Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

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On this Friday the 13th, we’re wrapping up another week dominated by the upcoming battle over the next Supreme Court justice and the administration’s scramble to reunite separated families — not to mention new efforts to chip away at the health law.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Here are some of the best stories on all that news and more.

The battle brewing over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh highlights the political complexities of the upcoming midterms. In the Senate, where the battleground favors conservatives, the vote is an albatross around vulnerable red-state Democrats’ necks. But in the lower chamber, the fights are being waged in swing suburban districts around the country, giving Democrats the chance to appeal to independents and moderate Republicans.

The New York Times: Who Might the Court Fight Help in the Midterms? Democrats. and Republicans.

However, Democrats — in what even they say is a classic problem with the party — can’t seem to focus their message. Yes, they’re talking health care (threats to not only abortion but the health law itself). But they’re also focusing on presidential power and unions and LGBTQ rights and … the list goes on.

Politico: Dems Pitch Mixed Messages in Supreme Court Fight

(On that note, my favorite quote of the week comes from Politico’s coverage of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer trying to get his people in line: “I’ll be 71 years old in August, you’re going to whip me? Kiss my you know what,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) when asked if Schumer can influence his vote.)

States are also scrambling to make sure they don’t have any centuries-old laws on the books banning abortions … just in case.

The Associated Press: States Brace for Abortion Fights After Kavanaugh Nomination

Even though the government missed the court-ordered deadline, officials have announced that all “eligible” children under age 5 have been reunited with their families. That still leaves 46 “ineligible” kids, plus thousands of older ones still in custody.

The New York Times: U.S. Says It Has Reunited Half of All Migrants Under 5, With Rest ‘Ineligible’

And somehow Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has become the public face (and punching bag) of this crisis.

Politico: How the New Face of the Migrant Crisis Got Stuck With the Job

The health law absorbed a one-two blow this week. Not only did the administration slash funding for navigators (counselors who help people sign up for coverage), but it also froze a program that provides billions of dollars to insurers to help stabilize the marketplace. The reaction to both was fairly tempered, though. (Which might be a sign that upheaval and uncertainty has become the new norm.)

Politico: Latest Obamacare Shake-Up Could Fuel Rate Hikes

Modern Healthcare: CMS Risk-Adjustment Payment Freeze to Hit High-Cost Insurers Hardest

Pfizer’s agreement to roll back its price hikes earned the company flashy headlines. Looking more closely, the move doesn’t really translate to savings for consumers.

Stat: What Pfizer, Trump, and Consumers Got Out of a Surprising Deal

Be sure to check out this deep dive on the CEO who, while having a knack for turning a profit, is described as tone-deaf to the current outrage on drug prices.

Stat: How Pfizer’s CEO Kept on Raising Prices — Until Trump’s Tweet

If all that wasn’t enough news for you, here’s my miscellaneous file for the week: A startling report finds that drug distributors shipped the equivalent of about 260 opioid pills for every person in Missouri in a six-year period; despite New York’s abundance of world-class hospitals and surgeons, thousands of patients needing transplants are languishing on lists because New Yorkers donate organs at a lower rate than anywhere else in the country; and the administration tried to water down a global resolution on breastfeeding, resorting to trade threats and backing off only when Russia stepped in to introduce the measure.

The Washington Post: Companies Shipped 1.6 Billion Opioids to Missouri From 2012 to 2017, Report Says

The New York Times: New York Has World-Class Hospitals. Why Is It So Bad for People in Need of Transplants?

The New York Times: U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials

And just when we were getting over the romaine lettuce outbreak, we have not one but two more food-related illnesses popping up.

Have a great weekend!