White House

This morning, President Biden signed an executive order entitled "Promoting Competition in the American Economy" which hopes to promote competition across major sectors of the U.S. economy. There's 72 initiatives across a dozen agencies total impacting a wide range of industries; naturally this includes healthcare policy and the HHS Dept.

In the healthcare field, there are four areas addressed by Biden's XO: Prescription drugs, hearing aids, hospital consolidation and the ACA exchange marketplaces:

Prescription Drugs: Americans pay more than 2.5 times as much for the same prescription drugs as peer countries, and sometimes much more. Price increases continue to far surpass inflation. As a result, nearly one in four Americans report difficulties paying for medication, and nearly one in three Americans report not taking their medications as prescribed.

Connect for Health Colorado Logo

This just in from Connect for Health Colorado...

Colorado's Health Insurance Marketplace Maintains Enrollment Momentum

  • There's still time to enroll

DENVER – As of Wednesday, July 7, 205,813 Coloradans have signed up for a plan that provides coverage this year through Connect for Health Colorado. That’s an additional 5,000 enrollments since last month when Connect for Health Colorado announced its Marketplace had reached a historic enrollment milestone for the 2021 plan year.

That's actually 5,694 more enrollees since June 7th, although they may be knocking it down a bit to account for attrition/etc. That amounts to 190 additional enrollees per day, which is actually up from the ~167/day which Colorado had been averaging from May through June. Huh.

COVID-19

For nearly a year, I posted a weekly analysis of the 100 U.S. counties (out of over 3,100 total) which had the highest cumulative rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita. In addition, I also included a running graph which compared the ratio of COVID cases & deaths per capita between blue and red counties to track how this changed over time.

The results were extremely telling: In the early days of the pandemic back in March/April 2020, the blue counties were devastated for a variety of reasons, including heavy population density, the fact they were mostly located along the coasts (usually in cities with major international ports/airport hubs), and so forth. Democrats tend to live in heavily-populated urban areas, while Republicans are prone to live in more sparsely-populated rural areas, so this made sense.

For the first few months, both case and death rates were running as much as 4-5x higher in counties which voted solidly for Hillary Clinton in 2016/Joe Biden in 2020 than in those which voted for Trump in either 2016 or 2020.

Surprise!

 

Last winter, after years of bipartisan attempts to tackle one of the uglier problems with the U.S. healthcare system, Congress somehow ended up quietly slipping in a bill which resolved a large chunk of the issue with minimal fanfare:

Over at the New York Times, Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz have written an excellent summary of the problem and the proposed solution:

Surprise bills happen when an out-of-network provider is unexpectedly involved in a patient’s care. Patients go to a hospital that accepts their insurance, for example, but get treated there by an emergency room physician who doesn’t. Such doctors often bill those patients for large fees, far higher than what health plans typically pay.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Yesterday I posted a completely updated county-level look at where COVID-19 vaccinations stand based on the 2020 Presidential election results.

As I've been noting for months (and as the mainstream press has finally started picking up on), while there are several factors explaining why so many people haven't gotten vaccinated yet, the single biggest determining factor is their political lean and, even more specifically, who they voted for President last fall.

However, the impact of partisan lean varies widely from state to state. In some states the regression line is a steep partisan slope, in others the slope is barely there at all. In some states the R-squared (R^2) figure, which helps determine correlation of the partisan lean variable, is high (above 0.7) while in others it's below 0.1.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Yesterday I posted a completely updated county-level look at where COVID-19 vaccinations stand based on the 2020 Presidential election results.

As I've been noting for months (and as the mainstream press has finally started picking up on), while there are several factors explaining why so many people haven't gotten vaccinated yet, the single biggest determining factor is their political lean and, even more specifically, who they voted for President last fall.

However, there are some outliers, as you would expect when you're looking at a nation of over 330 million people.

According to the latest data, if you take the original "every county" graph...

COVID-19 Vaccine

It's been over a month since I last ran a scatter plot displaying current COVID-19 vaccination rates across every COUNTY nationwide according to the 2020 election results...all 3,100+ of them. With today being the 4th of July, which also happens to be the target date for President Biden's call for at least 70% of all U.S. adults to have received their first vaccination shot.

As many have noted, no, we're not going to quite reach that goal nationally, though many states have already far exceeded it. Nationally, it looks like we're gonna come in at a little over 67% of all U.S. adults.

Oklahoma

Here's the official press release from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):

Oklahoma's Medicaid Expansion will Provide Access to Coverage for 190,000 Oklahomans

  • Nearly 120,000 People Will Begin Receiving Full Medicaid Benefits on July 1

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that approximately 190,000 individuals between the ages of 19-64 in Oklahoma are now eligible for health coverage, thanks to Medicaid expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  On June 1, 2021, the state began accepting applications, and to date, over 120,000 people have applied for and were determined eligible to receive coverage.  On July 1, these individuals will receive full Medicaid benefits, including access to primary and preventive care, emergency, substance abuse, and prescription drug benefits. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Oklahoma is eligible to receive additional federal funding for their Medicaid program, estimated to be nearly $500 million over two years. It is estimated that an additional 70,000 people in Oklahoma who have not yet applied are now eligible for coverage under Medicaid.

COVID-19

With the pace of Americans getting vaccinated slowing down to the point that we're not gonna quite meet President Biden's 4th of July target nationally (70% of adults receiving their first COVID-19 vaccination shot), there's a whole lot of hand-wringing about how much of the problem is access (i.e., people not being able to get time off of work, not having transportation to the clinic to get the shot, etc), how much of it is hesitancy (concerns about safety/efficacy, etc), and how much of it is about...well, to put it gently, being a lost or damaged soul.

Well, a new poll conducted by YouGov for Yahoo News may help answer that question (h/t Richard Skinner for the heads up). The poll, of nearly 1,600 U.S. adults, was conducted from June 22 - 24th. I've reformatted the relevant question below to fit better on this site.

The actual question as worded was: "How would you describe your personal situation regarding COVID-19 vaccines?"

MNsure Logo

via MNsure (by email):

Two weeks left to apply for private health insurance during special enrollment period

  • New cost savings available when you apply through MNsure

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Do you lack health insurance or are you currently enrolled in a health plan outside of MNsure? Don’t wait to act—you have until Friday, July 16, 2021 to apply and enroll in a plan this summer thanks to MNsure’s special enrollment period, designed to help more Minnesotans get the security of health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period runs through August 15th in most states, but in Minnesota it's only available through July 15th.

To explore your options, visit MNsure.org and select “COVID special enrollment” on the homepage.

Health insurance is more affordable than ever for thousands of Minnesotans who enroll in private health plans through MNsure, thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

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