Season Off to a Roaring Start
US influenza hospitalizations are the highest they have been in the last 12 years at this point in the season, according to a new government report.
More than 2,300 patients were admitted to US hospitals during the week ending Oct. 22 for the viral infection and at least one child has died of the flu since the current season began, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC also says the US Southeast and South-central regions are hotspots for the outbreak at the current time.
While some people may have been waiting to get vaccinated during peak season to optimize protection, experts are urging immunization as soon as possible to avoid harm.
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New Study Gives Most Common Symptoms of Current Covid Infections
TSCL has been urging our supporters for the last few weeks to get the second Covid booster and the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible. It is becoming even more important to do so as the cases of flu are rapidly increasing, especially in certain parts of the country.
As a service to all our readers, here is a list of symptoms people who have contracted Covid are now experiencing, depending on their Covid vaccination status.
|Fully vaccinated||Partially vaccinated||Unvaccinated|
|Runny nose||Runny nose||Sore throat|
|Blocked nose||Sore throat||Runny nose|
|Headache||Persistent cough||Persistent cough|
It is important to remember that although deaths from Covid have decreased dramatically due to the availability of Covid vaccines, new treatments for those who catch Covid, and the current mutation of the virus, people are still dying from Covid every day. It is especially important to get your second booster if you have underlying health conditions, or you are at an advanced age.
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Home Health Care Threatened by Medicare Cuts
Home healthcare has gained great popularity with many seniors in the U.S. It was especially welcomed during the Covid pandemic because it allows seniors to get the health care, they needed without having to go to a hospital or nursing home, where chances of infection were so much greater.
However, despite the popularity and advantages of home health care, Medicare is considering implementing a permanent nearly 8% cut in payments to home health services. This would mean dramatic cuts in services that were provided to seniors and disabled people during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and getting back an estimated $1.2 billion that has already been spent for services provided in 2022 – something that is called a clawback. These cuts and clawbacks, which could reach an estimated $18 billion over the next 10 years, would be a devastating blow to the more than 3.5 million people whose home health care is covered by Medicare.
One analysis suggests that the cuts and clawbacks could put 44% of America’s home health agencies at risk of closing, seriously risking beneficiaries’ access to care, especially in rural and underserved communities.
The population of Medicare home health beneficiaries has grown older and sicker. More than 25% of home health users across the country are over the age of 85, and 43% have five or more chronic health conditions, compared to just 22% of all Medicare patients. That means these cuts will target some of the sickest, most at-risk older Americans.
These cuts would further limit access to home health care, which is already being stretched by booming demand as many Americans want to stay out of the hospital to avoid contracting the coronavirus and other infectious illnesses and made worse by a shortage of home health workers, sparked in part by low pay.
That’s why TSCL is pleased that lawmakers in Congress have introduced the Preserving Access to Home Health Act of 2022 (H.R. 8581 and S. 4605). This bipartisan legislation, currently before the House and Senate, would prevent Medicare from imposing these cuts until 2026, ensuring that people have continued access to care and giving providers the stability, they need while Medicare takes more time to improve its payment system.
We will have more information on this legislation in future updates.
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Possible New Threat to Social Security and Medicare Emerges
Within the last two weeks TSCL has been troubled by the statements of some members of Congress about what could happen to Social Security and Medicare.
The four Republican lawmakers interested in serving as House Budget Committee chairman in the next Congress all said they would refuse to raise the debt ceiling next year unless Democrats agreed to entitlement cuts (in other words, cuts to Social Security and Medicare) and to work requirements on safety-net programs — measures Dems would find abhorrent. This would set the stage for another high-stakes showdown.
Most political observers think Republicans are likely to win the majority of seats in the House of Representatives and could even win a majority in the Senate.
If that happens, Republicans would be in a position to force the President to make those cuts or face a default in payments owed by the United States on the money it has already borrowed and spent – borrowing that was previously approved by Congress.
The U.S. has never defaulted on its loans and most economists believe a default would have major negative economic consequences for this country and for the world economy.
TSCL will keep a close watch on this as things develop next year.
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For progress updates, or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.