What We’re Reading: Alaska Opens Vaccine Availability; Potential ACA Changes on Horizon; CDC Scrutinized for Its Data Reporting

Alaska removes COVID-19 vaccine eligibility restrictions; Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plan subsidies could increase under new relief bill; HHS is reviewing CDC COVID-19–related race and ethnicity data reporting.

COVID-19 Vaccines Available to Anyone Who Lives, Works in Alaska

Alaska is now allowing anyone who lives or works in the state and is 16 year or older, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, reported The Washington Post. Close to one-fourth of the state’s residents now have gotten at least 1 vaccine dose, but this expanded eligibility for people 16 to 18 years restricts them to receiving only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are only approved for individuals 18 years and older. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was recently shown to be effective against emerging and more contagious COVID-19 variants from Brazil, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

ACA Subsidies Could Increase Under Newest Relief Bill

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill proposed by President Joe Biden, currently under a final review by the House of Representatives, could introduce temporary 2-year subsidy increases for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans, noted The Wall Street Journal. This potential change would mean lowered payments for close to 14 million plan enrollees. Other ACA-related changes included in the bill are no more income cap limits on ACA tax credit eligibility, a new 8.5% household income limit on health care spending, and increased subsidies to lower-income consumers.

HHS Investigating CDC Pandemic Data Reporting

Data accuracy is the focus of an investigation by HHS’ inspector general of the CDC’s breakdown of COVID-19–related race and ethnicity reporting, per Politico. Uneven data collection efforts among states, gaps in state and the federal government’s health agencies’ efforts, and missing race/ethnicity information from patients are being pinpointed as possible reasons for the inconsistent reporting of these data. Public health experts note this information is crucial to have because it can help to highlight where interventions are most needed, especially in communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.