How the US Could Save 160,000 Lives This Fall

How the US Could Save 160,000 Lives This Fall

The Commonwealth Fund
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Happy Tuesday! Here’s what’s going on while we ponder the future of Choco Tacos and peruse former President Barack Obama’s almost too perfect summer playlist.

Covid Booster Campaign Could Save 160,000 Lives This Fall: Report

With the latest variants of Covid-19 spreading rapidly and another surge of cases expected as the weather cools in the months ahead, a new study from The Commonwealth Fund finds that an aggressive campaign to deliver more booster shots could save 160,000 lives this fall.

About 67% of Americans are currently vaccinated, and booster shots are available for anyone over the age of 5, but less than half of all vaccinated people have received boosters, which have been shown to significantly reduce the severity of Covid cases. Both booster and vaccination rates have steadily declined over the last few months.

To see how effective a public health campaign would be, researchers modeled three different scenarios for booster deliveries: continue at the present rate, increase the rate to that achieved during a recent influenza shot campaign, or achieve an 80% booster rate for the population over the age of 5.

The researchers found that under the most ambitious scenario, the country would experience 160,000 fewer deaths, as well as 1.7 million fewer hospitalizations. The health care system would also save $109 billion in direct medical costs by the spring of 2023.

Yes, but: While an aggressive booster campaign makes sense from both public health and fiscal perspectives, it faces an uphill battle. For one thing, it seems that many Americans have given up on the battle against Covid. For another, Congress has refused to provide additional funding for efforts to combat the latest variants.

The big takeaway: "The continued absence of new federal funding for COVID-19 vaccination will limit efforts to increase booster vaccination coverage and could lead to thousands of avoidable hospitalizations and deaths," the report says in conclusion.

Quote of the Day

"This is a very big deal, and if Democrats had tried to just do this, it would be looked at as an enormous achievement. Because it was tied in with other things that aren’t going to be included, a lot of people look at what’s not in it, versus what this achieves and what it does for people."

– Phil Schiliro, who served as head of legislative affairs for President Barack Obama, as quoted by The Washington Post on Democrats’ latest budget reconciliation bill, which is focused on health care and leaves out the climate, social spending and tax provisions included in earlier versions of the legislation.

Column of the Day: Democrats’ Must Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap

The United States is on the verge of "a monumental health-care milestone," writes Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell: we are close to ensuring "virtually universal eligibility for health coverage, which all other rich countries already guarantee."

Rampell argues that Democrats have a chance — maybe their last one for a while — to finally fix the coverage gap resulting from states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The gap has left some 2.2 million Americans uninsured because their income is too high to meet their state’s eligibility rules for Medicaid but too low to receive tax credits through the ACA marketplace.

Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill is reportedly set to include provisions aimed at lowering prescription drug prices and extending increased subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans. But Rampell says Democrats should also push to address the Medicaid coverage gap — for reasons both political and moral.

"Relative to those other health proposals, plugging the Medicaid coverage gap has not exactly been a Democratic priority," she writes. "After all, the vast majority of those affected live in red states and are not represented by Democratic senators. But Democratic politicians have a duty to make sure these people finally get health insurance and the better outcomes that go with it."

Read the full column at The Washington Post.

Survey of the Day: More Recession Predictions

Money managers, analysts and economists surveyed by CNBC think the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes are likely to lead to a recession. Of the 30 such experts in CNBC’s survey, nearly two-thirds said the Fed would tip the economy into recession, though most expect any downturn to be mild.

"A path to a soft landing certainly exists, but it’s narrow, hidden, and very hard to find,″ wrote Roberto Perli, head of global policy research at Piper Sandler. "In fact, some indicators suggest the U.S. economy may either already be in recession or close to it."

As it seeks to rein in inflation, the Fed is expected to announce another 75 basis point interest rate hike tomorrow.

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