Biden officials push for 2nd COVID-19 booster shot, insurers invest in affordable housing

Yahoo Finance health care reporter Anjalee Khemlani discuss the latest news around COVID vaccines and health equity.

Video Transcript

- The Biden administration is pushing for a second booster shot for all adults as COVID-19 cases are rising. Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joins us now with the latest. Anjalee?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Brad. So we're looking at, of course, that rise of the BA.5 cases right now. And that is what is spurring this discussion among the health experts that advise President Joe Biden to look at rolling out second boosters broadly for Americans. We've been waiting for that action to take place, and the White House COVID-19 response team just met and discussed a lot about this.

The concern really is coming from those over 50 who have had access to these vaccines and these boosters. Only 28% of them over 50 and only 34% over 65 have currently got them. Meanwhile, we're facing this rise in cases. And the threat to those older has been a more severe infection. And so that's where the concern is coming from. We've seen that the reports are showing a slight uptick in hospitalizations, which is what is concerning.

So moving on to what the plan is. The White House just released a plan this morning saying that, quote, "COVID is no longer the disruptive force it once was and most COVID-19 deaths are now preventable because of all the tools we now have available to us, including the treatments that have been made available."

And so looking from that perspective it almost seems, guys, like the White House is-- we've graduated from kids who need to be told what to do. There's no mask mandates necessarily coming back, even though the CDC said if it's high transmission, wear a mask indoors. So it almost seems like we're in a teenage stage. You know, the parents are like, well you, know what the rules are and you should follow them.

- Yeah. But I don't know if people are following them I guess is part of the issue here. Meanwhile, UnitedHealth and other insurance companies are investing in affordable housing on another note entirely.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Entirely.

- So tell us about that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Yeah, so this has been interesting. They've been actually doing it for quite some time-- over a decade and almost two in some instances. And what we're finding is that these large insurers have really been taking advantage of a low income housing tax credits available at the federal level. And that has been used to help invest in these affordable housing projects. UnitedHealth just announcing a new one today in Boston that helped close the deal on three new projects.

Why is this important? Why are insurance essentially acting as banks to help? It's largely because of what we know as social determinants of health, and that's basically a part of health equity. And that's where a lot of focus is right now for these insurers is how to reduce the cost overall to the health care system.

But it's a really interesting avenue that they've chosen. And the reason why they can do this is because a lot of these tax credits that are essentially allotted to states are left on the table when developers locally cannot find the buyers. And so these insurers essentially end up being able to come in and take advantage of that. So it's a really interesting avenue to help with the situation, and we'll just have to see. So far the one thing that really has come to light is that there hasn't really been a scalable solution, but everyone is in on it.

- I'm surprised, especially over the past several years and what we've seen in real estate, that developers couldn't-- that the only ones they could find to want to take advantage of this was big health insurers.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: It is interesting, yeah. Yeah.

- All right, real helpful insight, Anjalee Khemlani. Thanks so much.