As the year draws to a close, the Activate Health team put together another list of need-to-know industry stories for marketing agencies, healthcare communications professionals, and others working to support healthcare constituents.

In December, the Omicron variant and surging cases in the US kept COVID-19 in the headlines. With a $28.3 billion all-cash deal, Oracle will acquire Cerner in a move to accelerate the modernization of electronic health records. A new poll finds a higher percentage of US adults report difficulty affording healthcare.

COVID-19 News
CDC: Omicron is most dominant coronavirus variant in US
The fast-spreading Omicron variant accounted for 73.2% of all COVID-19 cases in the US for the week ending Dec. 18, prompting New York, Washington and other cities to ramp up COVID-19 restrictions such as indoor mask mandates and vaccine mandates for government workers.

HHS releases $9B in COVID-19 aid — here’s how much providers in each state are getting
$9 billion in relief aid for healthcare providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic was announced by HHS Dec. 14.

FDA expands authorization of two monoclonal antibodies for treatment and post-exposure prevention of COVID-19 to younger pediatric patients
The FDA has expanded the emergency use authorization of COVID-19 combination antibody therapy for children under 12, including newborns, who test positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus and are at greater risk for severe disease.

Biden buys up 500M rapid, at-home COVID tests to distribute for free in 2022
Beginning in January, Americans will be able to visit a website where they can have the tests mailed directly to their homes at no charge. Delivery is set to begin Jan. 2022.

M&A News
Oracle acquires Cerner
Oracle will acquire Cerner for $28.3 billion in equity value in an all-cash deal, the companies announced Dec. 20. Cerner will operate as an industry business unit within Oracle.

CVS inks tech partnership with Microsoft to accelerate its ‘digital-first’ strategy
CVS Health is tapping into Microsoft’s technologies, including cloud computing, to accelerate its “digital-first” strategy. The pharmacy retail company announced a new strategic alliance with the tech giant focused on developing innovative solutions to provide more personalized care to consumers.

Latest Research and Emerging Trends
US health spending rose to over $4 trillion in 2020 amid pandemic response
The report released by the Office of the Actuary at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found U.S. health care spending increased 9.7 percent in 2020 to $4.1 trillion, or $12,530 per person. That growth rate is significantly higher than the roughly 5 percent growth in health spending in recent years and was driven by COVID-19 related spending.

Half of US adults avoided care in the past year due to costs
A higher share of adults reported difficulty affording healthcare among other living expenses including rent, mortgage, gas, utilities and food according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

ObamaCare open enrollment hits record numbers
The CMS said a record 13.6 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage for 2022 through the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment ends Jan. 15, 2022.