Morning Consult Health: Supreme Court Allows Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers to Remain, Blocks Requirement for Private Employers
 

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Essential health care industry news & intel to start your day.
January 14, 2022
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Morning Consult Health will be off Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The weekday newsletter will resume Tuesday.

 

Top Stories

  • The Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for large private employers but allowed a vaccine requirement for most health care workers to stay in place, with the court’s conservative majority saying that Congress had not given a federal agency the authority to impose such broad workplace rules. The mandate for health care workers covers about 10 million people, while the rule for private employers would have applied to 84 million. (The Washington Post)
  • President Joe Biden said his administration will buy 500 million more rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute to U.S. households for free, doubling an earlier commitment amid a surge in cases tied to the omicron variant. Biden also said he will detail a plan next week to offer free masks to people. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-8 to advance Dr. Robert Califf’s nomination to lead the Food and Drug Administration, with four Republicans voting in his favor. Califf’s full Senate confirmation vote, which has not yet been set, is expected to be close given that several Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have indicated they will vote against him. (The New York Times)
  • The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission will recommend that traditional Medicare cuts its payments to nursing homes, home health agencies and inpatient rehabilitation facilities by 5 percent next year. MedPAC’s recommendations to Congress are nonbinding, but lawmakers rely on the group’s expertise to make funding decisions for health providers. (Bloomberg Law)
 

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What Else You Need to Know

Coronavirus
 

With Biden Mandate Blocked, Many Companies Won’t Impose Covid-19 Vaccine Rules

Chip Cutter, The Wall Street Journal

Several corporate leaders said they would scrap plans to impose vaccine requirements for their workers after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s mandate for large private employers. Others said they would move ahead with their plans to require shots.

 

CDC will let cruise rules expire as omicron surges on ships

Hannah Sampson, The Washington Post

Cruise lines that sail in the United States will soon be allowed to decide if they want to follow pandemic-era guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Vaccine Makers Pursue Omicron-Targeted Shots That Health Officials Say Might Not Be Needed

Joseph Walker and Peter Loftus, The Wall Street Journal

Industry executives foresee eventual demand for tailored doses, but U.S. officials say current evidence doesn’t support rolling them out and cite practical reasons not to.

 

Insurers Say Saturday Is Too Soon to Meet White House Goals on Rapid Tests

Sarah Kliff, The New York Times

Not all health plans will be ready for the Covid tests to be free upfront at stores, relying at first on receipts and reimbursement.

 

Omicron Less Severe Even for Unvaccinated, Study Says

Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg

The omicron coronavirus variant causes less severe disease than the delta strain even in those who are unvaccinated or who haven’t had a prior Covid-19 infection, a study from South Africa’s Western Cape province showed.

 

Unvaccinated pregnant people are at higher risk for Covid complications and newborn deaths

Theresa Gaffney, Stat News

Unvaccinated pregnant people who get Covid-19 are at much higher risk for complications from the disease and death of their babies than their vaccinated counterparts, according to a new study from Scotland.

 

Scientists Discover Gene That Increases Risk of Dying From Covid

Konrad Krasuski, Bloomberg

Polish scientists have discovered a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of falling severely ill with, or even dying from Covid-19.

 

The cost of testing

Axios

The average cost of a single at-home rapid COVID test is about $12 in the U.S., more than twice the cost of a test in France and more than three times as much as in India.

 

Scores of doctors and scientists sign a statement condemning personal attacks against Fauci.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times

More than 100 leading American doctors and scientists — including four Nobel Prize winners and a former Republican leader — have signed an open letter in support of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, calling Republican attacks on him “inaccurate, unscientific, ill-founded in the facts and, increasingly, motivated by partisan politics.”

 

Hundreds of Millions of Covid Vaccine Doses Risk Going to Waste

James Paton, Bloomberg

Hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased by wealthy countries are at risk of going to waste, a new analysis shows, while large parts of the world remain unprotected amid the spread of the omicron variant.

 

As Omicron Surges, Effort to Vaccinate Young Children Stalls

Rachana Pradhan and Hannah Recht, Kaiser Health News

Two months after Pfizer’s covid vaccine was authorized for children ages 5 to 11, just 27% have received at least one shot, according to Jan. 12 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 18%, or 5 million kids, have both doses.

 

Walgreens, CVS Shut Some Pharmacies on Weekends as Omicron Strains Staffing

Sharon Terlep, The Wall Street Journal

The biggest U.S. drugstore chains are shutting some pharmacies on weekends as the spread of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant exacerbates already severe staffing shortages.

 
General
 

Strong new evidence suggests a virus triggers multiple sclerosis

Megan Molteni, Stat News

If you were to ask any of the 1 million Americans living with multiple sclerosis, they’d probably say their disease started with changes so small they almost didn’t notice them: a wobbly step, a weakening grip, sight going soft around the edges. But MRI scans of their brains — dotted with ghostly white scars — would tell a different story.

 

Medical cost growth trailed that of other industries in 2021

Rebecca Pifer, Healthcare Dive

Medical cost growth trailed that of other industries in 2021, though rising pressure from the omicron variant could fuel future increases in healthcare costs.

 

New Jersey Adds Abortion Protections to State Law

Jennifer Calfas, The Wall Street Journal

A person’s right to an abortion in New Jersey is now enshrined in state law, as lawmakers there bolstered protections for the procedure months ahead of a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court decision that could upend federal abortion rights.

 

State lawmakers prepare for a future without Roe v. Wade

Shefali Luthra and Barbara Rodriguez, The 19th

As the Supreme Court weighs the biggest abortion rights challenge in a generation, legislators are prepping bills that would exacerbate the divide between abortion deserts and access points.

 
Payers
 

ACA signups blow past 14M as Saturday deadline for open enrollment looms

Robert King, Fierce Healthcare

More than 14.2 million people have bought a plan on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges as of Jan. 8, as the Biden administration makes a last-second sprint to boost awareness of the Jan. 15 deadline.

 

Future of Trump-Era Medicare Program Spurs Fight Among Democrats

Alex Ruoff, Bloomberg Law

A growing number of Democrats in Congress are pushing the Biden administration to end a little-known Medicare program they say undermines health care for seniors.

 
Providers
 

Doctors Debate Whether Trans Teens Need Therapy Before Hormones

Azeen Ghorayshi, The New York Times

Clinicians are divided over new guidelines that say teens should undergo mental health screenings before receiving hormones or gender surgeries.

 

Real estate developers form joint venture to build rehab, behavioral health hospitals

Alex Kacik, Modern Healthcare

Real estate developers Hicks Ventures and Artemis Real Estate Partners signed a $100 million joint venture to develop around 20 inpatient rehabilitation and behavioral health hospitals, the companies announced Thursday.

 
Pharma, Biotech and Devices
 

Medical-Device IPOs, Acquisitions Jumped in 2021

Brian Gormley, The Wall Street Journal

Venture capitalists cashed in on investments in medical-device startups in 2021, selling and taking a record number of them public, industry data show.

 

FDA seeks feedback on draft device shortage guidance

Nick Paul Taylor, Healthcare Dive

The draft guidance, which is open for comments until March 11, is intended to help manufacturers provide timely information about disruptions during public health emergencies and thereby cut the risk of shortages.

 

Democrats call on FDA to revisit ban on gay, bisexual men donating blood amid shortage

Sarakshi Rai, The Hill

A group of House Democrats is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reassess its current blood donation policy that limits gay and bisexual men from donating blood as the nation struggles with a severe shortage.

 

FDA warns Chinese manufacturer for lack of vision when making sterile eye drops

Ed Silverman, Stat News

When it comes to making eye drops, one Chinese manufacturer failed to clearly see the rules for sterile manufacturing, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

 

With its Alzheimer’s drug in turmoil, Biogen eyes a list of potential acquisitions

Damian Garde and Adam Feuerstein, Stat News

Biogen, desperate to reverse the turmoil surrounding its controversial Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm, has a shopping list of potential acquisitions, STAT has learned. And the company’s risk-averse board, which has repeatedly rejected potential deals, could be increasingly receptive.

 

Young Alzheimer’s Patients Dealt a Blow by Medicare’s Refusal to Cover Drug

Anna Edney, Bloomberg

All told, some 6 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, about half of whom the National Institute on Aging says may have mild symptoms, the target group for Aduhelm.

 
Health Technology
 

Avaneer Health banks $50M in seeding funding from Aetna, Anthem and Cleveland Clinic

Anastassia Gliadkovskaya, Fierce Healthcare

Avaneer was built off a collaboration between Aetna, PNC Bank, IBM, Anthem and HCSC announced in 2019 to develop a blockchain healthcare network.

 

Talkspace faces securities fraud class-action suit as consumer revenue declines

Rebecca Torrence, Fierce Healthcare

After losing its two founders and pushing out its chief operating officer last November, Talkspace’s woes aren’t over. The online therapy app now faces a securities fraud lawsuit.

 
Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives
 

A Split Supreme Court Decision on Vaccine Mandates

Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

At least the Justices struck down OSHA’s overreach on private employers.

 
Morning Consult