Washington state’s public options insurance plan is slow to get out of the box

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When Congress failed to add a government-sponsored insurance plan to those sold in insurance marketplaces, Washington State opted to offer its own. But the initiative has been hampered by the reluctance of hospitals to participate.

KHN: Other states are watching closely for snags in Washington’s pioneering public option plan

With prospects for the United States adopting a single-payer “Medicare for All” program dim, proponents of health care reform have instead turned to a government-designed insurance plan that could compete with private insurance plans sold on health care exchanges. The idea behind this “public option” is that it could ultimately expand access to health care by making a lower-cost plan available to consumers. … Washington state, in its second year of offering the nation’s first public health insurance plan, has learned an important lesson: If you want hospitals to participate, you’ll probably have to force them. (Hawryluk, 02/23)

More protests against covid restrictions are coming –

The Hill: Pentagon approves National Guard deployment request ahead of DC truck convoy

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved the deployment of hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops to Washington, DC, ahead of a truck convoy protest against pandemic restrictions expected to coincide with the first state address of President Biden’s Union. The Department of Defense (DOD) said Austin had approved a request that had been made by the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and US Capitol Police (USCP) for assistance from members of the National Guard. (Choi, 02/22)

AP: National Guard will help DC control truck convoy traffic

The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to the nation’s capital as it prepares for convoys of truckers planning protests against pandemic restrictions starting next week. … It remains to be seen whether any of the American convoys would actively seek to close the streets of Washington, as their Canadian counterparts did in Ottawa. Some convoy organizers have spoken of plans to briefly cross the city and then focus on closing the ring road, which encircles the capital. (Khalil and Baldor, 2/22)

Los Angeles Times: Truckers rally in California as popular convoy heads to DC

A group of truckers similar to those whose provocative lockdowns closed border crossings into the United States and Canada for weeks are bringing their protests over COVID-19 mandates to California. Organizers hope to have 1,000 tractor-trailer drivers in their ranks by Wednesday, when a group calling itself the People’s Convoy leaves Adelanto to begin a planned 11-day trek to Washington, D.C. The convoy is expected to arrive in early March , which could disrupt traffic near the Capitol around the March 1 State of the Union address. (Winton, 2/22)

Also –

Stat: FDA asks Congress for more power to regulate certain diagnostic tests

The Food and Drug Administration is asking Congress for more power to regulate prenatal tests that help identify genetic problems during pregnancy. The agency’s request came in response to a letter from nearly 100 Republican lawmakers who investigated how the FDA regulated such tests after a New York Times investigation found that the five most common prenatal tests frequently provided inaccurate results. In a new letter to lawmakers obtained by STAT, the FDA admits it has only limited powers to regulate these products — so limited that for the most part, it doesn’t review them at all. The agency continues to urge Congress to pass legislation giving the agency greater oversight powers in the area. (Florko, 02/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Push to loosen marijuana laws faces roadblocks

Facing a tough midterm election and splits in Congress, the Biden administration is avoiding the politically sensitive issue of relaxing marijuana laws, even though the idea has won support from most Americans. More than half of US states have legalized the use of cannabis for some purpose. Lawmakers have proposed decriminalizing marijuana, which would result in reduced penalties for users, and pushed to give the industry access to banking services. Those promoting the changes include a wide range of political figures, from former Republican House Speaker John Boehner to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., NY). (Leary, 02/22)

Meanwhile, global health groups are seeking more funding –

Reuters: Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria seeks $18 billion to reverse COVID disruptions

At least $18 billion is needed to get the fight against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS back on track after disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global health fund said on Wednesday. The goal for 2024-2026 is $4 billion more than the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria raised in its previous fundraising session in 2019. The $18 billion aims to reverse setbacks in its global efforts to test, prevent and treat diseases caused by the pandemic, the Geneva-based aid body said. (Maddipatla, 02/22)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.

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