What We’re Reading: Panel Recommends Next Vaccine Recipients; Package Addresses Surprise Medical Billing; Tennessee Virus Cases Surge

An advisory panel recommends who should receive the next doses of a coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine; bipartisan legislation includes measures to curb surprise medical billing; Tennessee faces virus surge.

Adults 75 and Older, Essential Workers to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

A federal advisory panel recommended that individuals 75 years and older, in addition to essential workers like firefighters, teachers, and grocery store workers, should be next in line for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) immunizations, The Associated Press reports. This group includes about 50 million Americans. As of last week, around 556,000 Americans received initial shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, while rollout of Moderna’s vaccine begins today. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended earlier this month that health care workers and nursing home residents be the first to receive vaccines. In the United States, this group amounts to about 24 million people.

Legislation Aims to Stop Surprise Medical Billing

After almost 2 years of negotiations, bipartisan legislation to protect patients from getting “surprise” medical bills was included in a year-end package deal reached Sunday, The Hill reports. The legislation will protect individuals from being billed thousands of dollars in certain situations like visiting the emergency department and being treated by a doctor not covered by the patient’s insurance. The years-long battle was delayed by lobbying from health care industry groups like doctors, hospitals, and insurers. The current measure will determine how much the insurer will pay the doctor through arbitration, differing from earlier versions of the legislation that would set a payment rate based on that area’s median rate.

Tennessee Reports Highest COVID-19 Case Rate Per Capita

Tennessee currently leads the country with the most COVID-19 cases per capita due in part to a post-Thanksgiving spike, The Washington Post reports. Almost 10,000 new cases and roughly 100 deaths are reported per day in the state, while 45,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. As a result, the state’s health commissioner, Lisa Piercy, warned that should residents fail to stem the spread of COVID-19, the state’s hospital system will break. At a news conference, Piercy urged individuals to stay home, wear masks, and avoid large group gatherings. Currently, Tennessee does not have a state-wide mask mandate. In a recent executive order, Governor Bill Lee limited indoor gatherings to 10 people and urged individuals to celebrate the upcoming holidays with only those in their household.