What We’re Reading: Pandemic Cuts Life Expectancy; CMS Administrator Nominee Chosen; Funds to Track Virus Variants

February 18, 2021
AJMC Staff

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to sharp declines in US life expectancy; a new CMS administrator nominee is selected; Biden administration announces funds to combat virus variants.

Pandemic Reduced US Life Expectancy

According to a new CDC report, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic led to a 1-year drop in life expectancy in the United States during the first 6 months of 2020. However, the decrease was greater in the non-Hispanic Black US population, which saw a drop of 2.7 years and in the Hispanic population, in which it decreased by 1.9 years. Provisional life expectancy at birth during this time was the lowest since 2006 for the total US population and males, and the lowest since 2007 for females. The life expectancy decrease is the lowest estimate since 2001 for the non-Hispanic Black population. The estimates also mark a worsening in racial/ethnic disparities as the gap in life expectancy at birth between non-Hispanic Black and White populations increased by 46% between 2019 and the first half of 2020.

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Selected to Head CMS

President Biden has selected Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, a Democratic health policy broker, to lead CMS, Politico reports. Brooks-LaSure previously worked under former President Obama and oversaw the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Should she be confirmed, it is expected Brooks-LaSure will play a leading role in the president’s plans to expand the health care law. The nominee currently consults with states at Manatt Health and was previously deputy director at a CMS office overseeing health insurance markets. Brooks-LaSure will oversee coverage for about 150 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA. Brooks-LaSure would also become the first Black woman to hold the position.

Funds Announced to Combat Virus Variants

The Biden administration will invest approximately $200 million to triple the country’s genomic sequencing in an effort to track the spread of new, more contagious variants of COVID-19, according to The Hill. To boost testing nationwide, the administration is also investing $650 million to aid in efforts at K-8 schools and other places like homeless shelters, while an additional $815 million will be aimed at ramping up domestic manufacturing of testing supplies. New funds boosting the sequencing efforts will allow experts to understand how widely variants are spreading and better identify new variants. Biden officials said the increase in funding merely acts as a bridge until congress approves more testing funding as part of the administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.