What We’re Reading: Anxiety, Depression Rates in Pandemic; Major Insurers Behind on Billions Owed; AstraZeneca Pays in Discrimination Settlement

Anxiety and depression rates increased 13% and 14.8%, respectively, in 2020, before declining in 2021; Anthem Blue Cross and UnitedHealthcare are among major insurers behind on payments; a federal investigation discovered racial and gender-based pay discrimination among sales representatives at AstraZeneca.

Rise and Fall of Anxiety, Depression Rates During COVID-19 Pandemic

The percentage of US adults with symptoms of anxiety and depression increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Using data from the US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, the investigators found that the average anxiety severity score in the United States increased 13% from August to December 2020 and decreased 26.8% between December 2020 and June 2021. In those same time frames, the average depression severity score increased 14.8% and then decreased 24.8%. National and state-level trends were similar, and most states saw a peak in both anxiety and depression scores in December 2020 and January 2021. The report also noted that the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms among adults was positively correlated with the average number of daily COVID-19 cases.

Major Insurance Companies Billions of Dollars Behind on Claims

Many insurance companies are behind on payments owed to hospitals and doctors, including Anthem Blue Cross, which owes billions of dollars, Kaiser Health News reported. Hospital officials from multiple states say insurers are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a distraction to cover new policies, reimbursement rules, technical issues, and mishandled claims. The American Hospital Association added that hospitals are dealing with a spike in retroactive claims denials for emergency department care by UnitedHealthcare. Patients are now worried they may have to pay unresolved claims and hospitals report that their finances are struggling, especially in the midst of COVID-19 surges.

AstraZeneca Set to Pay $560K to Sales Reps Following Investigation

AstraZeneca agreed to pay $560,000 to hundreds of sales representatives following a federal investigation regarding racial and gender-based discrimination, STAT News reported. According to the US Department of Labor, AstraZeneca paid 23 Hispanic female primary care sales representatives a lower base salary than others doing the same job and paid 295 female specialty care representatives less than their male colleagues. The company agreed to provide back pay plus interest, discontinue any discriminatory practices, supply training on determining base salaries, and submit progress reports with compensation data for at least 2 years. This case of discrimination occurred between October 2015 and September 2016, but the Labor Department also investigated AstraZeneca for a similar case in 2011.