with Paulina Firozi
The unceasing political wars over Obamacare took a back seat as the country dealt with a global pandemic.
But the year’s major news events — the novel coronavirus and the recent protests over the police killing of George Floyd — make the 2010 health-care law more relevant than ever. And Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is trying to capitalize on that.
Yesterday, Biden called for expanding the Affordable Care Act — slated for yet another Supreme Court hearing this fall — as a way to address ongoing inequalities black Americans face in accessing affordable health care. And he slammed President Trump for asking the justices to ditch the health-care law that lowered an especially high uninsured rate among African Americans.
“It should be a right, not a privilege. The quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand Obamacare,” Biden said. “We could do it. We should do it.”
The former vice president reiterated his usual calls to further broaden the ACA as he addressed the demonstrations.
The law expanded health coverage to millions more Americans and narrowed — though didn’t eliminate — the uninsured gap between whites and minorities. Eleven percent of African Americans are uninsured, compared with 8 percent of white Americans.
If the Supreme Court overturns the law, as GOP-led states and the Trump administration are asking it to do, it’s been previously estimated that about 20 million people could lose their health coverage. That figure may be even higher now that widespread job losses during the pandemic have boosted enrollment in expanded Medicaid programs and the ACA marketplaces. Black Americans benefit disproportionately from both of these programs.
Biden, who along with other Democrats has slammed Trump for his stance against the law, said his forthcoming “agenda on economic justice and opportunity” will start with health-care policies.
CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe:
Notable that Biden says his plans to address inequities in the country include putting the nation “on a path to universal health-care” by expanding the Affordable Care Act. Reminds listeners that Trump administration is mounting another legal challenge to the law.
— Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) June 2, 2020
The Trump administration has dug into its stance against the ACA amid the year’s upheaval.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department skipped a final chance to reverse its opposition to the law — even as Attorney General William Barr privately argued that opposing Obamacare could cost the GOP politically in an election year.
The decision to side with Republican-led states that are arguing the entire law is unconstitutional has long been a controversial one within the administration. Even as the president and his top health officials insist they will maintain the law’s most popular provisions — most notably its protections for people with preexisting conditions — they’ve not offered a viable plan to do so.
And in 2017, Trump was forced to abandon his goal of repealing and replacing the law, as the GOP-led Congress stumbled badly and ultimately failed in its efforts to do so. Ever since then, Trump has been arguing he made the best of what he calls a bad law. He repeated that line earlier this month.
“We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” he told reporters on May 6, the last day for his administration to change its position in the case before the Supreme Court. “Obamacare, we run it really well. . . . But running it great, it’s still lousy health care.”
Present circumstances are a prime opportunity for Biden to target Trump over his Obamacare opposition.
The ACA didn’t always work the way Congress intended. Even so, its benefits for black Americans are clear.
In the first few years after the law’s main components went into effect, the uninsured rate for nonelderly black people in the United States dropped by more than one-third, from 18.9 percent to 11.7 percent (although the rate has since started ticking upward). Their uninsured rate especially improved in states that expanded Medicaid.
The pandemic also highlighted the law’s insurance expansions, as people worried about being able to afford coronavirus testing and care. Many plans offered in the ACA marketplaces still aren’t considered affordable — a problem Biden has said he wants to solve — but if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, it would leave a vacuum in which people could have even less access to affordable coverage.
Biden is likely to hit those messages repeatedly as he hammers Trump over how he has handled the pandemic and the racial unrest around the country.
“This president — even now, in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment — wants to destroy it,” he said yesterday.
“He doesn’t care how many millions of Americans will be hurt — because he is consumed with his blinding ego when it comes to President Obama.”
Ahh, oof and ouch
AHH: Now evidence shows coverings — including face masks and goggles – are highly effective in curbing spread of the coronavirus.
That’s according to a new review of transmission studies the World Health Organization funded, which was published in the medical journal Lancet.
The review “was based on evidence gathered in a wide array of studies focused on the transmission of coronaviruses that cause covid-19, SARS and MERS,” Siobhán O’Grady reports for The Washington Post’s live blog.
The review also said N95 respirators are more effective than surgical masks. “For health-care workers and administrators, our findings suggest that N95 respirators might be more strongly associated with protection from viral transmission than surgical masks,” according to the review. “Both N95 and surgical masks have a stronger association with protection compared with single-layer masks.”
The studies also underscored the impact of social distancing. People who maintained a distance of three feet, or one meter, from others in both health-care and community environments dramatically decreased the risk of infection. Protection increases with more physical distance from an infected individual.
OOF: WHO officials were frustrated by the lack of coronavirus information coming from China in January.
Recordings of internal meetings by the U.N. health agency suggested that while WHO officials were praising China in public, they were complaining behind the scenes that “China was not sharing enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world, costing valuable time,” the Associated Press reports in this investigation.
According to the report, China “sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information. Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.”
Trump has criticized the WHO, accusing it of plotting with China to hide the extent of the outbreak, and announced the United States will no longer participate in it.
“The recordings suggest that rather than colluding with China, as Trump declared, WHO was itself kept in the dark as China gave it the minimal information required by law,” the AP writes.
“However, the agency did try to portray China in the best light, likely as a means to secure more information. And WHO experts genuinely thought Chinese scientists had done ‘a very good job’ in detecting and decoding the virus, despite the lack of transparency from Chinese officials.”
OUCH: The White House’s coronavirus coordinator warned people shouldn’t rely on the pandemic easing this summer.
“None of us can be lulled into this false sense of security that the cases may go down this summer,” Deborah Birx said in a live-streamed discussion with the German Marshall Fund’s president, as Politico’s Sarah Owermohle reports.
Birx said no country has developed “enough immunity to protect their population if the virus comes back in the fall.”
“She said the pandemic, which has infected more than 6 million people worldwide, has been a ‘wake-up call’ for the developed world on the resources and coordination needed to fight a global disease outbreak,” Sarah adds.
“Our supply chains were not made for that kind of dramatic surge and they weren’t anywhere in the world,” Birx said. “The level of stress on the supply chain to the developed world was equal if not greater to the stress I have experienced in resource-limited settings. The things that we ran out of or came close to running out of — it was shocking to me.”
The moves toward reopening
About 7 in 10 Americans say they would probably or definitely get a coronavirus vaccine.
That’s according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that found 12 percent would probably not get a vaccine if immunizations were free and available to everyone and that 15 percent would definitely not get one, Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement report.
The poll found 2 percent had no opinion. The extent of people’s willingness to get a vaccine varies along party lines, as slightly more than 80 percent of Democrats said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated, compared with slightly fewer than 60 percent of Republicans.
“The Post-ABC poll also shows that Americans’ eagerness to get vaccinated is heavily tied to the depth of their fear of being infected with the potentially lethal virus,” they write. “… The finding that 71 percent of Americans are interested in getting a coronavirus vaccine emerges as President Trump has established a goal for millions of doses to be available by the end of the year — even though such a vaccine does not yet exist. Many scientists have said such an ambitious time frame is unrealistic.”
Yet a subset of Republicans – and a smaller fraction of Democrats — don’t see a vaccine as necessary, Philip Bump reports.
“Asked why they wouldn’t get a coronavirus vaccine, most Republicans who said they probably wouldn’t get one identified a lack of trust in vaccines broadly as their rationale,” he writes. “But 15 percent said that it was because they don’t see the coronavirus vaccine as necessary — 11 percent of whom identified that as their main reason and 4 percent who said it was both unnecessary and that they don’t trust vaccines.”
By comparison, 11 percent of Democrats said they didn’t trust vaccines, and 2 percent called them unnecessary.
Anthony Fauci is “cautiously optimistic” about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines.
One vaccine candidate from biotechnology company Moderna is moving into its second phase of clinical trials, and is expected to move into a third phase next month.
“During a live-streamed interview Tuesday evening, Fauci joined Journal of the American Medical Association editor Howard Bauchner and provided an update on the progress of Moderna, the biotechnology company leading the race to find a vaccine,” Candace Buckner writes for The Post’s live blog. “… At least four other studies, including one from Europe-based AstraZeneca, will start around the end of summer.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared cautious optimism that one candidate would show effectiveness.
“There’s never a guarantee ever that you’re going to get an effective vaccine,” Fauci added. “I’m concerned a little bit more about … the durability of response than I am about whether you’re going to get a protected response.”
Fauci said he hopes there will be 100 million doses of a vaccine candidate by the end of the year and a couple hundred million doses manufactured by the beginning of 2021. The doses are set to be manufactured before it’s known if the vaccine works, so that they can be deployed quickly if it does.
Moving toward a new normal:
- Americans are making their own calculations about how to go about their days amid the pandemic. They’re figuring it out in the absence of national guidance and as federal, state and local authorities offer conflicting advice, Arelis R. Hernández reports.
On the front lines:
- Ai-jen Poo, co-founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, told KK Ottesen the alliance’s members are feeling economic pain “beyond my wildest imagination.” “This workforce, to begin with, it’s very low-wage work. So it’s not like people had a savings to be able to stock up on groceries or even buy a whole bunch of toilet paper,” she said. “And working paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have any paid time off.”
Around the world:
- Mexico City is facing a deluge of coronavirus cases as officials point to the peak of its outbreak. The hospital system is understaffed and lacking supplies, and there is “concern that the country’s death toll is far higher than the official figures,” Mary Beth Sheridan reports.
Good to know:
- Researchers are investigating whether widely prescribed heart drugs can prevent or reduce covid-19 complications, the Wall Street Journal’s Jared S. Hopkins and Betsy McKay report.