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New Year, New Beginnings and a New Administration

Hot Topics | January 15th, 2021

As we look ahead to Inauguration Day, we are hopeful for new beginnings and an affirmation of all that makes our nation’s democracy good. With the shift in power around the corner, policymakers and media alike have been busy at work. Here are this week’s top headlines:

Biden watch 2021

  • Biden’s team has tapped Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, to serve as acting FDA Commissioner while they determine who will be nominated to succeed Dr. Stephen Hahn. (Endpoints News)
    • Read More: While Policy News was on vacation, several more Biden appointees were announced in various healthcare roles:
      • Marcella Nunez-Smith will serve as a top adviser and the chair of a new task force focused on addressing health disparities related to COVID-19. (STAT)
      • Bechara Choucair (a Kaiser Permanente executive), Carole Johnson (commissioner of New Jersey’s human services department) and Tim Manning (former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will join Biden’s COVID-19 response team. (POLITICO)

Operation speed-it-up

  • Following a slower-than-expected rollout of COVID-19 vaccines under Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday it would release all available doses of COVID-19 vaccines and recommend states begin vaccinating all adults over age 65. (The HillRoll Call) Meanwhile, President Elect Biden is reported to be frustrated with his team in charge of planning his administration’s response to COVID-19. Some of Biden’s advisors are worried the administration may not be able to fulfill its promise to administer 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 100 days. (POLITICOSTAT)
    • Read More: Axios’s Caitlin Owens explains how Biden’s administration could pick up the pace.

It’s a big one

  • On Thursday, President Elect Biden presented his $1.9 trillion emergency relief package to the American public. Titled the “American Rescue Plan,” the package includes:
    • $400 billion to fight COVID-19 (e.g. increasing vaccines, testing, safely reopening schools)
    • $1 trillion in direct relief to families (e.g. stimulus payments, unemployment benefits)
    • $440 billion in aid to communities and business

Biden defended the size of the package saying, “I know what I just described will not come cheaply…But failure to do so will cost us dearly.” (The Washington Post)

While we were out – a roundup of the stories you may have missed while you were taking that vacation

  • On December 28, 2020, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Trump administration’s “Most Favored Nation” policy for drug reimbursement from taking effect. This policy would have tied the price of drugs offered under Medicare Part B to lower prices in other developed countries.
  • On January 1, 2021, a new rule from the Trump administration took effect requiring hospitals to publicly post prices for every service, drug and supply they offer. Hospitals are required to post not only the list prices found on chargemasters, but also the discounted prices they have negotiated with insurers. (Kaiser Health News, via Roll Call)
  • Axios’ Caitlin Owens outlined why Operation Warp Speed’s vaccine rollout is behind schedule (Axios) and how poor planning could increase racial and ethnic disparities in America (Axios).
  • On January 4, ex-POLITICO reporters Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan launched their new media venture Punchbowl. The outlet plans to “focus on the several dozen people who have power in Washington, and exercise it, how they exercise it and why.”

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