A health care bill, minus Covid
On Sunday, after months of painful negotiations, Senate Democrats muscled through a $370 billion climate, tax and health care package.
The measure passed on a party-line vote of 51 to 50, with all Republicans opposed and Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. The House plans to approve the measure on Friday and then send it to President Biden for his signature.
While much of the focus has been on its climate provisions, the bill also contains significant health care items, which come as the country is trying to move on — as best it can — from the virus. Should the package become law, as expected, it would be the largest expansion of federal health policy since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“The health care provisions are a very big deal,” said my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who covers health policy. “It’s making investments in the nation’s health.”
The pandemic added a significant element of risk to the “vote-a-rama” session that the Senate needed to pass the bill, as all 100 senators, many of them octogenarians, gathered for hours to cast votes in a confined indoor space.
“With the way Covid numbers are now, it’s likely one of those individuals could have Covid,” said Kristen Coleman, an assistant research professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. She noted that the event created the perfect conditions for a superspreader event.
But a Covid bill this is not. The legislation does not significantly address the pandemic, its aftereffects or any future outbreaks.
“What would help the pandemic would be if Congress would approve more funding for vaccines and treatments for both Covid and monkeypox,” Sheryl said. “This is not a solution to that.”
The legislation would expand health care access, which could help the country’s ability to respond to health crises in the future. But its narrow passage — and the lack of any substantial Covid measures — also underscores the nation’s political divide.
“That divide has a lot to do with how Democrats and Republicans view the responsibilities of government and its relationship to industry,” Sheryl said.
In a way, the bill is a reflection of where we are as a society, she added. “We are still deeply divided over politics and especially over what the role of government should play in our lives,” she said. “Those divisions stretch back long before the Covid pandemic — they’re fundamental.”
More on the bill:
“I’m feeling good,” he told reporters on Sunday morning.
Biden originally tested positive for the coronavirus on July 21 and experienced a sore throat, runny nose, cough, body aches and fatigue. After five days of isolation and a regimen of the antiviral treatment Paxlovid, he tested negative and returned to the Oval Office, only to test positive again several days later and go back into isolation.
Rebounds with Paxlovid are thought to be rare, but high-profile cases have led some to question whether it might be more common. The F.D.A. is currently investigating reports of viral rebound after Paxlovid treatment. If you experience such a rebound, you can report it to Pfizer’s portal.
President Biden’s weekend beach trip did not last long. Today he arrived in Kentucky to examine flood damage. He is scheduled to hold Rose Garden ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday to sign legislation investing in the domestic semiconductor industry and expanding medical care for veterans exposed to toxic substances.
How are you feeling about back-to-school?
As summer begins to wind down, many families across the U.S. are preparing for a new school year. Some students have already returned to class.
This year, after months of debate over virus restrictions, many school districts across the country have lifted Covid measures, and classrooms in 2022 will look like something approaching normal this year.
So we’re asking parents: How are you feeling about schools this year? How has your outlook changed since the last few pandemic school years? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can send them to us here. We may use your response in an upcoming newsletter.
What else we’re following
Tibet, an autonomous region of China, is imposing new restrictions as virus cases appear, Reuters reports.
What you’re doing
I am not coping, only enduring. My husband of 55 years died in a nursing home from dementia complicated by a pneumonia in April 2020. I’m quite sure it was Covid, because the nursing home reported 20 Covid deaths that month. But test kits were in short supply, and, so far as I know, he was never tested. He was buried with only attending clergy to say the Christian prayers. Even as his spouse, I could not attend his burial. The cemetery offered to send me a copy of the recorded service. I said no. I couldn’t bear to watch it, but couldn’t bear to delete it. I comforted myself that at least he had a respectful burial unlike many others.
— Maureen Matkovich, Montgomery County, Md.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
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Thanks for reading. I’ll be back Wednesday — Jonathan
Brent Lewis compiled photos for this briefing.
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