IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about reopening updates, new COVID-19 guidelines, a boost in ACA enrollment, and more.  
As President Biden entered office, he faced many challenges, primarily the COVID-19 global pandemic and its vast effects. Some of the first steps Biden took in office aimed to address the fact that millions of Americans had lost jobs and health insurance because of the pandemic. This latest IMPAQ Health blog explores how Biden’s health care-related actions, including an executive order and a COVID-19 relief package, have affected both individuals and the insurance industry.
Hesitancy, skepticism and a lack of resources, may be preventing certain individuals from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. In a recent Public Health Institute/IMPAQ webinar, experts including Bechara Choucair, vaccinations coordinator for the White House COVID-19 response team, addressed ways to build trust and trustworthiness with communities. They also discussed current vaccine distribution strategies and how data can help ensure an equitable distribution.
COVID-19 Vaccine and Reopening Updates. As states continue to reopen and COVID-19 positivity rates decrease, the CDC released new guidance regarding face masks for fully vaccinated Americans, stating that they no longer need to wear masks except when traveling on public transportation or in certain locations (e.g., airports, hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons). Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical advisor, later explained that this decision was made to assure the public about the effectiveness of the vaccines. However, some experts have expressed concern that the new guidance may be premature, as there are still many unvaccinated and immunocompromised individuals who could be placed at risk by the relaxed face mask guidance. In fact, many epidemiologists had expected a need to wear face masks in public indoor places for at least another year.

  • On May 4, President Biden announced a new goal to have 70 percent of the nation’s adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of Tuesday (5/18), the CDC announced that 60 percent of adults have received at least one dose, but vaccination rates drastically vary across the country. A few states, such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, have already reached Biden’s goal, but many other states are struggling to meet it due to vaccine hesitancy among their populations.

  • Ohio developed an innovative cash prize incentive to encourage its adult residents to get vaccinated. The state plans to award $1 million prizes and in-state university scholarships through a lottery using its federal coronavirus relief funds.

Rules and Reports
Earlier this month, President Biden announced that more than 1 million Americans have signed up for health coverage through the ACA marketplaces since Feb. 15. The Biden administration has taken several actions to boost health insurance coverage, namely establishing a special enrollment period through Aug. 15 and providing additional subsidies for those shopping on the federal exchange for the next two years. NBC News (5/15)
CMS released an interim final rule that will require long-term care facilities and residential facilities that care for older adults and those with intellectual disabilities to report the COVID-19 vaccination status of their residents and staff. This new regulation aims to help identify facilities where additional education and resources are needed to increase vaccine confidence among their populations. CMS (5/11)
Health Equity in 2021
The Supreme Court on Monday (5/17) agreed to hear a case involving Mississippi’s law banning abortion after the 15-week mark of pregnancy. The restriction is about two months earlier than what Roe v. Wade and other recent legal cases have established. The court will consider the case in October with a decision expected next spring. The Wall Street Journal (5/17)
Recent CMS data show a decrease in mental health service use among Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries, even as preliminary evidence shows mental health conditions generally worsened during the pandemic. The Biden administration has provided Medicaid and CHIP funding for mental health and substance use support services through the American Rescue Plan to address specific mental health challenges. CMS (5/14)
Cultural stigma and other barriers to care, like lack of health insurance or perceived discrimination from providers, has contributed to only a third of Hispanics receiving treatment for mental health conditions. This gap in care persists despite farmworkers, many of whom are Latino, being especially affected by pandemic-related stress and over 40 percent of Latino adults reporting depression symptoms during the pandemic. Axios (5/13)
Graphic of the Week
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is especially important to acknowledge given the long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. This graphic from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) depicts the importance of seeking treatment for mental health issues.  
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
This webinar engages health experts in a discussion on the lessons learned in 2020 to address various issues: health disparities, social determinants of health, and systemic racism in health. Register here.
This webinar is the fourth part in a six-part series on Uprooting the Structural Drivers of Health Inequity. This particular webinar explores the importance of community engagement as a tool for equitable, economic planning and recovery post-pandemic. Register here.
NOTE: The information, analyses, and opinions expressed in the articles, publications, or comments contained therein are those of the authors and should not be considered verified or endorsed by IMPAQ or any of our partners or clients.