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!

President Biden Calls for Legislation to Lower Drug Costs

President Biden is encouraging Democrats to include legislation to lower prescription drug costs in an upcoming bill. The measures he’s asking for include allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and imposing penalties on drugmakers which raise prices faster than inflation. Both would have significant impacts on American drug spending. President Biden says that drug companies would have to sell to all distributors at the Medicare-negotiated price, or face a 95% tax. “The savings for employers and employees would be billions of dollars a year,” he said in White House remarks. Reuters reports that drugmakers raised prices on more than 500 drugs in early 2021, some by as much as 7.4%.  The average inflation rate in 2020 was under 2%.

Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Approved for Immunocompromised

The FDA has issued approval for third doses of the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. The booster approval is for those with severely weakened immune systems, such as patients who have received organ transplants or some cancers. The US joins Germany, France, and Israel with this recommendation. In France, the recommendation is for a third shot four weeks after the second one. U.S. health officials are monitoring immunity levels of the average members of the population with two doses, and so far doctors have not seen a reason to encourage a booster shot for the average American.

Vaccine Mandates Continue to Grow in North America

NPR reports nearly 300,000 more federal health workers are required to receive a Covid-19 vaccination, including 25,000 Health and Human Services employees and more employees and contractors in the VA. Additionally, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will require their 6,000 health workers to be vaccinated. North of the border, Canada has announced all passengers and employees in the air, rail, and cruise ship sectors will be required to receive vaccination. The policy will affect more than a million workers, which is 8% of Canada’s total workforce.

Municipalities continue to add vaccine/test requirements for their dining and entertainment venues. New Orleans is the latest, joining New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles as cities with partial or full vaccine mandates in the works or already launched.