Should covid vaccines be mandatory? The answer to that question has predictably turned partisan, as with almost everything else associated with the pandemic. Even as the federal government prepares to issue rules requiring large employers to make sure their workers are vaccinated, Republican governors are trying to ban such mandates, leaving employers caught in the middle.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Democrats are still working to reach consensus on a social spending improvement package, the size of which will largely depend on how much they can reduce prescription drug prices.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein from Politico, Jen Haberkorn from the Los Angeles Times and Mary Ellen McIntire from CQ Roll Call.
Among the conclusions of this week’s episode:
- The fight by Congressional Democrats to find compromise on a $ 3.5 billion spending package for health and other social programs appears to be pushing them past their self-imposed deadline of late October to pass a bill. Leaders are struggling with what to cut while meeting the demands of moderates in the party to cut spending.
- Everything in that package seems vulnerable at this stage of the negotiations. Party leaders are considering a variety of strategies, including launching some proposals or establishing the new benefits in a shorter period of time to test if they work and the public appreciates them.
- It appears that the Democrats’ priorities will include proposals to improve benefits for children. But the health programs at stake – new benefits for Medicare, providing insurance to low-income residents of states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs, and extending improved premium subsidies for the Affordable Care Act ) each has strong support and it will be difficult for them. leaders to settle.
- The proposal to add billions of dollars to long-term care programs may be the last straw. However, he does have some strong allies in Congress, including Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) And Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
- Democratic leaders hope to fund some of the initiatives in this package by cutting Medicare drug spending. A poll conducted by KFF this week showed that it is a very popular notion, even among Republicans. But drug companies are fighting that strategy with major advertising campaigns and political donations. They need to remove just a couple of vulnerable lawmakers to thwart the effort, as Democrats have very small majorities in both the House and Senate. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems determined to get some kind of provision on drug price negotiations in the bill, even without the full effect of her original plan.
- The Department of Labor has reportedly submitted a proposed rule requiring large employers to vaccinate their workforce to the Office of Management and Budget for review. That means the period could come soon. But he is destined to face opposition squarely in conservative states, like Texas, where the Republican governor is. Greg Abbott has banned mandates. The problem is likely to end up in federal court.
- The fight for vaccine mandates highlights a split in the Republican Party between the business-oriented faction that wants to overcome the pandemic and the more libertarian wing of the party. Some of the more conservative political leaders lean toward that libertarian wing and see the vaccine mandate as a way to excite the rank and file. However, the experience of some large companies suggests that companies and many workers do not oppose the mandates. An example is United Airlines, where 99% of workers have been vaccinated.
- As federal courts slam the Texas abortion law back and forth, it looks like it’s going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Some analysts suggest that the urgency of the issue could push the court to address the Texas issue before hearing a case in December. about a different law that seeks to limit abortion in Mississippi. But the Supreme Court generally likes cases to be fully debated in lower courts before reaching justices, so a decision on Texas law may have to wait.
- The abortion issue is getting a lot of publicity in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe tells voters that he will work to keep abortions legal in the state and suggests that his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, will not. It is a strategy that the governor of California. Gavin Newsom used how he successfully fought a recall in an election last month.
Also this week, Rovner interviews Beth Macy, author of the best-selling “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America” and executive producer of a miniseries of the same name that now airs on Hulu.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories from the week that they think you should read too:
Julie Rovner: “6 Months to Live or Die: How Long Should a Patient With Alcoholic Liver Disease Wait for a Transplant” by KHN, by Aneri Pattani
Jen Haberkorn: The Washington Post “Covid and cancer: a dangerous combination, especially for people of color, ”By Laurie McGinley
Mary Ellen McIntire: NPR “Judging ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs is difficult for employers demanding vaccines, ”By Laurel Wamsley
Alice Miranda Ollstein: The 19th‘s “Kansas has become a beacon for abortion access. Next year, that could go away, ”By Shefali Luthra
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