer nations. (Miller, 9/22)


The New York Times:
At Covid Summit, Biden Sets Ambitious Goals For Vaccinating The World


President Biden, declaring the coronavirus an “all-hands-on-deck crisis,” set out ambitious goals on Wednesday for ending the pandemic and urged world leaders, drug companies, philanthropies and nonprofit groups to embrace a target of vaccinating 70 percent of the world by next year. But the course that Mr. Biden charted, at a virtual Covid-19 summit meeting that he convened on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, may be difficult to turn into reality. And pressure is mounting on the president to lean harder on U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers, which are resisting sharing their Covid-19 technology with poorer countries. (Stolberg, 9/22)


The Hill:
Biden Touts ‘Progress’ During ‘Candid’ Meetings On $3.5T Plan


President Biden had “productive and candid” meetings on Wednesday with Democratic lawmakers and made “progress” in his push for consensus amid significant infighting within the party over the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, the White House said in a statement Wednesday night. “The President hosted three productive and candid meetings with congressional Democrats, representing a wide range of views of the caucuses in both Chambers, about the urgent need to deliver for the American middle class through the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure deal,” the White House said. (Gangitano and Carney, 9/22)


Politico:
Pfizer CEO Rallies Staff To Fight Democrats’ Drug Price Negotiation 


Pfizer’s CEO sent a video message to company employees urging them to fight proposed government drug price negotiations and expressing frustration with Congress, which is considering using the projected savings to help pay for a $3.5 trillion social spending package. Albert Bourla said he was “particularly disappointed” that a House Democratic leadership-backed drug pricing plan and similar proposals “will have a little positive impact on patients where it really matters at the pharmacy,” according to the three-minute video, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. (Owermohle, 9/22)


The Hill:
Manchin: Biden Told Moderates To Pitch Price Tag For Reconciliation Bill 


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said President Biden urged a group of moderate lawmakers to come up with a top-line number they could support for Democrats’ sweeping reconciliation bill. Manchin, a key vote in the Senate, was part of a group of House and Senate moderates who met with Biden on Wednesday afternoon as Democrats try to figure out a way to bridge their divides on the $3.5 trillion package. (Carney, 9/22)


The New York Times:
With Roe Under Threat, House Plans To Vote On Bill To Counter Abortion Curbs 


House Democrats plan on Friday to push through broad legislation to uphold abortion rights, taking urgent action after a major Supreme Court setback as they brace for a ruling next year that could further roll back access to abortion nationwide. The House vote will be largely symbolic given that the bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has little chance of advancing because of Republican opposition in the Senate. But House Democrats’ decision to consider it reflects their view that the issue could resonate strongly in the midterm elections next year, particularly if female voters see the Supreme Court action as a threat to rights that many believed had been long settled. (Hulse, 9/23)


Forbes:
Sen. Susan Collins Says She Won’t Back Abortion Rights Bill, Likely Dooming Its Chances Of Passing


Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will not support a bill  that would protect the legal right to an abortion, she told the Los Angeles Times, likely killing Democrats’ hope of using the legislation to block Texas’ near-total abortion ban and other state restrictions. Collins told the Times on Tuesday she opposes the Women’s Health Protection Act because it goes “way beyond” enshrining the right to an abortion in federal law and she finds its language “extreme.” (Durkee, 9/22)


CNN:
Restrictive Abortion Bill Introduced In Florida Mirrors Controversial Texas Law


A Republican Florida state lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that is modeled after a strict Texas law prohibiting abortions after six weeks, drawing condemnation from supporters of abortion rights who fear such legislation might soon be introduced in other states. House Bill 167 was filed by Florida state Rep. Webster Barnaby. The bill, like the Texas law, contains a procedural feature that allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against physicians who provide abortions after six weeks as well as any person who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” The Florida legislation, like the Texas law, also provides for remedies and damages. (Cole and de Vogue, 9/22)


AP:
Judge Considers Request To Block Arizona Abortion Law


A lawyer for several Arizona abortion providers urged a federal judge Wednesday to block a new state law that would allow prosecutors to charge doctors who knowingly terminate a pregnancy solely because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome. The law, set to take effect on Wednesday, is so vague that it would dissuade doctors from performing an abortion anytime there’s an indication that the fetus might have a genetic problem for fear of criminal prosecution, argued Emily Nestler, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. (Cooper, 9/23)


AP:
California Governor Signs Privacy Laws For Abortion Patients


Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two laws on Wednesday that aim to protect the privacy of abortion providers and their patients, declaring California to be a “reproductive freedom state” while drawing a sharp contrast with Texas and its efforts to limit the procedure. One law makes it a crime to film people within 100 feet (30 meters) of an abortion clinic for the purpose of intimidation — a law abortion rights groups believe to be the first of its kind in the country. The other law makes it easier for people on their parents’ insurance plans to keep sensitive medical information secret, including abortions. (Beam, 9/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
Texas Abortion Law Prompts Women To Seek Out-Of-State Clinics


Women’s health clinics in Louisiana, Oklahoma and beyond are reporting an influx of out-of-state patients from Texas looking for abortions and other services, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas’s restrictive abortion law to take effect. Some clinics in neighboring states said they are overwhelmed with out-of-state patients. They are adding hours to try to handle the backlog, administrators said. In Texas, meanwhile, clinics are turning most of their patients away and losing their staff. (Findell, 9/22)


KOKH:
Oklahoma Abortion Clinics Flooded With Texas Patients Amid New State Law 


A new Texas law banning most abortions is already causing a surge of women to start seeking care out-of-state. “Calls that we’re taking are up about tenfold,” said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord with Trust Women, one of just three abortion clinics in Oklahoma. Gingrich-Gaylord says Texas woman are flooding their phone lines as clinics in their state are being forced to turn patients away. (Pryor, 9/22)


Newsweek:
Lauren Boebert Says Rape Victims Need Guns Rather Than Access To Abortion


Rep. Lauren Boebert has suggested that rape victims need guns to protect themselves rather than access to abortions. Speaking on the House floor, the Republican congresswoman from Colorado criticized Democrats who are planning to vote on legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that protects the right to choose to have an abortion. She also claimed that the procedures were not safe for women. (Palmer, 9/23)


AP:
Michigan Passes 1 Million Confirmed COVID-19 Cases


Michigan has recorded more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, the health department said Wednesday. The state crossed that threshold by reporting 6,079 new cases over the last two days. There have been at least 20,781 deaths in Michigan linked to COVID-19. (9/23)


AP:
Alaska Plans To Help Hospitals With COVID-19 Crisis Care


Alaska officials outlined plans Wednesday to help hospitals with crisis standards of care if needed amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and announced short-term contracts for more than 400 health care personnel to relieve medical facilities with overtaxed staffs. State health commissioner Adam Crum signed an addendum to a public health emergency order that he said provides guidance to hospitals, care providers and local health authorities if the crisis standards of care are needed. (Bohrer, 9/23)


The Washington Post:
What Are Crisis Standards Of Care? 


Long-feared rationing of medical care has become a reality in some parts of the United States as the delta variant drives a new wave of coronavirus cases, pushing hospitals to the brink. Alaska and Idaho have activated statewide “crisis standards of care,” in which health systems can prioritize patients for scarce resources — based largely on their likelihood of survival — and even deny treatment. The decisions affect covid and non-covid patients. Some health care providers in Montana have turned to crisis standards as well, while Hawaii’s governor this month released health workers from liability if they have to ration care. (Knowles, 9/22)


The New York Times:
High Covid Hospitalizations Have Delayed Elective Surgeries 


In chronic pain, Mary O’Donnell can’t get around much. At most, she manages to walk for a short time in her kitchen or garden before she has to sit down. “It’s just frustrating at this point,” said Ms. O’Donnell, 80, who lives in Aloha, Ore. “I’m really depressed.” She had been preparing for back surgery scheduled for Aug. 31, hoping the five-hour procedure would allow her to be more active. But a day before the operation, at OHSU Health Hillsboro Medical Center, she learned it had been canceled. “Nope, you can’t come, our hospital is filling up,” she said she was told. (Abelson, 9/22)


The Washington Post:
Doctors Warn Against Nebulizing Hydrogen Peroxide For COVID Treatment 


A leading asthma patient group has issued a warning against an unproven coronavirus treatment circulating on social media that is leading some people to post videos of themselves breathing in hydrogen peroxide through a nebulizer. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America called the action “concerning and dangerous” in a Tuesday blog post, emphasizing that it will neither treat nor prevent the virus and is harmful to the lungs. (Gregg, 9/22)


Stat:
Remdesivir Reduces Covid Hospitalizations When Given Early, Study Shows


Gilead’s Covid-19 drug remdesivir appeared to reduce hospitalizations by 87% in high-risk patients diagnosed early in the disease in a new study, the company said Wednesday. The new results, which were issued in a press release, could help shore up the perception that the medicine is effective. They also could boost hopes for the use of oral antiviral drugs being developed by drug companies including Pfizer and Merck to treat people in the early stages of Covid-19. (Herper, 9/22)


AP:
NYC Vaccine Mandate For Teachers, Staff To Go Forward


A vaccine mandate for New York City’s public school teachers and other staffers can go forward as planned next week, after a state judge on Wednesday lifted a temporary restraining order. The city had announced last month that school employees would have to get at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27, impacting about 148,000 school workers and contractors. (9/22)


CNN:
Florida Governor DeSantis Says Parents Can Send Asymptomatic Kids Exposed To Covid-19 Back To School 


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced that the state has put out a revised rule which follows a “symptom-based approach” to quarantining students, meaning asymptomatic children exposed to Covid-19 in classrooms could be sent back to school by parents. “If somebody is symptomatic, of course they stay home. If there’s a close contact, but somebody has not developed any symptoms — you monitor them, you notify the parent,” DeSantis said. “The parent always has the right to have their kids stay home, if they think that’s in the best interest of the student and the family 100 percent, we would not want to intrude on that. But if a parent has a healthy child, that child has a right to be in school.” (Riess and Santiago, 9/22)


AP:
COVID-19 Creates Dire US Shortage Of Teachers, School Staff


One desperate California school district is sending flyers home in students’ lunchboxes, telling parents it’s “now hiring.” Elsewhere, principals are filling in as crossing guards, teachers are being offered signing bonuses and schools are moving back to online learning. Now that schools have welcomed students back to classrooms, they face a new challenge: a shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some districts say they have never seen. (Gecker, 9/23)


NPR:
To Keep Kids In Class, And COVID Out, Many Schools Choose Weekly Testing 


On a recent Monday morning, a group of preschoolers filed into the gymnasium at Hillside School in the west Chicago suburbs. These 4- and 5-year olds were the first of more than 200 students to get tested for the coronavirus that day — and every Monday — for the foreseeable future. At the front of the line, a girl in a unicorn headband and sparkly pink skirt clutched a plastic zip-top bag with her name on it. She pulled out a plastic tube with a small funnel attached, and was then led by Hillside superintendent Kevin Suchinski to a spot marked off with red tape. (Herman, 9/23)


The New York Times:
For Parents ​Of Disabled Children, School Mask Wars Are Particularly Wrenching 


Five years ago, Kim Hart’s son underwent an open-heart surgery that got him healthy enough for the family to move from Cincinnati to this quiet suburb of Nashville. Her son has Down syndrome and autism, and she liked that Williamson County had a reputation for caring neighbors and safe schools. But every day for the past month, she has wondered whether she made a mistake. It was here that an explosive debate over masking in schools — one of the most effective strategies for keeping students learning in person safely during the pandemic — made the county a poster child for divisions over coronavirus safety measures. (Green, 9/23)


CNN:
Charleston County School District, South Carolina: Several Students Sent Home For Not Wearing Masks 


Several students in South Carolina’s second-largest school district were sent home Wednesday for not complying with a mask mandate aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Fifteen students at Thomas C. Cario Middle School in the Charleston County School District (CCSD) will continue their learning remotely until at least October 15 — which is when administrators will revisit the mask policy, district spokesperson Andy Pruitt told CNN. (Elamroussi and Riess, 9/23)


AP:
Official: Kansas Middle School Student Died Of COVID-19


A state education official said Wednesday that a Kansas middle school student has died of COVID-19.The child’s death would be the first reported COVID-19 death of someone aged 10 to 17 in Kansas and only the third reported for someone under 18. Education Commissioner Randy Watson disclosed the death during a Zoom meeting of a task force on COVID-19 safety measures in public schools appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly. (9/22)


AP:
Idaho Lawmakers Look For Ways To Nullify Vaccine Mandates


Idaho should adopt a health policy that would make vaccine status a private medical record that employees could refuse to make available to employers as a way to thwart President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, an attorney told lawmakers Wednesday. Christ Troupis told the Committee on Federalism that such a law would insulate employers from potential federal penalties involving COVID-19 vaccine mandates. (Ridler, 9/22)


AP:
Mormon Church To Require Masks In Temples Amid COVID Surge 


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that masks will be required inside temples to limit the spread of COVID-19.Church leaders said in a statement that masks will be required temporarily in an effort to keep temples open. The message was the latest in a series of statements from church leaders encouraging masking and vaccination efforts against COVID-19. (9/22)


AP:
TD Garden To Require Vaccinations Or Negative COVID-19 Tests


Anyone hoping to attend an event at the TD Garden — including Bruins or Celtics games and concerts — will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result. The rules apply to players, referees, coaches, musicians, vendors, ushers and everyone else entering the arena. Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden, said the goal is to keep everyone safe. (9/22)


CBS News:
Reverend Jesse Jackson Leaves Rehab Hospital After Being Treated For COVID And Parkinson’s Disease


Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson left a Chicago rehabilitation hospital on Wednesday after being treated for Parkinson’s disease following a breakthrough COVID-19 case, CBS Chicago reported. He spent nearly a month in treatment. … Jackson, 79, and his wife Jacqueline Jackson, 77, both tested positive for COVID-19 in August and were treated at Northwestern University Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Jackson’s civil rights organization Rainbow PUSH Coalition said on August 21. (Powell, 9/22)


The Hill:
Texas Doctor Cleared Of Coronavirus Vaccine Theft Sues Alleging Discrimination 


A former Texas doctor, who was earlier this year cleared of accusations that he had stolen COVID-19 vaccines has sued a public health department for discrimination on Tuesday, Houston Public Radio reported. Hasan Gokal, a former physician at Harris County Public Health, was fired in January after he was accused of stealing 10 Moderna vaccine doses. A case against him brought in January, though it was later dismissed, according to Houston Public Media. He was also cleared of wrongdoing during a separate case that was again brought up in June. (Vakil, 9/22)


NBC News:
The U.S. Is Discarding Millions Of Covid Vaccines. One Cause: Multi-Dose Vials.


On July 16, a worker at a vaccination clinic in Alpena County, Michigan, opened a vial of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine. That started the clock: All 10 doses had to get into arms within hours. But the person who was supposed to get vaccinated had a change of heart, according to records the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shared with NBC News. Workers scrambled to find others who wanted the doses in the opened vial, but they couldn’t find a single person — so, in the end, they had to discard the 10 doses, they told state officials when they reported the waste. (Eaton, 9/23)


Stat:
Federal Officials Move Closer To Penalizing Drug Makers Over Discounts


Following a year of controversy, the Health Resources and Services Administration is taking steps to penalize six large drug makers for ending discounts to a federal program that provides medicines to hospitals and clinics serving mostly low-income populations. In a series of letters, the agency notified Eli Lilly (LLY), Sanofi (SNY), AstraZeneca (AZN), Novo Nordisk (NVO), Novartis (NVS), and United Therapeutics that their failure to comply with the 340B drug discount program was referred to the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees HRSA. If assessed, penalties can total more than $5,000 per violation. (Silverman, 9/22)


Modern Healthcare:
Some Medicare Advantage Insurers To Blame For Half Of Undiagnosed Claims 


Twenty Medicare Advantage insurers accounted for more than half of the $9.2 billion the federal government paid for care that beneficiaries may not have needed or received in 2016, according to a Wednesday report by federal investigators. Among these 20 companies, one large insurer stood out for the share of payments it received for diagnoses that were listed on patients’ chart reviews and health risk assessment services, but nowhere else. Both of these techniques “may be particularly vulnerable to misuse by Medicare Advantage companies,” since they are often performed by the health plan or by vendors hired by the health plan, the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General report said. (Tepper, 9/22)


Modern Healthcare:
Pushing For A New Government Agency To Curb Patient Harms 


Efforts to form a national patient safety board would shape how medical errors and other patient harms are handled within the nation’s hospitals. A coalition made up of stakeholders ranging from Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Carlion Clinic to the Purchaser Business Group on Health and the National Quality Forum is pitching Congress on a government agency that would operate similarly to the National Transportation Safety Board, but for health providers. The new entity would focus on solutions to health safety problems and preventing deaths and other harm to patients. (Gillespie, 9/22)


Modern Healthcare:
Prime-UnitedHealthcare Spat Shows Price Transparency Data Will Color Contract Talks 


In demanding more money from insurance giant UnitedHealthcare, Prime Healthcare’s New Jersey hospitals came armed with a new negotiating tool: price transparency data. A federal rule has since Jan. 1 required hospitals to publicly disclose the prices they charge for medical care, including negotiated rates with insurers. Even though compliance has been dismal, Prime said it was still able to see that it was getting paid far less than many of its local peers. That’s led to a tussle that threatens in-network coverage for thousands of patients. (Bannow, 9/23)


Stat:
Compound Pharmacies Win Battle Over FDA Plan For Monitoring Shipments


A U.S. federal court judge has ruled that an effort by the Food and Drug Administration to boost oversight of compound pharmacies violated the law and ordered the agency to rethink its approach to ensure that small compounders will not be jeopardized. At issue is an attempt to clarify state and federal responsibilities for monitoring inordinate amounts of medicines that are shipped by two different types of compounders — those making large quantities and smaller pharmacies dispensing medicines for individual patients. The distinction was created in 2013 as part of a federal law passed in response to a fatal outbreak of meningitis traced to a large compounder. (Silverman, 9/22)


Modern Healthcare:
Ballad Health, Tennessee Physician Group Reach $83 Million Settlement 


Ballad Health will pay $83 million to Highlands Physicians to settle allegations that the health system undermined the physician practice. Then-Wellmont Health System, which merged with Mountain States Health Alliance in 2018 to form Ballad, allegedly depressed reimbursement rates, diverted resources and sabotaged contracts for the 1,500 physicians across Tennessee and Virginia. A Tennessee jury awarded Highlands Physicians $58 million in 2018, which Ballad unsuccessfully appealed. (Kacik, 9/22)


Stat:
Health Tech Leaders Look To Design To Make Care More Equitable


At the opening of each of her clinics, there’s a moment when Carolyn Witte, the founder and chief executive officer of women’s health startup Tia, holds her breath. “We call it the ‘shoulder-drop moment,’” Witte told STAT. During those few seconds, as a patient is opening the doors to one of Tia’s offices, Witte watches for them to turn from apprehension — about the idea of a rushed meeting with a new doctor or the notion of changing into a papery gown in a cold, industrially-lit room — to comfort. Witte hopes that during that moment, when patients see the colorful, sunlit environment, they feel welcomed instead of alienated. (Brodwin, 9/23)


Stat:
The ‘Great Resignation’ Could Be Health Tech’s Next Big Sales Pitch


Innovative health companies hoping to boost sales are playing into one of the biggest fears of employers everywhere: their workers are on the verge of quitting. There’s been much public hand-wringing about the so-called “great resignation,” a trend in which an unprecedented wave of dissatisfied workers are abandoning their jobs. The solution, if you ask a company selling employee health benefits, is unsurprisingly to offer more and better benefits. (Aguilar, 9/23)


The Wall Street Journal:
Elizabeth Holmes Trial: Jim Mattis Tells Jury He Came To Doubt Theranos Technology 


Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified Wednesday in the criminal trial of Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes that he and other board members were blindsided to learn in 2015 that the company hadn’t been conducting all of its blood tests using its proprietary technology. “There just came a point where I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore,” the retired four-star general said. (Randazzo and Somerville, 9/22)


NPR:
U.S. Surge In Methamphetamines Hits Black And Native Americans Hard 


When Winnie White Tail convened a new session of inpatient substance use treatment last month for members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, she found that roughly half her clients were struggling with methamphetamine addiction. “It’s readily available, it’s easy to get,” White Tail says. She’s a Cheyenne tribal member herself and runs the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center in Clinton, Okla. “I believe it’s deeply entrenched across the community — not just in Native communities,” she tells NPR. (Mann, 9/22)


AP:
New Mexico Reduces Insurance Premiums On State Exchange


Health care access is getting substantially cheaper on the state’s health insurance exchange though a combination of state tax proceeds, federal pandemic aid and a growing pool of subscribers. An update on pandemic relief spending from the Legislature’s budget and accountability office on Wednesday shows that the state’s health exchange plans to use new federal pandemic relief funds to reduce monthly insurance payments in 2022. (9/23)


AP:
3 Charged In Death Of 86-Year-Old Woman Left Outside In Heat


Three assisted living facility workers are being prosecuted in the death of an 86-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who authorities alleged was left outside in sweltering weather for six hours, officials said. Jamie Johnston, 30, Jenny Logan, 50, and Letticia Martinez, 27, were charged with negligent death of an at risk person and criminally negligent homicide, both felonies, in the death of Hazel Place at Cappella Assisted Living and Memory in Grand Junction on June 14, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Tuesday. (Slevin, 9/22)


CBS News:
WHO Revises Air Quality Guidelines For The First Time In More Than 15 Years


The World Health Organization tightened its global air quality guidelines Wednesday in its first revision since 2005. The organization said air pollution is one of the “biggest environmental threats to human health.” “Clean air is fundamental to health,” the WHO said. “Compared to 15 years ago, when the previous edition of these guidelines was published, there is now a much stronger body of evidence to show how air pollution affects different aspects of health at even lower concentrations than previously understood.” (Powell, 9/22)


The New York Times:
Pressure Grows On U.S. Companies To Share Covid Vaccine Technology


Pressure is growing on American drug companies — particularly Moderna, the upstart biotech firm that developed its coronavirus vaccine with billions of dollars in taxpayer money — to share their formulas with manufacturers in nations that desperately need more shots. Last year’s successful race to develop vaccines in extraordinarily short order put companies like Moderna and Pfizer in a highly favorable spotlight. But now, with less than 10 percent of those in many poor nations fully vaccinated and a dearth of doses contributing to millions of deaths, health officials in the United States and abroad are pressing the companies to do more to address the global shortage. (Nolen and Stolberg, 9/22)


The Washington Post:
International Travel Is About To Get More Complicated For Unvaccinated Americans


Many specifics are unclear for unvaccinated American travelers: What kind of tests will passengers need to take before departing and buy for their return? Who will be in charge of checking for proof that travelers have purchased a test? Will there be a follow-up requirement to report those results? … Also in the works: specific information for kids who are too young to get vaccinated. In a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the testing requirements for unvaccinated Americans “at this point would obviously apply to children as well.” (Sampson, 9/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
Brazil’s Unvaccinated President Goes Into Quarantine After Return From New York 


President Jair Bolsonaro was self-isolating after a member of his delegation tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 during the Brazilian leader’s trip to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Brazil’s health authority, Anvisa, sent a written request to the presidential palace Wednesday that the president and the rest of his delegation go into isolation after Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga announced Tuesday on Twitter that he had tested positive for Covid-19. (Pearson and Magalhaes, 9/22)


AP:
Naval Officer Wins Praise For Portugal’s Vaccine Rollout


As Portugal closes in on its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of the population against COVID-19 in nine months, other countries in Europe and beyond want to know how it was accomplished. A lot of the credit is going to Rear Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo. With his team from the three branches of the armed forces, the naval officer took charge of the vaccine rollout in February — perhaps the moment of greatest tension in Portugal over the pandemic. (Hatton, 9/23)


This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.



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