Federal

Federal Help Falters As Nursing Homes Run Short Of Protective Equipment

Around the country, nursing homes trying to protect their residents from the coronavirus eagerly await boxes of masks, eyewear and gowns promised by the federal government. But all too often the packages deliver disappointment — if they arrive at all.

Some contain flimsy surgical masks or cloth face coverings that are explicitly not intended for medical use. Other are missing items or have far less than the full week’s worth of protective equipment the government promised to send. Instead of proper medical gowns, many packages hold large blue plastic ponchos.

“It’s like putting a trash bag on,” said Pamela Black, the administrator of Enterprise Estates Nursing Center in Enterprise, Kansas. “There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”

As nursing homes remain the pandemic’s epicenter, the federal government is failing to ensure they have all the personal protective equipment, or PPE, needed to prevent the spread of the

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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Still Seeking A Federal Coronavirus Strategy

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud.

The Trump administration sent its COVID-19 testing strategy plan to Congress, formalizing its policy that most testing responsibilities should remain with individual states. Democrats in Congress complained that the U.S. needs a national strategy, but so far none has emerged.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, noticing that his popularity among seniors has been falling since the pandemic began, unveiled a plan to lower the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries. However, while diabetes is a major problem for seniors in general and for Medicare’s budget, only a small minority takes insulin.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Erin Mershon of STAT News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The difficulties caused by the lack of a unified federal response to the pandemic can be
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Pandemic Delays Federal Probe Into Medicare Advantage Health Plans

Federal health officials, citing a need to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, have temporarily halted some efforts to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments made to Medicare Advantage health plans.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the decision will allow insurers and the agency to “focus on patient care,” and will last “until after the public health emergency has ended.”

Critics aren’t convinced that’s a wise idea.

“Some loosening of regulations during a crisis is necessary. But is this an abdication of oversight?” asked David Lipschutz, associate director and a senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “This is a serious concern we will have to grapple with at some point.”

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private health insurers under contracts with Medicare. They treat more than 24 million Americans, most of them seniors at a relatively high risk of serious health complications

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