IMPAQ Health News
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In this edition, learn about progress and challenges in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, efforts to expand access to health insurance, how health care professionals are coping during the ongoing pandemic, and more.  
Experts from IMPAQ will present during several sessions next week at AcademyHealth’s 2021 Virtual Health Datapalooza and National Health Policy Conference. IMPAQ Health staff will contribute to a total of 12 presentations on a variety of topics, including health inequities, innovation and analytics, and health systems' ethical responsibilities.
COVID-19 Milestones & Vaccine Updates. On February 1, the United States reached an important milestone in its fight against COVID-19. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the number of people who had received one or both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine exceeded the total number of confirmed cases.

COVID-19 Variant Updates. While there is some good news to celebrate, the U.K. COVID-19 variant continues to spread rapidly in the United States. A new study notes that cases of the U.K. variant double roughly every 10 days in the United States, confirming the CDC’s warning that the variant would become predominant in the country by March.

  • The prevalence of multiple variant strains in the United States raises concerns about possible COVID-19 reinfection.

Biden Administration and Congressional Updates. Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues its efforts to vaccinate large numbers of Americans in its first 100 days. Since President Biden has taken office, the number of vaccine doses sent to states has increased by 28% to 11 million doses per week.

  • The Biden administration announced plans to purchase 8.5 million at-home rapid coronavirus tests and increase domestic production. The test is the first of its kind approved by the FDA.

Here are some resources for following health policy trends and the latest efforts to address COVID-19: 
  • Johns Hopkins University frequently updates its worldwide map of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

Rules & Reports
Last year, states operating their own insurance exchanges opened special enrollment periods in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary data contradict claims that opening up enrollment would inevitably lead to adverse selection and higher premiums. Instead, with robust outreach efforts, the special enrollment period attracted younger and healthier enrollees. The Commonwealth Fund (1/28)
In a new article published in NEJM, Brad Smith, former director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), summarizes CMMI’s comprehensive review of the value-based payment models it launched over the past decade. CMMI found that revisiting benchmarks and risk-adjustment methodologies, as well as honing targeted solutions, improved value-based payment models. Health Payer Intelligence (1/12)
A new issue brief from the Commonwealth Fund examines the current coverage landscape for pregnant and postpartum women and how a Medicaid/CHIP expansion could benefit them. The Commonwealth Fund (January 2021)
Health Care Workforce During COVID-19
National efforts are underway to expand the community health care workforce to combat racial disparities and address vaccine hesitancy. Additionally, the Biden administration seeks to hire 100,000 people to initially help with vaccine outreach and contact tracing and eventually transition to community health worker roles. Kaiser Health News (2/8)
Results from a Medscape survey conducted in September 2020 show that American doctors and international medical professionals are grappling with burnout, high risk of COVID-19 infection, and drops in income. These factors are causing many to leave the profession, leading to further exhaustion among those that remain and the risk of lower quality care. In order to reverse this trend, experts argue that a concerted government effort is needed to track medical worker infections and fatalities in order to identify patterns and propose interventions. The New York Times (2/4)
Despite COVID-19 immunizations ramping up for elderly residents of long-term care facilities, many of the workers who care for them are refusing to take the vaccine. While a median of 78% of long-term care residents received at least one vaccine dose in the first month that they were available, the uptake among staff was only a median of 37%, according to the CDC. The hesitancy among staff leaves major gaps in protecting long-term care facilities from the virus and likely stems from mistrust and online misinformation. The Washington Post (2/2)
Spotlight on IMPAQ
Many consumers still do not understand health care costs, and various federal and state efforts in 2020 took aim at improving transparency. In a new blog post, IMPAQ experts review those actions and also look forward to what could happen this year.
Graphic of the Week
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
Please join the AgencyIQ regulatory research team as they discuss what a new administration and FDA leadership mean for life sciences companies, and how the FDA is continuing to adapt to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Register here.
As nurses continue to provide most of the nation’s care, it is critical to explore strategies to support them, raise their voices as trusted messengers in media and other forums, and strengthen the nursing workforce. Register here.
Join the National Overdose Prevention Network for a panel discussion on novel approaches to addressing overdose prevention, treatment and recovery within criminal justice. 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.