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Healthcare Roundup: Challenges of Shifting COVID Coverage to Private Sector, CVS, Walgreens Prescription Refusals & More

October 21, 2022 (4 min read)

Experts Say Shifting COVID-19 Coverage to Private Sector Poses Challenges

Transitioning coverage of COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations to commercial insurers poses significant challenges, according to experts gathered for a Kaiser Family Foundation webinar on the commercialization of COVID coverage last week.

For one thing, vaccines, tests and treatments won’t shift to the private sector on the same timeline, due to differences in their regulatory status.

“Medicare and Medicaid cover things differently if they’re approved versus whether they’re under emergency use authorization,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Incentivizing the private sector to keep on producing COVID vaccines, treatments and tests will be another major challenge.

“The government was essentially guaranteeing a market for tests, for treatments, for vaccines,” said Larry Levitt, KFF’s executive vice president for health policy. “We need to think about making sure that those countermeasures are available in a timely way and in adequate supply.”

Figuring out how to protect the uninsured is another issue facing policymakers, said Rena Conti, an assistant professor of markets, public policy and law at Boston University. She said those with insurance will still be able to get free COVID vaccinations after the government stops paying for them. And uninsured children will be covered under the Vaccines for Children Program. But “if you’re an uninsured adult, you’re kind of out of luck,” she said. (FIERCE HEALTHCARE)

HHS Investigating Reports CVS, Walgreens Pharmacists Refusing to Fill Prescriptions

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating complaints that some pharmacists at Walgreens and CVS have been refusing to fill prescriptions for certain medications. As a result of the Supreme Court’s recent abortion ruling and some state laws, the two pharmacy chains now permit their pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on moral grounds if they believe the prescribed medication will be used for an abortion. The medications the pharmacists are reportedly refusing to fill include those used for treating high blood sugar, rheumatoid arthritis, and severe acne. (FIERCE HEALTHCARE)

Study Links Antihistamines to Some Opioid Overdoses

At least 18 percent of 92,000 opioid overdose deaths in 43 states and Washington, D.C., in 2019 and 2020 involved antihistamines, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over 71 percent of those antihistamine-related deaths involved diphenhydramine, better known by its brand name, Benadryl. (USA TODAY)

WI Nursing Programs Can’t Keep Up with Demand

Wisconsin nursing education programs add roughly 3,000 nurses to the workforce each year. But the demand for nurses is far outpacing that rate. Based on preliminary data about 11 percent of RN positions and 17 percent of CNA positions in the state were unfilled last year, and the state is projecting a shortfall of nearly 20,000 nurses by 2035.

A lack of qualified faculty and limited classroom space are forcing programs to turn away applicants, a problem nationwide. Nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants in 2019, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO)

Private Equity Investing Contributed to Medical Staffing Agency Rate Hikes

A report released last week by Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit group that analyzes the impact of private equity investments, indicated there were 27 private equity deals in the medical staffing space last year, more than double the 11 such investments in 2020. The report said those deals helped make it possible for travel nurse agencies to increase their rates. (FIERCE HEALTHCARE)

Abortion Rights Groups Seek Expansion of Medication Abortion Access in NC

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and other abortion rights groups have filed a petition asking a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court to lift provisions of North Carolina state law preventing physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives from providing medication abortions. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortion clinics in the state have experienced an influx of patients from neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. (RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER)

CA to End COVID-19 State of Emergency

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last week that on Feb. 28 he would be lifting the COVID-19 state of emergency declaration he imposed more than two-and-a-half years ago. State officials said that date would give healthcare providers more flexibility to deal with an anticipated winter surge in COVID-19 cases. (SACRAMENTO BEE)

FDA Panel Votes to Pull Pregnancy Drug from Market

The Food and Drug Administration’s advisory panel voted 14-1 last week that a drug intended to prevent premature births is ineffective and should be removed from the market. The FDA actually called for removal of the drug, Makena, in 2020, but its manufacturer, Covid Pharma, challenged that action pending further research.

A final decision is expected from FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf in the coming months. If the drug is removed, it would be the first to meet that fate after receiving initial approval from the FDA on promising early data. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK


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