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Children under 5 are the only population ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. But that could change as the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee recommends allowing the group.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, senators are scrambling to write down in legislative language a tentative agreement reached over the weekend on gun control and mental health, and the Supreme Court is rejecting some of Medicare’s administrative cuts to hospitals.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, The 19th’s Shefali Loutra, Pink Sheet’s Sarah Carlin-Smith and CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Even though vaccines will soon be available to the youngest Americans, the nation is mired in confusion over vaccinations and infectious diseases. Some people find it easier to understand how science routinely changes, while others feel let down or even betrayed by the varying strengths of vaccines and changing advice on how not to get sick. This makes messaging extremely difficult. For example, with very young children eligible for vaccinations, parents need to understand that even after being vaccinated, their young children can still become infected with covid. Vaccination only reduces the chance that their illness will be serious or require hospitalization.
  • The Supreme Court ruled this week in a complex case involving a drug rebate program known as 340B. This is due to the Trump administration’s attempt to cut some payments to hospitals under the program. The court ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services did not have the authority to make cuts. But the court did not, as some predicted, attempt to weaken “Chevron deference,” a legal doctrine that effectively allows executive departments to interpret how they enforce federal laws. The court did not explicitly mention Chevron in that decision, but it may have happened in another pending case involving the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The situation around the weapons package pending congressional scrutiny gets more complicated the closer you look. For example, it is described as a gun bill, but it is also a mental health bill: the main component is the funding of public mental health clinics. But this provision makes this measure costly and requires cost recovery to be sought. Negotiations are likely to quickly escalate into partisan talks, making the July 4 deadline for passage of the law quite difficult.
  • Abortion rates are on the rise, according to the latest analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, which has surveyed providers offering abortion services over four decades. The reasons for the increase are not clear. One possibility, however, is that more states are allowing Medicaid programs to cover abortions, and that cuts made by the Trump administration to the federal family planning program, Title X, may have led to more unintended pregnancies and therefore more abortions.
  • The very states most likely to take steps to ban or restrict abortion if Rowe vs. Wade are also least likely to provide social programs to poor parents, including tax credits, health insurance, and paid parental leave.
  • Legislation to renew expiring user fees that help the FDA pay for drug and device reviews is moving quickly through Congress, unlike almost any other legislative priority. However, in the Senate, the bill is attracting controversial additions, such as language making it easier to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other developed countries. This can slow down the reauthorization process. However, in general, the draft law is not a “Christmas tree” of amendments, as it could be considered before.

In addition, as an added bonus, panelists recommend their favorite health policy articles of the week that they think you should also read:

Julia Rovner: Statistics “The FTC says hospital consolidation is getting tighter. Antitrust experts don’t believe itTara Bannow

Shefali Loutra: “Politics”Michigan abortion providers bracing for ban or surgeAlice Miranda Allstein

Sarah Carlin-Smith: “Washington Post”What did you agree to? Doctor Check-In software collects data about your health”, Jeffrey A. Fowler

Sandhya Raman: “Race” KHN is often used as a medical term for how bodies work. Some doctors want to change that,” Ray Ellen Beechell and Kara Anthony.

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:


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