The Weather May Start Cooling Off but Things Will Soon be Heating up in Washington
Traditionally, August has been a slow news month when it comes to news out of Washington, D.C. That is because Congress takes its traditional August break, which we wrote about last week.
This year, of course, the first part of August broke with that tradition when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains the provision to allow Medicare to start negotiating with drug companies regarding the prices of certain prescription drugs.
Now, we are in that news lull as members of Congress are either back home campaigning for re-election or else taking a family vacation before their work resumes after Labor Day. And they have a lot of work to do, including funding the federal government for the 2023 fiscal year which begins on October 1.
Despite their absence from Washington, there are some news items worth reporting and which you will find below.
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New Covid Vaccine Available Soon
It has been reported that new Covid-19 booster shots targeting the highly contagious omicron variant could be available soon after Labor Day and all Americans 12 years and older will be eligible for the shot, which experts hope will provide an additional tool in the fight against the coronavirus and guard against a winter surge.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to sign off on the new bivalent Covid shots—which target both the original Covid strain as well as omicron subvariants — sometime this week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will then have a meeting September 1 and 2, with a final sign off on the shots shortly after, paving the way for them to be available as soon as September 3, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
An article in the New York Times stated that Pfizer’s booster will be available to everyone 12 and older, while Moderna’s shot will only be offered to adults.
Those who have already received one or two booster shots are still eligible for the omicron vaccine, the Times reported, though those who have recently received a dose might be advised to wait “a few months” before getting the retooled booster, according to Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator.
Those at high risk for severe disease who were recently boosted with the original Covid vaccine will still be protected for “some period of time,” but should get the omicron-specific booster within “a couple of months,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Forbes magazine, adding those vulnerable to severe disease who have not gotten a recent shot should get the omicron booster right away.
However, TSCL recommends you check with your doctor if you have any concerns or question about whether you should get the new vaccine.
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Will Medicare Force Surgeons to Stop Providing Services?
It is a fact that seniors in the U.S. are living longer than many of our parents and grandparents. This is the good news. But along with that is the fact that many seniors experience the reality that their joints are wearing out.
To deal with this medical science has developed hip and knee replacement surgeries are very effective and, for the most part, greatly improve the quality of life of seniors who need them.
However, they cost money and Medicare must pay for them. Or more accurately, Medicare must pay the surgeons who perform them, as well as the hospitals and other supporting services and staff. But surgeons are unhappy that this year Medicare is reducing the amount of money it will pay for those types of surgeries.
According to one surgeon in an article in Statnews, “This year, Medicare again reduced surgeon reimbursement while recommending an 8.5% lift for hospitals. Hospitals, though, are prohibited from prescribing or directing care. Only physicians can do that. Therefore, they are best positioned to create value since they orchestrate the entire episode of care. How does rewarding hospitals with more taxpayer dollars and cutting pay for the surgeons who help bring in patients save money?”
Certainly, if health care providers will not accept Medicare, it will put the health of seniors at real risk and it is something we all need to be concerned about and keep an eye on.
As we continue moving toward a new normal in dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.
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.