Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

As Covid-19 Rates Fall, Experts Urge Caution

Falling Covid-19 rates have some experts hopeful the winter surge has ended. Whether due to seasonal virus patterns, increased vaccination rates, more testing, or better following of restrictions aimed at reducing the virus’s spread, coronavirus infections have reached a new low across the United States in the past week.

Experts and government officials are quick to remind the population not to grow complacent. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that these gains could be erased with the slightest slip-up. “At any time, it could reverse and you can easily see the numbers of cases and deaths begin to increase again.”

While vaccine deliveries were delayed over the past week because of severe winter storms, Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC that the nation should be caught up on their vaccination goals by midweek.

Democratic Senators Present a Public Option Health Care Plan 

Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Tim Kaine of Virginia have proposed a health care plan with a public, government-run option that would become available on the ACA exchanges, aiming to drive down costs by competing with private insurance plans. The plan is similar to one endorsed by President Biden during the presidential election, and differs from the single-payer plan preferred by Senator Bernie Sanders and some other Democrats.

The proposal includes a four-year roll-out of the government-run plan, beginning in underserved markets with little diversity on the ACA exchange, then opening up to the entire U.S. by 2025. “I think this plan is one that is going to be very popular with the American people and one these people are going to want to vote for,” Senator Bennet said. Read more at The Hill.

California Assembly Members Introduce Single-Payer Legislation 

Democrats in the California State Assembly have introduced legislation which would create a single-payer health care system to cover all Californians. Called CalCare, the state system would provide benefits such as dental, prescription drugs, long-term care, and other necessities. With this proposed system, California’s legislature joins Massachusetts in leading the charge for state-sponsored healthcare.

KHN reports that Governor Gavin Newsom, who initially supported single-payer healthcare during his run for governor, will be placed in a difficult political situation by the bill. Facing a potential recall election, Newsom has been repeatedly criticized for his handling of the pandemic. Single-payer is popular with California Democrats, but enjoys little support with Republicans.