Bird Flu Lands as the Next Public Health Challenge

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Public health officials are watching with concern since a strain of bird flu spread to dairy cows in at least nine states, and to at least one dairy worker. But in the wake of covid-19, many farmers are loath to let in health authorities for testing.

Meanwhile, another large health company — the Catholic hospital chain Ascension — has been targeted by a cyberattack, leading to serious problems at some facilities.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs Zhang of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Stumbles in the early response to bird flu bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the early days of covid, including the troubles protecting workers who could be exposed to the disease. Notably, the Department of Agriculture benefited from millions in covid relief funds designed to strengthen disease surveillance.
  • Congress is working to extend coverage of telehealth care; the question is, how to pay for it? Lawmakers appear to have settled on a two-year agreement, though more on the extension — including how much it will cost — remains unknown.
  • Speaking of telehealth, a new report shows about 20% of medication abortions are supervised via telehealth care. State-level restrictions are forcing those in need of abortion care to turn to options farther from home.
  • And new reporting on Medicaid illuminates the number of people falling through the cracks of the government health system for low-income and disabled Americans — including how insurance companies benefit from individuals’ confusion over whether they have Medicaid coverage at all.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Atul Grover of the Association of American Medical Colleges about its recent analysis showing that graduating medical students are avoiding training in states with abortion bans and major restrictions.

Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too: 

Julie Rovner: NPR’s “Why Writing by Hand Beats Typing for Thinking and Learning,” by Jonathan Lambert.  

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Time’s “‘I Don’t Have Faith in Doctors Anymore.’ Women Say They Were Pressured Into Long-Term Birth Control,” by Alana Semuels.  

Rachel Cohrs Zhang: Stat’s “After Decades Fighting Big Tobacco, Cliff Douglas Now Leads a Foundation Funded by His Former Adversaries,” by Nicholas Florko.  

Sandhya Raman: The Baltimore Banner’s “People With Severe Mental Illness Are Stuck in Jail. Montgomery County Is the Epicenter of the Problem,” by Ben Conarck.  

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:

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