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Federal Official Threatens Nevada for Halting Rapid Tests in Nursing Homes

The leader of the nation’s coronavirus testing efforts condemned Nevada’s health department on Friday for ordering nursing homes to discontinue two brands of government-issued rapid coronavirus tests that the state had found to be inaccurate.

“Bottom line, the recommendations in the Nevada letter are unjustified and not scientifically valid,” Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a call with reporters on Friday. The state’s actions, he said, were “unwise, uninformed and unlawful” and could provoke unspecified swift punitive action from the federal government if not reversed.

The rapid tests, which were distributed to nursing homes around the country in August by the federal government, were supposed to address the months of delays and equipment shortages that had stymied laboratory-based tests.

“The important issue is to keep seniors safe,” Admiral Giroir said in an interview on Friday. Antigen tests, he added, were “lifesaving instruments” that had been called “godsends” by some nursing home representatives. About 40 percent of the country’s known Covid-19 deaths came from nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis.

But Nevada officials had discovered a rash of false positives among two types of rapid tests, manufactured by Quidel and Becton, Dickinson and Company, that had been used in the state’s nursing homes. Both tests look for antigens, or bits of coronavirus proteins, and had been advertised as producing no false positives.

Among a sample of 39 positive test results collected from nursing homes across the state, 23 turned out to be false positives, the state reported. (The bulletin did not specify whether negative results from the antigen tests, of which there were thousands, had been confirmed, leaving the number of false negatives unknown.)

“I would consider that to be a significant number of false positives,” said Omai Garner, a clinical microbiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Admiral Giroir contended that such rates of false positives are to be expected, and are “actually an outstanding result.” No test is perfect, he said.

He also said that the federal government expected the state to promptly rescind its unilateral prohibition, which he described as a violation of the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act.

An Aug. 31 guidance from Admiral Giroir’s office stipulated that PREP Act coverage “preempts” states from blocking the use of coronavirus tests that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on people in congregate settings, like nursing facilities.

What Nevada has done is “illegal,” he said. “They cannot supersede the PREP Act.”

The federal government’s formal response to Nevada’s health department, dated Oct. 8 and signed by Admiral Giroir, portrayed the state’s officials as scientifically incompetent and their actions as “improper” under federal law. “Your letter can only be based on a lack of knowledge or bias, and will endanger the lives of our most vulnerable,” Admiral Giroir wrote.

Should the state hold its ground, “there can be penalties from the federal side,” he said in an interview on Friday, but declined to provide details.

The Health 202: Republican-backed ACA lawsuit also threatens Medicaid as enrollment grows during pandemic

But the health-care law’s Medicaid expansion played a bigger role in extending health coverage – and is now enrollment is surging amid the coronavirus pandemic. Coverage for Americans enrolled in this program is also threatened by the lawsuit, a detail getting far less attention on the campaign trail. 

Nearly 4 million more people enrolled in the health insurance program for the low income between February and June. 

Medicaid enrollment grew 6.2 percent over the spring and early summer, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported this week. 

It’s an abrupt reversal of the direction enrollment had previously been moving as it trended downward over the last several years. Yet the surge isn’t terribly surprising, given the nation’s widespread job losses during the first wave of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. More than one in five Americans – about 75 million – now rely on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program for their coverage.

Many states have seen double-digit percentage increases in their Medicaid enrollment during the pandemic. 

In Nebraska, enrollment climbed from fewer than 644,000 in February to about 731,000 through August, my colleague Amy Goldstein reported.

“That 13.5 percent increase places Nevada among at least three states, along with Kentucky and Minnesota, where the cadre of people on Medicaid has spiked that much,” Amy wrote. “But increases are widespread: Caseloads had risen on average 8.4 percent through July in 30 states for which researchers have enrollment information. And in 14 states with enrollment data through August, the average is 10 percent.”

Around 15 million of Medicaid enrollees nationwide are eligible for the program because of the Affordable Care Act, which gave states dollars to expand their programs to earners up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The outcome of the ACA lawsuit could affect their coverage. 

Just days after the election, the court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit challenging the ACA’s constitutionality. The confirmation of conservative nominee Amy Coney Barrett – a process the Senate is embarking upon in 10 days – could increase the court’s chances of knocking down some or all of the 2010 health care law.

Some ACA advocates have noted the much broader impact of tossing out the health care law, beyond those with preexisting conditions.

Charles Gaba, an ACA analyst, has been tweeting out how many people in each state could get kicked off Medicaid expansion:

It’s understandable why Democrats are focusing on the preexisting condition protections over Medicaid expansion.

Preexisting condition protections are especially popular, with 72 percent of Americans saying it’s “very important” they stay in place.

And were the court to toss out any part of the ACA, the preexisting condition protections would be the first to go. It’s harder to imagine the court ruling that the entire law including its Medicaid expansion must fall. 

Still, rarely does presidential nominee Joe Biden speak without mentioning preexisting conditions, and the phrase shows up constantly in Democrats’ campaign ads and speeches.

“We’ll show America which party stands

Shores man threatens to kill his dentist over insurance issue with dentures



a person posing for the camera: Moussa Assi


© Jail mug
Moussa Assi

A Daytona Beach Shores man unhappy insurance would no longer pay for adjustment of his dentures wanted his dentist dead, saying he would step on her with his shoe as she died, police said.

Records show Moussa Assi, 64, was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail on Wednesday on charges of threats or extortion. He was in jail Thursday on $5,000 bail.

Assi threatened to kill dentist Jenna Obeng if she did not pay him double what was paid to her by insurance company Humana, a police report states.

“On Oct. 6, I will end her life. I will step on her with my shoe while she is dying,” Assi said on a voicemail message to the dentist, the report states.

In one call, Assi also said “I hope your entire family dies of coronavirus,” according to a police report.

Obeng contacted police Tuesday, saying Assi called and said he was on his way to Dental USA Family Dentistry at 1540 Cornerstone Blvd. in Daytona, investigators said.

Police said Assi called Obeng up to 10 times a day, accusing her of stealing money from the insurance company and threatening her life and that of her family, a report states.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Daytona police: Shores man threatens to kill his dentist over insurance issue with dentures

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Man threatens to kill his dentist over insurance issue with dentures



a person posing for the camera: Moussa Assi


© Jail mug
Moussa Assi

A Daytona Beach man unhappy insurance would no longer pay for adjustment of his dentures wanted his dentist dead, saying he would step on her with his shoe as she died, police said.

Records show Moussa Assi, 64, was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail on Wednesday on charges of threats or extortion. He was in jail Thursday on $5,000 bail.

Assi threatened to kill dentist Jenna Obeng if she did not pay him double what was paid to her by insurance company Humana, a police report states.

“On Oct. 6, I will end her life. I will step on her with my shoe while she is dying,” Assi said on a voicemail message to the dentist, the report states.

In one call, Assi also said “I hope your entire family dies of coronavirus,” according to a police report.

Obeng contacted police Tuesday, saying Assi called and said he was on his way to Dental USA Family Dentistry at 1540 Cornerstone Blvd. in Daytona, investigators said.

Police said Assi called Obeng up to 10 times a day, accusing her of stealing money from the insurance company and threatening her life and that of her family, a report states.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Daytona police: Man threatens to kill his dentist over insurance issue with dentures

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