Moving Forward with a Plan for Covid

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Original story posted on: November 18, 2020

President-Elect Joe Biden forms covid10 task force.

President-Elect Joe Biden says getting COVID-19 under control is his administration’s first priority.

This past week, Biden named a COVID-19 task force and a broader COVID transition team. The board’s three co-chairs are Marcella Nunez-Smith, a physician and researcher at Yale; Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general; and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner. 

As of yet, President Trump has not allowed Biden’s COVID task force or his broader COVID transition team to interact with Trump’s own task force or any of the pertinent federal agencies, but the incoming Biden Administration is reportedly reaching out to the commercial healthcare sector, as well as to state governors and other healthcare leaders, to begin sharing data and policy discussions. 

In the past week, Biden’s team has also come out with a COVID-19 plan that unsurprisingly outlines a top-down approach. The plan includes:

  • Calling on every governor and local authority to make masks mandatory;
  • Using the Defense Production Act to increase production of personal protective equipment (PPE); and
  • Creating national standards for the opening and closing of schools and businesses. Spokespeople for the Biden team have described this as a turning a dial dependent on local factors, in contrast to turning a switch on and off.

One thing that both Biden’s and Trump’s COVID teams seem to agree on is that a nationwide lockdown should be avoided. According to Murthy, lockdowns should be approached with a scalpel and not an ax. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Trump’s team, echoed this same sentiment on Sunday.

Biden’s COVID plan also provides for access to regular testing at no cost. Currently, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act does require that cost-sharing be waived for COVID tests, but only for medically necessary testing and not for repeated or regular testing. His plan also calls for the mobilization of 100,000 Americans to perform contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.

One issue that the Biden Administration may not have to worry about is the Supreme Court overturning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Just to review, a few years ago, with Trump’s tax law, Congress zeroed out the individual mandate – that’s the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. The question before the Supreme Court now is whether Congress making the penalty zero dollars for not having healthcare means that Congress really intended that the whole Affordable Care Act should be thrown out. From initial arguments and questions from the Supreme Court last Tuesday, however, it appears that at least two of the conservative judges – Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh – do not seem to agree that just because Congress ostensibly threw out one part of the Affordable Care Act, the rest of the law should go too.

We haven’t heard the end of this, but in the least, a Biden administration won’t have to worry about the Affordable Care Act until late spring or early summer, when a decision on the case is expected.

Programming Note: Matthew Albright is a permanent panelist on Monitor Mondays. Listen to his legislative update sponsored by Zelis, Mondays at 10 a.m. EST.

Matthew Albright

Matthew Albright is the chief legislative affairs officer at Zelis Healthcare. Previously, Albright was senior manager at CAQH CORE, and earlier, he was the acting deputy director of the Office of E-Health and Services for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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