White House vetting former FDA Commissioner Dr. Rob Califf to once again lead agency


CNN 14 October, 2021 - 03:52pm

Updated 1:40 PM ET, Thu October 14, 2021

CNN's Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.

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Biden Considering Robert Califf, a Former F.D.A. Commissioner, to Lead Agency Again

The New York Times 14 October, 2021 - 12:58pm

The F.D.A. has been without a permanent chief since President Biden took office.

WASHINGTON — The White House is considering nominating Dr. Robert M. Califf, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, to once again lead the agency, according to five people familiar with the search for a candidate.

The F.D.A. has been without a permanent chief since President Biden took office, leading to frequent criticism from public health experts who have said the agency has lacked clear direction during an intense phase of the pandemic, while it has faced a crush of reviews of coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

The people familiar with the search process said that no final decision had been made. The acting F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, a longtime drug regulator, is nearing the end of the term that acting officials are allowed to serve.

Dr. Califf declined to comment. News of his possible nomination was first reported by The Washington Post.

Dr. Califf, a cardiologist who teaches at the Duke University School of Medicine, served only briefly as F.D.A. commissioner, at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term. He was the agency’s deputy commissioner for medical products and tobacco before leading it from February 2016 to January 2017.

He was confirmed by the Senate as commissioner in February 2016 in a vote of 89 to 4, after some lawmakers opposed his nomination over what they said was the agency’s poor record on prescription painkillers. His nomination faced its fiercest pushback from Democrats.

One senior federal official familiar with the administration’s search said that Dr. Califf was an appealing candidate to the White House because of his prior confirmation as agency commissioner, suggesting that he could make it through the Senate confirmation process again. Several key Democrats have signaled that they would not support Dr. Woodcock, who has been at the F.D.A. since 1986, if she were nominated as the agency’s permanent commissioner.

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who is a key moderate vote, wrote a letter in June to Mr. Biden criticizing Dr. Woodcock’s record at the F.D.A., saying that she had not challenged the agency’s approval of opioid painkillers earlier in her career.

“While industry has benefited from the status quo over the last 35 years of Dr. Woodcock’s tenure at the F.D.A.,” he wrote, “the people, patients and families suffering from the opioid epidemic have not.”

Dr. Woodcock is admired by some leaders within the F.D.A. But her tenure as acting commissioner has at times come under withering criticism. Earlier this year, the agency granted approval of aducanumab, a new medication for Alzheimer’s disease, a controversial decision that was opposed by the agency’s independent advisory panel and many outside scientists. Several members of the panel quit in protest. The F.D.A. itself later called for a federal investigation of the process that led to the approval.

The agency has said that Dr. Woodcock was not involved in the deliberations and left the final ruling to the head of the center responsible for drug applications.

Dr. Woodcock has also faced something of an internal revolt this year in the agency’s vaccines office, one of its key divisions. The two leaders of that office are set to leave the agency this fall; several people who heard about their decision said they were departing partly out of frustration with the Biden administration’s August announcement that it was planning for a broad rollout of booster shots for coronavirus vaccine recipients.

Public health experts criticized the administration for pre-empting the F.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had yet to conduct reviews of the shots. Dr. Woodcock signed the statement announcing the plan, a move that critics said undermined her own regulators.

The Largest Social Security Boost in 40 Years Still Isn’t Enough to Offset Monster Inflation

The Washington Post 14 October, 2021 - 08:32am

While this may be the biggest increase in nearly three decades, advocates for senior citizens say it still isn’t enough to deal with rising costs.

“COLAs are intended to protect the buying power of Social Security benefits but, according to consumer price data through July of 2021, Social Security benefits have lost nearly one-third of their buying power, 32 percent, since 2000, about the length of a typical retirement,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, in a statement. “Even worse, it appears that inflation is not done with us yet, and the buying power of Social Security benefits may continue to erode into 2022.”

TSCL specifies a few areas in particular where risings costs have simply not been offset by COLA in recent years:

Food. The USDA estimates that at-home costs for food will increase between 1.5% and 2.5% in 2022, with food-away-from-home costs going up between 3% and 4%.

Rental housing. TSCL believes that rental housing could go up by 7% or more in 2022 as a response to the expiration of eviction moratoriums that were in place during the pandemic. This is higher than the standard 5% increase that exists in many leases.

Home heating. The cost of heating a home with oil and natural gas could rise between 21% and 25% this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Drug Prices. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services expects that prescription drug plan premiums could increase almost 5% in 2022. The Part D out-of-pocket threshold is going up 7.6% from $6,550 in 2021 to $7,050 in 2022.

With all of these price increases in mind, TSCL has a petition active advocating for a $1,400 stimulus check to all receiving Social Security Payments.

Each year, the Social Security Administration announces cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all recipients of social security retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Currently, the yearly increase is determined using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This figure determines the relative cost of goods and services and is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Earlier this year, a measure was introduced to use the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI–E), which uses the same formulas and prices but weights them for the needs of people over 62. The idea is that the CPI-W underestimates the cost of things like healthcare and housing, which have a big impact on seniors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average American age 65 and older spent $48,872 in 2020. Social Security may only pay for a part of your retirement expenses. Therefore, it is always good to supplement those payments with extra savings. Here are four common ways to help you meet your retirement needs and goals.

Delay Social Security benefits until age 70. Depending on your birth year, full retirement age is between 65 and 67. However, if you choose to delay your retirement until age 70, you could boost your Social Security payments to get 132% of your monthly benefits.

Maximize IRA or 401(k) contributions. One-third of Americans are leaving free money on the table by saving below employee matches. With an employee match of a dollar-for-dollar rate up to 5%, a worker earning $100,000 annually could save $381,386 (with a 4% rate of return on savings) by age 66.

Guarantee another income stream with an annuity. This insurance product pays out the full amount of principal and interest over a specific time. And it can help you delay Social Security payments to maximize your benefits. Like many retirement plans, the money you put into an annuity will also grow tax-deferred until you make a qualified withdrawal (at which time it will be taxed as ordinary income).

Put money into a health savings account. There were 30 million HSA accounts in January 2021, adding up to a total of $82.2 billion invested. While HSAs let you invest money for medical expenses, they also reduce your taxable income and your money grows tax-free.

There will be a 5.9% increase to Social Security benefits in 2022, the biggest jump in nearly 30 years. Still, many think this won’t be enough for older Americans who rely on Social Security payments to keep up with the increasing costs of goods and services, with some expecting higher-than-average inflation. The Senior Citizen’s League notes that things like heating costs, healthcare and housing could be especially troublesome for seniors, and is advocating for a $1,400 stimulus check for all Social Security recipients.

Good planning is the key to a solid retirement foundation. A professional can help a lot. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

If you’re years away from hitting retirement age, it can be tough to imagine what you’re Social Security Payment will be. SmartAsset’s free Social Security calculator can give you an idea of what you’re check will look like using your age and salary information.

The post The Largest Social Security Boost in 40 Years Still Isn’t Enough to Offset Monster Inflation appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Food costs are up again. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index for September, which rose 5.4% from a year ago.

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