Morning Consult Health: Task Force Considers Using Hospital Funding From Stimulus to Pay for COVID-19 Treatment for Uninsured

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  • The White House coronavirus task force may dip into the $100 billion that Congress allocated for hospitals in the phase 3 stimulus package to front the costs of COVID-19 treatment for people without health insurance, according to Vice President Mike Pence. The Health and Human Services Department has been in touch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Appropriations health subcommittee Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as the agency determines how to distribute the money from the so-called “Marshall Plan” for hospitals, which are desperate for the funding as they face an unprecedented surge of patients and shortage of equipment. (Modern Healthcare)
  • In September 2019, two months before the coronavirus hit Wuhan, China, the Trump administration called off a $200-million pandemic early-warning project and laid off scientists and analysts working on how to detect and respond to a global infectious disease outbreak. The U.S. Agency for International Development initiative had provided support for the laboratory in Wuhan — and 59 others around the world — that eventually identified COVID-19, and although the United States has now granted emergency funding to extend the program, program leaders believe it’s too late. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Moderna Inc., which is working with the National Institutes of Health on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, may begin the next phase of human clinical trials this spring, according to Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan. Hardly a month has passed since the drugmaker launched phase 1 trials in mid-March, and several other companies, including Johnson & Johnson, are moving at a rapid pace to bring a vaccine to market in 12 to 18 months. (CNBC)

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Watch On-Demand: What New Data Tells Us About the Labor Market, Unemployment and a Recession

For a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on unemployment and the broader economy, Morning Consult gathered a team of experts to discuss new data examining how prepared consumers are for the economic downturn and what consumer confidence tells us about a potential recession.

A copy of the presentation, a recording of the full webinar, and a copy of our recent white paper on using consumer confidence to track a recession can be accessed here.


Experts and Trump’s advisers doubt White House’s 240,000 coronavirus deaths estimate
William Wan et al., The Washington Post

Inside the White House’s effort to create a projected death toll.

Google Offers User Location Data to Health Officials Tackling Coronavirus
Rob Copeland, The Wall Street Journal

Search giant to produce reports on traffic into places such as grocery stores and parks.

Trump Touted Abbott’s Quick COVID-19 Test. HHS Document Shows Only 5,500 Are On Way For Entire U.S.
Rachana Pradhan, Kaiser Health News

A coronavirus test made by Abbott Laboratories and introduced with considerable fanfare by President Donald Trump in a Rose Garden news conference this week is giving state and local health officials very little added capacity to perform speedy tests needed to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Navy relieves aircraft carrier commander who wrote letter urging coronavirus action
Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart, Reuters

The U.S. Navy relieved the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt’s captain of his command on Thursday, punishing him for the leak of a scathing letter he sent to superiors that sought stronger measures for curbing a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship.

Inside America’s mask crunch: A slow government reaction and an industry wary of liability
Jeanne Whalen et al., The Washington Post

On March 5, as the deadly novel coronavirus was racing through the United States, Vice President Pence paid a visit to the Minnesota headquarters of 3M, the manufacturing giant that produces protective respiratory masks.

Ventilator Shortages Loom As States Ponder Rules For Rationing
Martin Kaste and Rebecca Hersher, NPR News

Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

Coronavirus stimulus payments begin April 9, but some won’t receive checks until September
Rick Noack et al., The Washington Post

The Internal Revenue Service plans to send electronic payments April 9, as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus law, which is a week sooner than expected, according to a plan circulated internally on Wednesday.

Pelosi to Form Committee to Track Coronavirus Response, $2 Trillion Stimulus
Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal

Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn to lead panel, which will have subpoena power. ‘This is not an investigation of the administration.’

Global Coronavirus Cases Top One Million, as Economic Toll Mounts
Jennifer Calfas, The Wall Street Journal

U.S., with more than 230,000 reported infections, has just under a quarter of the global total.

In Desperation, New York State Pays Up to 15 Times the Normal Prices for Medical Equipment
Lydia DePillis and Lisa Song, ProPublica

State data shows that New York is paying enormous markups for vital supplies, including almost $250,000 for an X-ray machine. Laws against price gouging usually don’t apply.


Utah suspends Medicaid work requirement due to COVID-19
Harris Meyer, Modern Healthcare

Utah on Thursday suspended its Medicaid work requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Medicaid Nearing ‘Eye Of The Storm’ As Newly Unemployed Look For Coverage
Shefali Luthra et al., Kaiser Health News

As the coronavirus roils the economy and throws millions of Americans out of work, Medicaid is emerging as a default insurance plan for many of the newly unemployed. That could produce unprecedented strains on the vital health insurance program, according to state officials and policy researchers.


The 1,000-Bed Comfort Was Supposed to Aid New York. It Has 20 Patients.
Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times

“It’s a joke,” said a top hospital executive, whose facilities are packed with coronavirus patients.

Military personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas
Brett Samuels, The Hill

Military personnel will begin treating coronavirus patients at new medical facilities that have popped up in the cities of New York, New Orleans and Dallas, the White House said Thursday, marking a shift in policy for how the Pentagon is aiding in the medical response to the pandemic.

Tenet announces furloughs, plans to raise cash
Tara Bannow, Modern Healthcare

Tenet Healthcare Corp. has scrapped its 2020 guidance, furloughed about 500 full-time positions and plans to issue another $500 million in debt to boost liquidity amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s plunged hospitals nationwide into financial uncertainty.

Pandemic-Stricken Cities Have Empty Hospitals, But Reopening Them Is Difficult
Nina Feldman, WHYY

As city leaders across the country scramble to find space for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients, some are looking at a seemingly obvious choice: former hospital buildings, sitting empty, right downtown.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

FEMA tells lawmakers most new ventilators won’t be ready until June
Kyle Cheney, Politico

The agency provided the news at briefings for the House Oversight Committee.

3M CEO on N95 Masks: ‘Demand Exceeds Our Production Capacity’
Austen Hufford, The Wall Street Journal

As coronavirus crisis mounts, manufacturers ramp up to meet huge demand for protective equipment.

UPMC doctors in Pa. say they’ve developed a coronavirus vaccine
David Wenner,

Doctors and researchers at UPMC in Pittsburgh said Thursday they have created a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and are seeking federal permission to begin testing it for safety.

Essential Drug Supplies for Virus Patients Are Running Low
Knvul Sheikh, The New York Times

Medicines to alleviate breathing difficulty, relieve pain and sedate coronavirus patients are in very high demand, depleting stock around the country.

Unproven Stem Cell Therapy Gets OK for Testing in Coronavirus Patients
Katie Thomas, The New York Times

The treatment, which has been promoted by President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, will begin early-stage clinical trials.

Large employers could have saved money if more biosimilars had been prescribed
Ed Silverman, Stat News

If some of the largest U.S. employers had used biosimilar versions of a pair of widely used brand-name biologic medicines two years ago, they could have saved an average of $1.5 million and their employees would also have spent hundreds of dollars less, according to a new study.

The latest failure in Alzheimer’s casts doubt on Biogen’s ostensible success
Damian Garde, Stat News

The prevailing theory of how to treat Alzheimer’s disease endured its 1,001st cut on Thursday, as results from a lengthy clinical trial showed that reducing toxic plaques in the brain had no effect on slowing cognitive decline.

Health IT

3D printers forge face shields for fight against the coronavirus
Nathan Frandino, Reuters

Oscar Valera likes to use 3D printers to build an assortment of crafts, but he is now turning his hobby toward the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Coronavirus Is Catapulting American Health Care Into the 21st Century
Cynthia Fisher, Morning Consult

Crises precipitate change. Nowhere is that more evident than how the coronavirus pandemic is breaking down the calcified American health care system and catapulting it into the 21st century. 

How the Bayh-Dole Act Facilitates Development of Coronavirus Therapies
Stephen Ezell, Morning Consult

As the urgency of finding a treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus accelerates, dozens of American biomedical companies, startups and universities are rushing to develop COVID-19 therapeutics. There’s a good chance the Bayh-Dole Act will play a critical behind-the-scenes role in facilitating these efforts.

Research Reports

Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing
Luca Ferretti et al., Science Magazine

The newly emergent human virus SARS-CoV-2 is resulting in high fatality rates and incapacitated health systems. Preventing further transmission is a priority. We analyzed key parameters of epidemic spread to estimate the contribution of different transmission routes and determine requirements for case isolation and contact-tracing needed to stop the epidemic.

3.5 million workers likely lost their employer-provided health insurance in the past two weeks
Ben Zipperer and Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute

We estimate that 3.5 million workers were at high risk of losing their employer-provided health insurance in the past two weeks. Because the United States is unique among rich countries in tying health insurance benefits to employment—roughly half of all U.S. workers receive health insurance through their own employer’s provided coverage—many of the newly unemployed will suddenly face prohibitively costly insurance options.


Female scientists allege discrimination, neglect of research on women at NIH’s child health institute
Meredith Wadman, Science Magazine

In November 2014, nine senior female scientists at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) requested a meeting with their director. 

Kirkland nursing home fined $611,000 over deadly coronavirus outbreak
KOMO News Staff

Federal regulators have assessed a $611,000 fine against a coronavirus-ravaged Kirkland nursing home after an inspection found critical problems that contributed to the outbreak there, resulting in at least 37 deaths and dozens of confirmed cases.

U.S. Futures Pare Losses; Dollar Extends Gain: Markets Wrap
Yakob Peterseil, Bloomberg

U.S. equity futures pared an earlier loss on Friday as investors weighed the latest corporate and economic turmoil caused by the pandemic that has infected more than a million people worldwide. Oil rallied and the dollar strengthened.

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