Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Pandemic roundup: Insurers billions behind on payments, hurting rural hospitals; Sen. Graham booed for urging shots

Here's a roundup of recent news stories about the pandemic and vaccination efforts:

Major health insurers are billions of dollars behind on reimbursements, particularly hurting rural hospitals and doctors when they can afford it least. Read more here.

Vaccines are linked to preventing more than a quarter of a million coronavirus cases and 39,000 deaths among American seniors, according to a new Department of Health and Human Services report.

Hospitals overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients have had to delay treatments and surgeries for people with other conditions such as cancer or heart disease. Many of those patients say they don't feel optimistic about being able to access treatment in time. Also, the glut of Covid patients means rural hospitals are having a much harder time transferring critical patients to larger hospitals. A Florida woman had to call 169 hospitals to find one to provide the intensive, last-ditch Covid-19 treatment her husband needed to live. Telehealth can help rural intensive care units care for critical patients instead of having to transfer them, though, as one rural Alabama hospital has found.

Sen. Lindsey Graham was booed over the weekend when he encouraged a crowd of Republicans in Summerville, S.C., to get the coronavirus vaccine. Read more here.

An appeals court has ruled that New York health-care workers must temporarily be allowed to claim a religious exemption from the coronavirus vaccine while the three-judge panel considers whether the mandate as a whole is legal. Read more here.

Eastern Kentucky has some of the highest infection rates in the country, but its hospitals—like those in many other rural areas—face a severe employment shortage. So to sweeten the pot for potential workers, insurer Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has launched an endowment-funded scholarship program at two Eastern Kentucky colleges. In return for the scholarship, nursing students must work in rural communities for at least three years after graduation. Read more here.

For employers that mandate vaccines, it can be difficult to judge whether an exemption request is based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs. Read more here.

Few who spread misinformation have faced real consequences (though Alex Jones was found responsible for damages related to his false claims on the Sandy Hook shooting), but an Oregon doctor has had his medical license revoked after he falsely said mask-wearing could trigger carbon dioxide poisoning. The rise of an Ohio attorney who spread misinformation shows how vaccine misinformation can be a lucrative path to right-wing celebrity.

A psychologist offers tips for helping children cope with pandemic anxiety. Read more here.

A Colorado-based health system says it will almost always deny organ transplants to patients who haven't been vaccinated against the coronavirus, because those patients will have suppressed immune systems and will be much more likely to die if they get Covid-19. Read more here.

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