Waking up with a shortage of infant formula

The federal government has finally addressed the shortage of infant formula, as a growing number of families find themselves without anything to feed their babies. But it will likely take weeks for the effects of the federal action to be felt, while the children need to be fed daily.

Meanwhile, a third of the nation is experiencing covid-19 activity that warrants expanding preventative measures, but public health and elected officials seem reluctant to ask the public to go back to anything that might be deemed inconvenient.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein, CNN’s Tami Luhby, and Stat’s Rachel Cohrs.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Thousands of parents across the country are reeling as they face a critical shortage of infant formula and the administration is trying to find workarounds to restore supplies. Even before formula maker Abbott shut down a key manufacturing plant in Michigan in February, distribution problems and shortages had been raging in parts of the country. Production is highly concentrated in a small number of companies.
  • However, only in the last few weeks have the administration or Congress taken high-profile steps to help families feed their children. That slow response brought scathing criticism. But, at least on Capitol Hill, the hesitation to react may reflect an older demographic that is male, affluent, and likely not closely affected by shortages.
  • Covid cases and hospitalizations are on the rise and some officials warn the public must return to masking and testing to stay safe. However, a return to mandates does not seem likely despite assurances from public health authorities months ago that if new spikes threatened the country, the requirements would be reinstated.
  • Despite widespread suspicions that the Biden administration may announce this month that the public health emergency will end in July, no end date has been given. Officials have pledged to provide 60 days notice before ending the emergency to allow states to prepare. Some analysts suggest the emergency could continue after the midterm elections and not end until the end of the year.
  • One of the major impacts of an ongoing public health emergency is that states receive additional federal Medicaid funds and cannot exclude anyone from the low-income health insurance program. Enrollment has soared during the pandemic, driving state costs higher for their share of the program. Some conservative states are considering whether they should reduce their Medicaid rolls and drop those pandemic relief funds from the federal government.
  • As the country awaits a final decision on abortion from the Supreme Court, abortion rights groups are examining possible strategies if judges overturn the 49-year sentence Roe versus Wade decision that guaranteed access to abortion throughout the country. They are looking into states that may have protections in their individual constitutions, using court arguments that restricting abortion affects the religious freedoms of some groups, and increasing the number of health care workers who can provide early abortions.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: Fortune and KHN “Frequently long waits for pre-approval of insurance frustrate doctors and patients in need of treatment,” by Michelle Andrews

Alice Miranda Ollstein: JAMA Health Forum’s “The Costs of Long COVID,” by David Cutler

Rachel Cohrs: “ProPublica’s COVID Testing Firm That Missed 96% of Cases,” by Anjeanette Damon

Tami Luhby: “States Have Yet to Spend Hundreds of Millions of KHN Federal Dollars to Address Covid-Related Health Inequalities,” by Phil Galewitz, Lauren Weber, and Sam Whitehead

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:

“Amid a Worsening Formula Shortage, Mothers Are Being Asked, ‘Why Not Breastfeed?'” by Catherine Pearson of The New York Times

“These families buy about half of CNN’s nationwide infant formula. Here’s how the Biden administration is trying to help them,” by Tami Luhby

“What Abortion Rights Advocates Are Planning If Roe Falls” by Politico, by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Laura Barrón-López

“Blue states expand who can provide abortions as they prepare for surge in patients” by Politico, by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly

“What COVID Hospitalization Numbers Are Missing” by The Atlantic, by Ed Yong

Kaiser health newsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Waking up with a shortage of infant formula

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