KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Waking up to Baby Formula Deficiency


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The federal government has finally addressed the shortage of infant formula, as a growing number of families find themselves without anything to feed their children. However, it will probably take a few weeks to feel any effects of federal activity, while babies must be fed every day.

Meanwhile, one-third of the nation is facing Covid-19 activity that justifies the expansion of the preventive measures, but public health and elected officials hate to tell the public to go back to something that could be considered inconvenient.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Olstein, CNN’s Tami Luhby, and Stat’s Rachel Kohars.

In this week’s episode Takeway:

  • Thousands of parents across the country are facing a severe shortage of infant formula and are crowding in and trying to find solutions to restore the administration’s supply. Even before formula maker Abbott shut down a major manufacturing plant in Michigan in February, there were distribution problems and shortages in some parts of the country. Production is highly concentrated in a small number of companies.
  • Yet, only in recent weeks has the administration or Congress taken high-profile steps to help families feed their babies. That slow response has provoked strong criticism. But, at least on Capitol Hill, hesitation to respond may reflect a population that is not closely affected by the elderly, the male, the affluent and perhaps the underprivileged.
  • The number of covid cases and hospital admissions is rising and some officials are warning that the public will have to return to masking and testing to stay safe. However, despite assurances from the public health authorities a few months ago, there is no prospect of a return to mandate that the requirements will be reintroduced if the new emergence threatens the country.
  • The Biden administration may announce this month that no deadline has been set, despite widespread suspicions that the public health emergency will end in July. Officials have promised to give states 60 days’ notice before the state of emergency ends to allow them to prepare. Some analysts have suggested that the state of emergency may continue after the midterm elections and will not end until the end of the year.
  • One of the biggest effects of the continuing public health emergency is that states receive additional federal Medicaid funding and cannot exclude any registered person from the health insurance program for low-income people. Enrollment increased during the epidemic, increasing state spending for part of their program. Some conservative states are considering whether it would be better to separate their Medicaid rolls and waive the epidemic relief fund from the federal government.
  • As the country awaits a final abortion decision from the Supreme Court, abortion-rights groups are looking at possible strategies if judges overturn a 49-year term. Rowe vs. Wade The decision that ensures access to abortion across the country. They are looking at states that may have protections in separate constitutions, arguing in court that restricting abortion restricts the religious freedom of certain groups and increases the number of healthcare professionals who can provide primary abortion.

Also, for extra credit, panelists recommend health policy stories of their choice for the week that they think you should read:

Julie Rovner: Fortune and KHN by Michelle Andrews “often frustrated doctors and patients with long-awaited need for pre-insurance approval”

Alice Miranda Olstein: JAMA Health Forum’s “The Costs of Long COVID,” by David Cutler

Rachel Kohrs: ProPublica’s “The Covid Testing Company That Missed 96% of Cases,” by Anjeanette Damon

Tami Luhbi: KHN’s “States Still Can’t Spend Millions of Federal Dollars to Cope With Covid Health Inequality” by Phil Gallewitz, Lauren Weber and Sam Whitehead

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:

By The New York Times’ Katherine Pearson “In the absence of a bad formula, mothers are asked: ‘Why not breastfeed?'”

CNN’s “These families buy about half of the nationwide baby formula. Here’s how the Biden administration is trying to help them, by Tami Luhbi

Politico by Alice Miranda Olstein and Laura Baron-Lopez

Politico by Alice Miranda Olstein and Megan Messerley “expands the Blue States to those who can provide abortions because they are ready to flood patients”

Atlantic’s “Covid Hospital Admissions Number Is Missing,” writes Ed Young


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