Welcome to the latest edition of Investigative Roundup, highlighting some of the best investigative reporting on healthcare each week.
Trump’s Antigen Testing Fail
Eschewing evidence, the White House has favored antigen testing for COVID-19 over the more reliable PCR tests, Kaiser Health News reported, citing one potential reason for the disease outbreak there.
Antigen tests do not need to be processed in traditional labs and yield results more quickly, making them more favorable to the Trump administration. But BinaxNOW, the new antigen test now used in the White House, has not been independently verified for accuracy and reliability. BinaxNOW received an FDA emergency use authorization in August.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently inked a $760-million contract with Abbott, which makes BinaxNOW, to distribute 150 million tests to places including historically black colleges and universities, state governors (to help them potentially reopen schools), and nursing homes. The Big Ten football conference also decided to play this fall — after originally punting on the season — in part because of the availability of the more rapid antigen tests, “following Trump’s political pressure,” KHN reported.
The White House does not report antigen test results to the Washington, D.C., health department — “a potential violation of federal law under the CARES Act, which says any institution performing tests to diagnose COVID-19 must report all results to local or state public health departments,” the article stated.
Why the COVID Stimulus Was a ‘Waste’
Much of the $4 trillion handed out by the federal government during the pandemic went to large companies that didn’t need the help, rather than struggling medical practices, public health departments, and other healthcare entities, according to a Washington Post analysis.
“The legislation bestowed billions in benefits on companies and wealthy individuals largely unscathed by the pandemic, leaving some local public health efforts struggling for money to conduct testing and other prevention efforts,” according to the analysis, which was based on data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
More than half of the aid ($2.3 trillion) went to businesses that weren’t required to show that they were hurt by the pandemic, or that they kept workers on the job, the Post reported.
Only $25 billion was earmarked for coronavirus testing via the most recent relief bill on April 24. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer and bipartisan groups of experts have called for $100 billion or more for testing.
Many public companies received CARES Act tax breaks, including Tenet Healthcare, as did companies unaffected by the pandemic. Medical equipment maker Owens & Minor, for example, plans to claim $13 million in tax breaks while personal protective equipment demand has sent its stock price soaring.
The healthcare and social services sector received 12.9% of the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program loans while accounting for 10% of job losses. Construction and manufacturing, by comparison, received 12.4% and 10.3%, while accounting for just 4.7% and 6.4% of job losses, respectively.
By following traditional methods of propping up businesses instead of addressing