What We’re Reading: Vaccine Requirement for Foreign Visitors; ACA Subsidies From Stimulus Funds; Federal Review of Aduhelm Approval

The Biden administration looks into requiring foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; subsidies generated from the American Rescue Plan led to savings on premiums for coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA); a federal review is under way on the controversial approval of the Alzheimer drug aducanumab (Aduhelm).

US Plans to Require Foreign Visitors to Be Vaccinated

The Biden administration is working on a plan to require almost all foreign visitors coming to the United States to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The plan is part of the administration’s efforts to lift travel restrictions that have stopped visitors from around the world from entering the United States, according to Reuters. Reopening travel is expected to substantially help the airline and travel industries, but the administration is not ready to immediately lift current restrictions, mainly because of the rising case numbers around the United States as a result of the mass spreading of the COVID-19 delta variant. The news of a new travel plan comes as the global case number for COVID-19 surpasses 200 million, as reported by The New York Times.

COVID-19 Stimulus Funds Lead to ACA Savings

A $34 billion boost in subsidies from government stimulus funds generated from the American Rescue Plan led to a 40% reduction in monthly premiums for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A report from Bloomberg said that more than 1.5 million people have enrolled in health plans through the ACA since the Biden administration’s special enrollment window opened on February 15. An additional 2.5 million people who already had health coverage utilized expanded assistance from the American Rescue Plan. Premiums for customers in 36 states fell from an average of $104 per month to $62 a month. Expanded premium assistance is scheduled to expire after 2022, but there are Congressional efforts to extend it.

Federal Watchdog to Investigate Controversial Alzheimer Drug Approval

According to STAT News, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) said that it will investigate the accelerated approval pathway that the FDA used to greenlight the Alzheimer disease drug aducanumab (Aduhelm), which has caused significant controversy over whether the drug is truly effective at treating patients. The approval has been under intense scrutiny because of the indirect route that the manufacturer, Biogen, took to convince the FDA to approve the drug and the ways that the FDA seemingly helped the company navigate alternate routes to approval. In addition to investigating the approval process, the HHS OIG will look into interactions between the FDA and outside parties, and the review is expected to be completed in 2023. The investigation comes as the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review published a Final Evidence Report that determined that there is an insufficient amount of evidence to demonstrate that aducanumab is effective at slowing cognitive decline.