National News Content

Many Trump Voters Oppose Vaccine Passports, New Poll Shows

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:02am
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: How can health experts take politics out of coronavirus vaccines? That question has become urgent as some of the same right-leaning voters who recoiled at masks push back on vaccines. Brian Castrucci says the problem is how some officials talk. He's especially concerned about talk of a vaccine passport as a requirement to fly or get into big events. BRIAN CASTRUCCI: The term vaccine passport pushes every button on the political right - the idea of being forced to take the vaccine, issues of freedom and issues of government overreach. INSKEEP: Castrucci is an epidemiologist and the president of the Beaumont Foundation (ph). He teamed up with a Republican pollster and found that 47% of Trump voters reject that idea. CASTRUCCI: I think it's the word. The problem was the mention of a vaccine passport without much detail from the administration. It allowed for a discussion of potential federal government mandates that could

Corporate Leaders Meet To Discuss Restrictive Voting Measures

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:02am
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: More than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders joined a call over the weekend. They discussed their objections to state voter restrictions across this country. Republican lawmakers already passed new restrictions in Georgia, and a bunch of other states may follow. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a professor in management at Yale and helped to organize the call. He's on the line. Good morning, sir. JEFFERY SONNENFELD: Good morning. How are you? INSKEEP: OK, thank you very much. Welcome to the program. Who were some of these companies? SONNENFELD: Well, it's the biggest planets on the Earth. Many of their names have appeared in the media. I shouldn't be naming them but some of the ones I've seen in the press (laughter) not to confirm... INSKEEP: Well, I guess we can mention - some of them have already publicly expressed objections - companies like Delta of Georgia. And it was reported that Starbucks, Merck, the AMC Theater chain.

Can America's 'Civil Religion' Still Unite The Country?

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am
America, unlike some countries, is not defined by a common ancestry, nor is it tied to an official faith tradition. But it does have a distinct identity and a quasi-religious foundation. Americans are expected to hold their hands over their hearts when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance or stand for the national anthem. Young people are taught to regard the country's founders almost as saints. The "self-evident" truths listed in the Declaration of Independence and the key provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights have acquired the status of scripture in the U.S. consciousness. More than 50 years ago, sociologist Robert Bellah argued that such facts of American life suggest that the country adheres to a nonsectarian "civil religion," which he defined as "a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity." For these beliefs and principles to give definition to a nation, scholars argue, they may need the

MLB's Move Out Of Georgia Is The Latest In A Line Of Political Boycotts

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am
When Major League Baseball decided to move its All-Star Game out of Georgia because of the state's new restrictive voting law , it became the latest in a line of political boycotts. Lots of corporations through the years have been boycotted, but until somewhat recently it had been fairly rare for corporations to be the ones to speak out. After the Georgia law's passage, though, that's exactly what's happening. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, for example, condemned the law as "unacceptable." Home Depot, Georgia's largest company, has tried to steer clear of the controversy. Its co-founder, Ken Langone, was an early — and major — financial backer of Donald Trump, though after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, he said he felt "betrayed" by the former president. And while companies based in Georgia spoke up after the measure became law, some corporations based in Texas are getting ahead of proposed voting bills there. On Friday, another business leader, Levi Strauss CEO Chip

COMIC: How Your State Wins Or Loses Political Power Through The Census

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am
Editor's note: A version of this comic was originally published in December 2020. Edited by Acacia Squires and Nicole Werbeck , with copy-editing by Preeti Aroon Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rochester family has a mission: 'We're trying to spread kindness'

WXXI US News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am
A couple of years ago, when Tim Hickey had temporary custody of his three young grandsons, they talked about problems facing the world and how individual people can make a difference. He remembers one particular night in the living room of his Rochester home.

‘Explained by KHN’: Health Insurance Help in Covid Relief Law

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am

The twists and turns of the American health system can sometimes leave people lost, confused and looking for answers. We’ve created a new video series — “Explained by KHN” — in which our correspondents and editors answer common health care and health policy questions. 

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in March includes more money to help Americans pay their health insurance premiums for the next two years. KHN correspondent Emmarie Huetteman explains some of the changes that could help consumers. 

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Categories: National News Content

Biden Seeks $400 Billion to Buttress Long-Term Care. A Look at What’s at Stake.

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am

There’s widespread agreement that it’s important to help older adults and people with disabilities remain independent as long as possible. But are we prepared to do what’s necessary, as a nation, to make this possible?

This story also ran on NPR. It can be republished for free.

That’s the challenge President Joe Biden has put forward with his bold proposal to spend $400 billion over eight years on home and community-based services, a major part of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

It’s a “historic and profound” opportunity to build a stronger framework of services surrounding vulnerable people who need considerable ongoing assistance, said Ai-jen Poo, director of Caring Across Generations, a national group advocating for older adults, individuals with disabilities, families and caregivers.

It comes as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes, killing more than 174,000 people and triggering awareness of the need for more long-term care options.

“There’s a much greater understanding now that it is not a good thing to be stuck in long-term care institutions” and that community-based care is an “essential alternative, which the vast majority of people would prefer,” said Ari Ne’eman, senior research associate at Harvard Law School’s Project on Disability.

“The systems we do have are crumbling” due to underfunding and understaffing, and “there has never been a greater opportunity for change than now,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge, at a recent press conference where the president’s proposal was discussed. LeadingAge is a national association of more than 5,000 nonprofit nursing homes, assisted living centers, senior living communities and home care providers.

But prospects for the president’s proposal are uncertain. Republicans decry its cost and argue that much of what the proposed American Jobs Plan contains, including the emphasis on home-based care, doesn’t count as real infrastructure.

“Though this [proposal] is a necessary step to strengthen our long-term care system, politically it will be a challenge,” suggested Joseph Gaugler, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who studies long-term care.

Even advocates acknowledge the proposal doesn’t address the full extent of care needed by the nation’s rapidly growing older population. In particular, middle-income seniors won’t qualify directly for programs that would be expanded. They would, however, benefit from a larger, better paid, better trained workforce of aides that help people in their homes — one of the plan’s objectives.

“This [plan] isn’t everything that’s needed, not by any step of the imagination,” Poo said. “What we really want to get to is universal access to long-term care. But that will be a multistep process.”

Understanding what’s at stake is essential as communities across the country and Congress begin discussing Biden’s proposal.

The services in question. Home and community-based services help people who need significant assistance live at home as opposed to nursing homes or group homes.

Services can include home visits from nurses or occupational therapists; assistance with personal care such as eating or bathing; help from case managers; attendance at adult day centers; help with cooking, cleaning and other chores; transportation; and home repairs and modifications. It can also help pay for durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs or oxygen tanks.

The need. At some point, 70% of older adults will require help with dressing, hygiene, moving around, managing finances, taking medications, cooking, housekeeping and other daily needs, usually for two to four years. As the nation’s aging population expands to 74 million in 2030 (the year all baby boomers will have entered older age), that need will expand exponentially.

Younger adults and children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, blindness or intellectual disabilities can similarly require significant assistance.

The burden on families. Currently, 53 million family members provide most of the care that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities require — without being paid and often at significant financial and emotional cost. According to AARP, family caregivers on average devote about 24 hours a week, to helping loved ones and spend around $7,000 out-of-pocket.

This reflects a sobering reality: Long-term care services are simply too expensive for most individuals and families. According to a survey last year by Genworth, a financial services firm, the hourly cost for a home health aide averages $24. Annually, assisted living centers charge an average $51,600, while a semiprivate room in a nursing home goes for $93,075.

Medicare limitations. Many people assume that Medicare — the nation’s health program for 61 million older adults and people with severe disabilities — will pay for long-term care, including home-based services. But Medicare coverage is extremely limited.

In the community, Medicare covers home health only for older adults and people with severe disabilities who are homebound and need skilled services from nurses and therapists. It does not pay for 24-hour care or homemakers or routinely cover care from personal aides. In 2018, about 3.4 million Medicare members received home health services.

In nursing homes, Medicare pays only for rehabilitation services for a maximum of 100 days. It does not provide support for long-term stays in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Medicaid options. Medicaid — the federal-state health program for 72 million children and adults in low-income households — can be an alternative, but financial eligibility standards are strict and only people with meager incomes and assets qualify.

Medicaid supports two types of long-term care: home and community-based services and those provided in institutions such as nursing homes. But only care in institutions is mandated by the federal government. Home and community-based services are provided at the discretion of the states.

Although all states offer home and community-based services of some kind, there’s enormous variation in the types of services offered, who is served (states can set caps on enrollment) and state spending. Generally, people need to be frail enough to need nursing home care to qualify.

Nationally, 57% of Medicaid’s long-term care budget goes to home and community-based services — $92 billion in the 2018 federal budget year. But half of states still spend twice as much on institutional care as they do on community-based care. And 41 states have waiting lists, totaling nearly 820,000 people, with an average wait of 39 months.

Based on the best information available, between 4 million and 5 million people receive Medicaid-funded home and community-based services — a fraction of those who need care.

Workforce issues. Biden’s proposal doesn’t specify how $400 billion in additional funding would be spent, beyond stating that access to home and community-based care would be expanded and caregivers would receive “a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union.”

Caregivers, including nursing assistants and home health and personal care aides, earn $12 an hour, on average. Most are women of color; about one-third of those working for agencies don’t receive health insurance from their employers.

By the end of this decade, an extra 1 million workers will be needed for home-based care — a number of experts believe will be difficult, if not impossible, to reach given poor pay and working conditions.

“We have a choice to keep these poverty-wage jobs or make them good jobs that allow people to take pride in their work while taking care of their families,” said Poo of Caring Across Generations.

Next steps. Biden’s plan leaves out many details. For example: What portion of funding should go to strengthening the workforce? What portion should be devoted to eliminating waiting lists? What amount should be spent on expanding services?

How will inequities of the current system — for instance, the lack of accessible services in rural counties or for people with dementia — be addressed? “We want to see funding to states tied to addressing those inequities,” said Amber Christ, directing attorney of the health team at Justice in Aging, an advocacy organization.

Meanwhile, supporters of the plan suggest it could be just the opening of a major effort to shore up other parts of the safety net. “There are huge gaps in the system for middle-income families that need to be addressed,” said David Certner, AARP’s legislative counsel.

Reforms that should be considered include tax credits for caregivers, expanding Medicare’s home health benefit and removing the requirement that people receiving Medicare home health be homebound, said Christ of Justice in Aging.

”We should be looking more broadly at potential solutions that reach people who have some resources but not enough to pay for these services as well,” she said.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Readers and Tweeters Give Tips on Treating Diabetes and Long Covid

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am

Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.

Glucose Monitors Can Benefit All Types

I disagree with the negative tone of a recent KHN article about whether continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) helps non-insulin-using people with Type 2 diabetes (Type 2s) (“‘Painless’ Glucose Monitors Pushed Despite Little Evidence They Help Most Diabetes Patients,” March 16).

As a board-certified endocrinologist, I have seen firsthand significant benefits of CGM for people with diabetes, including Type 2s not using insulin. This technology provides useful real-time information about the effects of various foods and activities on glucose levels. CGM also shows how to avoid dangerous hypoglycemia, which can be a side effect of sulfonylurea drugs, frequently prescribed for non-insulin-using Type 2s. Much international research in this population, not mentioned in the article, shows benefits of CGM, including improved A1C levels and decreased hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

While no tool is right for everyone, Type 2s who want to learn about what affects their glucose levels and are willing to use information to change their behavior will often benefit significantly from CGM.

— Dr. David Klonoff, University of California-San Francisco

We talk about #valuebasedcare a lot, but we have to define value. Is it convenience, peace of mind? Or actual better #clinical value per dollar? So often there is a gray area, but too often we take the latest & greatest because it’s just that.https://t.co/vGwBnUMKER

— Dr. Christopher Chen (@DrChrisChen) March 31, 2021

— Dr. Christopher Chen, Miami

Medicare and most other health insurers will be happy to learn about “multiple finger sticks, which cost less than $1 per day …” Not even close to being true!

As a 75-year-old with Type 1 diabetes (for 14 years, the last three using CGM), I would agree with your basic premise but for the convenience. CGM is another step closer to the artificial pancreas that will hopefully save costs and lives.

My CGM system does not alert (sleeping or awake) for low blood sugar. It has also left my A1C unchanged (but it was already acceptably low). The monthly cost of CGM vs. an average of eight finger sticks a day, necessary for my severely reactive Type 1, is comparatively low.

It would be far better for reporters and diabetes patients if diabetes weren’t the endlessly complicated disease that it is.

— Phil Murray, Elk River, Minnesota

13/n In the spirit of sharing all viewpoints, here are counter-arguments to what I've shared above about #CGM in #T2D: https://t.co/XHSbg6zUlK

— Aaron Neinstein, MD (@AaronNeinstein) March 24, 2021

— Dr. Aaron Neinstein, San Francisco

You put something in your story about CGMs that is misleading. While a Dexcom CGM does not test a specific A1C, it does keep records that are shared with your endocrinologist that outline an average A1C, which for me has been off by 0.5 points, higher or lower. I am a Type 1 diabetic; but I can tell you that Type 2 diabetics can benefit from this if they watch and respond to the numbers they’re getting. They can have a clear glimpse into all that causes their glucose to rise and fall: Stress releases a hormone called cortisol that raises glucose, while anxiety burns energy and can drop it rapidly. Even coffee with no cream and sugar raises glucose.

My A1C before my CGM was always in the high 6s. My last one and the one before that? 5.6 and 5.7, which is basically a normal A1C. The CGM isn’t doing this for me … but because of the CGM, I am able to outline what exactly causes my glucose to rise and fall and how to respond to it.

Checking glucose three times a day is not an effective way to manage diabetes at all. It is far more expensive to follow sugars the way that they’ve traditionally been followed. We need to equip diabetics with better tools to monitor where their numbers are going so that they can become empowered to manage this disease effectively.

— Rhonda Ronsman, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Initially, public perception was that children would not be infected with the #coronavirus. As a parent, I wouldn't want to risk #covid complications for my son. I recommend children take similar wellness precautions to reduce their risk for MIS-C. https://t.co/ofCqtitT9c

— MeiLan Han (@meilan_han) March 5, 2021

— Dr. MeiLan Han, Ann Arbor, Michigan

A Short Course on Treating Long Covid

Here’s some advice for those who treat people with lingering problems caused by the coronavirus (“Children’s Hospitals Grapple With Young Covid ‘Long Haulers,’” March 3). Primary care physicians and pediatricians seeing patients with symptoms subsequent to covid-19 infections, generically called “long haul” covid, should attempt to distinguish between those symptoms that are the same as those of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and those that are unique to Long Covid. For those similar to ME/CFS, the health care provider should avail themselves of the symptom management developed for ME/CFS, at least as a first approach. Symptoms lasting beyond six months of the acute infection may satisfy the criteria of ME/CFS and that diagnosis should be considered. Adult and pediatric ME/CFS primers are available both online and in hard copy for both health care provider and patient.

— Dr. Kenneth Friedman, Plantation, Florida

A lot of people rushing to reopen schools are ignoring that children are harmed by Covid too. Many kids are getting #LongCovid. #LongCovidKids"Children’s Hospitals Grapple With Young Covid 'Long Haulers'" https://t.co/MS3IKp3Mzg via @khnews

— Myra wants everyone to #GetVaccinated (@myrabatchelder) March 24, 2021

— Myra Batchelder, Brooklyn, New York

A Revealing Narrative

Thank you for bringing Paloma Marin-Nevarez’s story to us on Reveal (“‘Into the Covid ICU’: A New Doctor Bears Witness to the Isolation, Inequities of Pandemic,” March 1). I was most struck by her insightful response to your question regarding what she thinks about health care workers being regarded as heroes. I am a physician, too, and have never felt comfortable with this hero meme, but couldn’t put my finger on why. The idea that designating someone else a hero excuses the designator from doing something themselves, like wearing a mask or not eating in a restaurant, is spot-on. As Paloma said, “What the f*** are you doing?” It’s the same with our forced hero worship on those in the military. Sure, many in the military do remarkably heroic things in their line of work and risk their health, but so do miners and fishermen and oil rig workers and loggers. But what if we were more willing to sacrifice by not using as much fossil fuel or giving more of our money to international aid? Could that avert some of the necessary sacrifice of those in the military? It’s easier just to say they are heroes and move along with our lives. Thanks for making me think.

— Dr. Gerald Gollin, San Diego

Clinicians in training have had to learn the hard way this year that skilled communication with patients & families is an intervention that requires training and practice – teaching programs should listen to them: https://t.co/pZZ1IA0j0g

— Brynn Bowman, MPA (@BrynnBHealth) March 9, 2021

— Brynn Bowman, New York City

Deciphering Billing Codes

Isn’t part of the issue the Medicare Advantage Plan and their coverage (“Her Doctor’s Office Moved One Floor Up. Her Bill Was 10 Times Higher,” March 26)? I find the code J10140 is for 80 milligrams of Depo-Medrol, which has an N status indicator on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s Addendum B (meaning no separate payment and no copay). The CPT code for the injection is 20610, with a T status indicator, which shows a national copay of $52.25. When I do a lookup on the original Medicare site, it shows an average out-of-pocket payment of $61. So, if the patient was paying for a Medicare Part B plan under Medicare fee-for-service, the out-of-pocket would have been $61, not $354.68. People often think that Medicare Advantage plans are “free,” but the plan’s coverage is very different from original Medicare. The standard monthly premium for enrollees is $148.50, so there is a trade-off, but it should be noted that if the patient had Medicare FFS, the hospital would have received only $61 from the patient.

— Agatha Nolen, Ph.D., FASHP, CRCR (a Healthcare Financial Management Association certified revenue cycle representative), Nashville, Tennessee

This is a completely solvable problem: "But Riley noted it’s difficult to fight powerful hospital lobbyists in a pandemic political climate…"Her Doctor’s Office Moved One Floor Up. Her Bill Was 10 Times Higher. https://t.co/15jVzA5sc5 via @khnews

— Mark Miller (@MarkMiller_DC) March 26, 2021

— Mark Miller, Washington, D.C.

I’m a senior. Even with a Medicare Advantage or supplemental plan with zero premiums, copays are unaffordable. Medical clinics often lie about charges. I ask beforehand every time, and I get everything in writing. Insurance companies give incorrect advice or flat-out lie about coverages, and the surprise can be bankrupting. I have some serious health issues but will not seek medical treatment for any of them. My family and friends are all instructed to never ever take me to a hospital because, if I live through whatever (covid, heart attack, stroke), I would never be able to pay the bill. The medical system in the USA is insanely predatory on the elderly. I no longer wish to be the victim of predators and feel that I am in a better place, even if ill, by simply avoiding it. There is no such thing in this country as honest, affordable health care. People think “Medicare-for-All” is the answer but people are wrong, based on my experience with Medicare, including a scarcity of doctors willing to accept Medicare even with so-called “good” supplemental insurance. I am choosing zero-premium Advantage and, if by some remote chance I end up sick or injured and against my will am taken for treatment to some predatory medical facility, I will choose bankruptcy to eliminate the bill. A friend was recently diagnosed with cancer — she had “good” insurance. She chose to forgo treatment, ended up in hospice, and died — by choice — there was no way she could pay for everything.

— Rox Sitterley, Corvallis, Oregon

Another absurd reason HC costs are so high. I'm not buying the hospital's reasons for facility fees. Her Doctor’s Office Moved One Floor Up. Her Bill Was 10 Times Higher. https://t.co/MIF9UiH4pa via @khnews

— Victor Vaughan (@vicgvaughan) March 27, 2021

— Vic Vaughan, Fairfield, Connecticut

Doesn't MATTER. WHICH Administration is in office…FIX THIS!!New Cost-Cutting Medicare Rule, Same Surgery, Same Place, Different Bill https://t.co/FD3fr38fBg

— Deborah Daly-Case (@DeborahDalyCase) March 24, 2021

— Deborah Daly-Case, Fullerton, California

Cut Through the Surgery Confusion

Besides getting a blood oath of admission, why not provide some guidance as to what one should do to avoid bankruptcy (“Under New Cost-Cutting Medicare Rule, Same Surgery, Same Place, Different Bill,” March 23)?! Going to the local abattoir isn’t exactly a time for one to have presence of mind.

— Jack Shaw, Littleton, Colorado

https://t.co/HFvzwXnvfjA nice goodbye present to all Orthopedic supporters of the last administration

— James Gerald Floyd (@Flobhm) March 28, 2021

— James Gerald Floyd, Orlando, Florida

Vaccine Hesitant? Consult History

This is an open letter to anyone who hesitates or chooses not to immunize themselves or their children. Teach the history of immunization. History — have you ever seen pictures of someone with smallpox? Look on the internet. Millions took the risk to be immunized, now smallpox has been eradicated in the world population. My great aunt and cousin had the opportunity to be immunized against diphtheria and were not — whatever the reason — and they both died of diphtheria, leaving a husband and small children.

Among my experiences as a student nurse was working at the pediatric hospital in Indianapolis in 1960 watching a 10-year-old with tetanus lying on his side with his body and head severely arched, a tube in his throat for breathing. Also at the hospital were large, metal, tube-like machines. Inside each machine was a child with Bulbar polio who could not breathe on their own. Their head stuck out one end of the machine, the rest of their body lay limp inside the tube, and nurses cared for them through “portholes.” They were in “iron lungs.” I also cared for children recovering from polio. I worked nights and would apply warm flannel “Kenny packs” to ease the pain in their arms and legs so they could sleep. These children were amazingly courageous.

When I had children of my own, how incredibly grateful I was that most parents had accepted the risk of an immunization for polio. Because of this, polio is almost eliminated in the United States. It causes me great emotional pain to hear of people refusing to take their part in preventing these and other illnesses.

— Donna Fellinger, Burlington, Vermont

Friends – This angers me! America needs to know about this! DC we are coming and see you in a couple of weeks! This is why @jonstewart & are a teaming up yet again! This is why failure will never be an option! https://t.co/XZULFC7dki

— @JohnFeal2 (@johnfeal2) March 21, 2021

— John Feal, Smithtown, New York

The War Behind Tax Dollars and Politics

Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal’s article “How the US Invested in the War on Terrorism at the Cost of Public Health” (March 29) is balderdash. Criticizing the war on terror for the failure of the public health bureaucracy to protect the nation against covid is shameful and outrageous. And denouncing Donald Trump for it is like blaming Franklin Delano Roosevelt for Pearl Harbor. The progressive politics that inform the worldview of institutional health care have damaged (perhaps destroyed) the independence and reputation of medicine, and that’s something that can’t be quantified nor easily recovered.

— Stephen Power, Vacaville, California

This is the easiest read for what is also a comprehensive look at our grim public health situation. https://t.co/gvB1YI6Vjp via @khnews @RosenthalHealth

— Jordan Reese (@mediajordan) March 31, 2021

— Jordan Reese, Philadelphia

Keeping the Fact Checkers Honest

Your “fact checking” is way too kind to the Trump administration (“Biden’s Criticism of Trump Team’s Vaccine Contracts Is a Stretch,” March 8). Yes, Operation Warp Speed did trigger the enormous expenditure of research dollars that produced three U.S.-backed vaccines in record time. However, the Trump administration devoted no resources to making them available to the American population in an organized fashion, and one could speculate that the entire project was designed primarily to inflate the value of the American Big Pharma companies tasked with developing the vaccines (I’m not disparaging the companies, just the Trump administration’s motives for stoking their financial fires). And, just to show that left-leaning politics can also be gilded with conspiracy theories, I’ll offer another. Early in the fall, many of us watched a “60 Minutes” episode during which we learned that our “glorious military” would be tasked with managing vaccine delivery. That certainly was not apparent once the vaccines became available and most “connected” Americans began obsessing over obtaining their own doses via their computers and mobile devices. When the history of the pandemic is written, I would not be surprised to learn that the Trump administration was mounting a shadow plan to deliver an entirely different type of resource throughout the country — soldiers to impose and enforce martial law once he lost the election he knew he would lose unless he could hijack it.

Anyone without a flat-line cerebral cortex could have seen that vaccinating 300 million-plus Americans in just a few months would be an information technology nightmare, actually made worse by the HIPAA limitations on health information data-sharing, but Trump’s administration “wasted” no time on that project, while replacing top-level administration staffers at the Pentagon with secretive sycophants. One wonders what they were hiding from the Joe Biden transition team in a totally unprecedented rejection of the safety of our democracy between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

— Dr. James Robertson, Hamilton, Montana

The a Trump Admin also should get credit for the pre-purchase of 800 million doses of vaccine before it was even FDA approved. Fact checked. https://t.co/UsieYciYdn

— Matt Deitchle (@MattDeitchle) March 14, 2021

— Matt Deitchle, Indianapolis

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Categories: National News Content

The Gender Vaccine Gap: More Women Than Men Are Getting Covid Shots

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 5:00am

This story also ran on USA Today. It can be republished for free.

Mary Ann Steiner drove 2½ hours from her home in the St. Louis suburb of University City to the tiny Ozark town of Centerville, Missouri, to get vaccinated against covid-19. After pulling into the drive-thru line in a church parking lot, she noticed that the others waiting for shots had something in common with her.

“Everyone in the very short line was a woman,” said Steiner, 70.

Her observation reflects a national reality: More women than men are getting covid vaccines, even as more men are dying of the disease. KHN examined vaccination dashboards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in early April and found that each of the 38 that listed gender breakdowns showed more women had received shots than men.

Public health experts cited many reasons for the difference, including that women make up three-quarters of the workforce in health care and education, sectors prioritized for initial vaccines. Women’s longer life spans also mean that older people in the first rounds of vaccine eligibility were more likely to be female. But as eligibility expands to all adults, the gap has continued. Experts point to women’s roles as caregivers and their greater likelihood to seek out preventive health care in general as contributing factors.

In Steiner’s case, her daughter spent hours on the phone and computer, scoping out and setting up vaccine appointments for five relatives. “In my family, the women are about a million times more proactive” about getting a covid vaccine, Steiner said. “The females in families are often the ones who are more proactive about the health of the family.”

As of early April, statistics showed the vaccine breakdown between women and men was generally close to 60% and 40% — women made up 58% of those vaccinated in Alabama and 57% in Florida, for example.

States don’t measure vaccinations by gender uniformly, though. Some break down the statistics by total vaccine doses, for example, while others report people who have gotten at least one dose. Some states also have a separate category for nonbinary people or those whose gender is unknown.

A handful of states report gender vaccination statistics over time. That data shows the gap has narrowed but hasn’t disappeared as vaccine eligibility has expanded beyond people in long-term care and health care workers.

In Kentucky, for instance, 64% of residents who had received at least one dose of vaccine by early February were women and 36% were men. As of early April, the stats had shifted to 57% women and 43% men.

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In Rhode Island — one of the states furthest along in rolling out the vaccines, with nearly a quarter of the population fully vaccinated — the gap has narrowed from 30 percentage points (65% women and 35% men) the week of Dec. 13 to 18 points (59% women and 41% men) the week of March 21.

A few states break the numbers down by age as well as gender, revealing that the male-female difference persists across age groups. In South Carolina, for example, the gender breakdown of vaccine recipients as of April 4 was slightly wider for younger people: 61% of vaccinated people ages 25-34 were women compared with 57% female for age 65 and older.

Dr. Elvin Geng, a professor at the medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, said women of all age groups, races and ethnicities generally use health services more than men — which is one reason they live longer.

Arrianna Planey, an assistant professor who specializes in medical geography at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said it’s often women who manage medical appointments for their households so they may be more familiar with navigating health systems.

Decades of research have documented how and why men are less likely to seek care. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health, for example, examined health care use in religious heterosexual men and concluded masculine norms — such as a perception that they are supposed to be tough — were the main reason many men avoided seeking care.

Attitudes about the covid pandemic and the vaccines also affect who gets the shots.

Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, director of public health administration and policy at the University of Minnesota, said women have been more likely to lose jobs during the pandemic, and in many cases bear the brunt of teaching and caring for children at home.

“Women are ready for this to be done even more than men are,” Wurtz said.

Political attitudes, too, play a part in people’s views on coping with the pandemic, experts said. A Gallup poll last year found that among both Democrats and Republicans, women were more likely to say they took precautions to avoid covid, such as always practicing physical distancing and wearing masks indoors when they couldn’t stay 6 feet apart from others.

In a recent national poll by KFF, 29% of Republicans and 5% of Democrats said they definitely would not get the shot.

Paul Niehaus IV of St. Louis, who described himself as an independent libertarian with conservative leanings, said he won’t get a covid vaccine. He said the federal government, along with Big Tech and Big Pharma, are pushing an experimental medicine that is not fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and he doesn’t trust those institutions.

“This is a freedom issue. This is a civil liberties issue,” said Niehaus, a 34-year-old self-employed musician. “My motto is ‘Let people choose.’”

Steiner, who plans to retire at the end of the month from editing a magazine for the Catholic Health Association, said she was eager to be vaccinated. She has an immune disorder that puts her at high risk for severe illness from covid and hasn’t seen some of her grandchildren in a year and a half.

But she said some of the men in her life were willing to wait longer for the shots, and a few nephews haven’t wanted them. She said her brother, 65, received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in early April after her daughter made it easy by arranging it for him.

Steiner, who has now received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, said she doesn’t regret taking the more difficult step of traveling five hours round trip to get her first shot in February. (She was able to find a closer location for her second dose.)

“It’s for my safety, for my kids’ safety, for my neighbors’ safety, for the people who go to my church’s safety,” she said. “I really don’t understand the resistance.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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