Coronavirus outbreak making 2021 health care costs more uncertain than usual

The coronavirus pandemic, which has suppressed health care inflation amid a tumble in elective procedures, is making the cost outlook for the coming year more difficult to predict than usual, according to PwC.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, health insurers reaped significant savings as patients put off elective surgeries that are more lucrative for doctors and hospitals. The shift has resulted in a significant number of premium savings, even as the insurers continue to cover coronavirus tests, inpatient visits and telehealth sessions that have replaced in-person primary care.

While those savings are also being seen in employer-sponsored plans, ongoing coronavirus uncertainty — especially with the resurgence in cases around the country — are likely to impact how risk actuaries calculate costs as premium rate-setting gets under way for 2021.

“You’re going to have a testing question, you’re going to have a vaccine question, you’re going to have a question around

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Contact tracing poses new challenge in coronavirus outbreak

With coronavirus hospitalizations largely on the decline nationally, a majority of states are eyeing the potential to enter a contact tracing phase once the numbers are low enough to realistically allow it.

Dr. Howard Forman, professor of radiology, economics, public health, and management at Yale University, told Yahoo Finance that contact tracing is a very effective tool. However, it’s only useful “at the very beginning and at the end of an outbreak,” he said. When the country is still largely in a massive outbreak — with a death toll surpassing a 100,000 — it’s impossible to do.

However, many states are planning now for tracing in the near future. And with more than 38 million newly unemployed individuals over the past nine weeks, there is a readily available workforce, experts say, to build a contact tracing army throughout the country.

Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee

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How the coronavirus outbreak may help keep its federal tax bill low

Amazon (AMZN) has been one of the main beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic, with consumers flocking to its platform as lockdowns keep them indoors, and away from brick-and-mortar outlets.

The online retail giant, which recorded a big jump in first quarter revenues in the first quarter, is one of the few companies flush enough to hire during the COVID-19 crisis that’s cost the U.S. economy millions of jobs.

In 2019, the company successfully whittled its effective rate to 1.2% on $13 billion in profits, something that stirred lots of controversy, and a year earlier, it was actually owed a refund on $11 billion in profits. While the numbers prove its savviness for capitalizing on advantages under the U.S. Tax Code, newly available deductions under the CARES Act make tax savings even more accessible.

And with the windfalls, tax experts believe Amazon appears positioned to reduce its federal tax liability to

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Fauci warns on reopening risks, says outbreak ‘not under control’

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that the U.S. was still lagging in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, as he reiterated a dire warning that the fall could bring a new wave of infections that have brought the global economy to standstill.

Fauci spoke during a Senate hearing Tuesday, and was one of several White House coronavirus task force members to be questioned by senators about the U.S. response to the outbreak. CDC director Robert Redfield, FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn and HHS’s Adm. Brett Giroir were also virtually present.

The widely respected physician told senators that the U.S. needs to be prepared should the COVID-19 crisis resurface later this year, even as infections show signs of leveling off nationally. He also tempered expectations that efforts to develop a vaccine would bear immediate fruit.

“We do not have

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United Airlines faces ‘headwinds’ that go beyond the coronavirus outbreak: Argus

United Airlines Holdings (UAL) was downgraded on Monday to a Hold rating from Buy by Argus Research based on a “deteriorating outlook” for the airline amid the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.

“United Airlines faces multiple headwinds in 2020,” Argus analyst John Staszak wrote. “Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, flight demand had weakened due to the U.S.-China trade war and slower economic growth in China.”

Air travel volume collapsed amid social distancing practices aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. But even as the economy slowly reopens, Staszak believes the industry is “unlikely to recover while the virus remains a threat.”

Staszak noted that the airline also continues to face pressure from the grounding of Boeing’s (BA) 737 MAX jets along. Furthermore, pilot compensation costs continues to rise.

Argus lowered its United Airlines 2020 earnings per share estimate to $11.10 from $13.25.

Shares of United Airlines were down

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