What We’re Reading: Billions Invested in COVID-19 Medicines; Hospitals and COVID-19 Mortality; Medicaid Enrollment Increases

The Biden administration has promised to invest billions in antiviral medicine development; certain hospitals associated with Black patients' COVID-19 mortality rates; increased rates of medicaid enrollment.

Billions to Be Invested in Antiviral Medicines

The Biden administration announced it will invest over $3 billion to accelerate the development of COVID-19 antiviral medicines, thanks to funds provided by the American Rescue Plan. The new Antiviral Program for Pandemics is a collaboration of the NIH, its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The plan also will create platforms for development of antivirals for other viruses that hold pandemic potential. With the goal of creating antiviral medicines taken at home early in the course of infection, the administration hopes to increase availability of breakthrough treatment options for the public in the future.

Hospitals Play Role in COVID-19 Mortality Rates

Findings of a cohort study involving over 44,200 Medicare beneficiaries suggested increased mortality among Black patients hospitalized with COVID-19 was associated with the hospitals at which these patients received care. Researchers looked at data from 1188 US hospitals and found odds of 30-day inpatient mortality or discharge to hospice were 11% higher for Black patients than for White patients. Results were adjusted for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, and revealed the difference was largely eliminated when researchers adjusted for the hospital where care was received. Simulations showed that if Black patients were admitted to the same hospitals as White patients in the same distribution, their rate of mortality or discharge to hospice would decline.

Medicaid Enrollment Has Grown

Medicaid enrollment grew from 71.3 million in February 2020 to 80.5 million in January 2021, according to Kaiser Health News, with growth attributed to the pandemic-caused recession and a requirement to keep beneficiaries enrolled until the national emergency ends. Overall, more than 9 million people enrolled in the program over the past year. In comparison, around 56 million individuals were enrolled in 2013, prior to several states expanding medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The program now covers nearly 1 in 4 Americans and has doubled in size since 2001. In total, Medicaid and Medicare cover 43% of the country’s population.