Viewpoints: Biden’s Covid-Relief Bill Addresses ACA Problems; Europe Experiencing Pandemic Resurgence

The Washington Post: Congress Just Brought The Country Closer To Universal Health-Care Coverage Tucked into the covid-19 relief bill that President Biden signed Thursday was perhaps the most significant health-care reform policy to pass Congress since the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is a major down payment on Mr. Biden’s promise to build on that law, also known as Obamacare, and move the nation closer to universal coverage without excessive cost or disruption. The ACA was supposed to cover people with very low incomes through the Medicaid program, and to cover everyone else who lacked employer-based insurance through private marketplaces, which would be regulated to guarantee a basic level of coverage and to protect people with preexisting conditions. People with moderately low incomes would get federal subsidies to help them buy private plans on these marketplaces. But problems emerged. (3/14)

CNN: Where The Scariest Covid-19 Story Is Playing Out Right now, a year into the pandemic, the scariest Covid-19 story is not in Texas, where the gloomy governor is still pretending he can ignore the pandemic into oblivion. Nor is it the news from Brazil where its frustrated president, Jair Bolsonaro, has told citizens to quit whining about the unchecked death and illness that surrounds them. Rather the most alarming situation is in Europe. There, for unclear reasons, the pandemic appears to be in the earliest stages of resurgence. The World Health Organization in Europe announced on March 4 that after six weeks of decline, cases in the continent rose by a staggering 9% compared to the previous week — putting the continent again over 1 million cases weekly. (Kent Sepkowitz, 3/13)

Los Angeles Times: Can Government Mandate COVID Vaccine? Law Needs ClarificationRight now, people eager for protection against COVID-19 are desperately logging onto websites over and over to try to find a place with vaccines on hand. But as the supply of vaccines increases enough in the coming months to provide all adults the necessary doses, the question will shift from “How many people will be protected soon?” to “Does everybody have to get vaccinated? ”That’s a question that Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other federal health officials are wisely dodging for the moment. It’s better to persuade people to come in for their shots than to try to force them in. Despite the more than half a million fatalities and innumerable serious, long-lasting side effects inflicted by COVID-19 in this country, people often are leery of new vaccines and want to see how they play out in general use. There also are people who are stubbornly and unreasonably anti-vaccine. (3/14)

Stat: Addiction Care Workers Should Have Access To Covid-19 Testing, VaccinesAt the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. government and private organizations rushed to support health care workers — and rightfully so — with massive ramp-ups in making available personal protective equipment and testing supplies to ensure that frontline workers had the resources they needed to keep themselves, their patients, and their families as safe as possible. These providers have been now been given priority to get the Covid-19 vaccines that are being rolled out across the country. But one group of health care workers has been excluded from these efforts: those who work in behavioral health and addiction treatment centers. (Jeff Turiczek, 3/15)

Also —

Chicago Tribune: Changing The Clocks Is No Help When COVID Anxiety Is Already Disrupting Our Sleep The clock sprung forward one hour on Sunday morning for most people in the U.S. That is not an appealing thought for those who have suffered sleep problems because of the pandemic. Sleep this past year has been affected by a variety of factors, including anxiety, inconsistent schedules and increased screen time. This affects our health, as getting adequate sleep is important to assure our immune system can fend off and fight infections. (Michael S. Jaffe, 3/14)

Boston Globe: Telemedicine Can Address Historic Structural Inequities America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is showing that we can begin to address racism’s impact on Americans’ health by changing how we access primary care —and telemedicine is pointing the way. The pandemic underscores deep health care inequities resulting from decades of structural racism and, as a result, COVID-19 kills Black and brown Americans at much higher rates than white Americans. Residents of low-income communities, many of whom are essential workers, face greater impediments to health care access than those with more means. Many can’t easily take time off from work, drive to doctors’ offices, or line up child care in order to make in-person appointments; they risk being fired and having their families go hungry. (Christina Severin and Michael Curry, 3/13)

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