Tagged KHN’s ‘What The Health?’

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Still Seeking A Federal Coronavirus Strategy


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The Trump administration sent its COVID-19 testing strategy plan to Congress, formalizing its policy that most testing responsibilities should remain with individual states. Democrats in Congress complained that the U.S. needs a national strategy, but so far none has emerged.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, noticing that his popularity among seniors has been falling since the pandemic began, unveiled a plan to lower the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries. However, while diabetes is a major problem for seniors in general and for Medicare’s budget, only a small minority takes insulin.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Erin Mershon of STAT News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The difficulties caused by the lack of a unified federal response to the pandemic can be seen by looking at other countries. Communities around the world face some of the same problems U.S. cities and states do, such as high numbers of cases in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, and test shortages. But in other countries, the governments have taken the lead in working through the issues.
  • Recent episodes of crowds gathering as states reopen point to a breakdown in public health messaging. That may be partly attributable to the president’s ambivalence or a result of the recent cutback in press briefings and other direct communication from federal public health officials. But much of it could also be directly related to political divisiveness, which runs rampant.
  • With a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump announced the deal with drugmakers to limit Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $35. That is expected to save those patients on average more than $400 a year. But the announcement is a long way from the promises made by the administration to bring down drug prices for all Americans.
  • Republicans have touted short-term insurance plans as a cheaper alternative to health coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted shortcomings of those plans, including that many don’t cover prescription medications or experimental treatments.
  • The pandemic has also spotlighted the administration’s intent to get more drug manufacturing — which has become concentrated in India and China — to return to the United States. The government recently announced it is starting a project with a Virginia company to add manufacturing capacity stateside.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Phil Galewitz, who reported the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about a patient with a suspected case of COVID-19 who did what he was told by his health plan and got billed, anyway. If you have an outrageous medical bill you would like to share with us, you can do that here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: ProPublica’s “The Feds Gave a Former White House Official $3 Million to Supply Masks to Navajo Hospitals. Some May Not Work,” by Yeganeh Torbati and Derek Willis

Also, The New York Times’ “My Mother Died of the Coronavirus. It’s Time She Be Counted,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal

Joanne Kenen: The New Yorker’s “The Town That Tested Itself,” by Nathan Heller

Anna Edney: The New York Times’ “Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers,” by Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Sarah Kliff

Erin Mershon: The Washington Post’s “Coronavirus May Never Go Away, Even With a Vaccine,” by William Wan and Carolyn Y. Johnson


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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: When It Comes To COVID-19, States Are On Their Own


Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud.


At least so far, states that reopened their economies are not seeing a major spike in cases of COVID-19. But it remains unclear if that is because the coronavirus is not spreading, because the data is lagging or because the data is being manipulated.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he’s taking the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure after he was exposed to a White House valet who tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite the fact that there is no data to suggest the drug works to prevent infection, the president’s endorsement has apparently led to new shortages for patients who take the medication for approved purposes.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • As federal and state officials push to reopen the economy, there have been questions about the coronavirus data they are using. Sometimes they combine the number of diagnostic tests — which show if someone is currently infected with the virus — with the number of antibody tests — which show if a person once had the virus.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been the lead federal agency in other serious disease outbreaks, is relegated to a backup role on the coronavirus. That points to the difference in trust levels between the public and the White House, which has emphasized the reopening of the economy rather than public health.
  • So much attention is focused on the race to get a successful vaccine. But even if researchers are able to produce one, distribution to millions of Americans will be a logistical problem.
  • Public health officials are pushing hard for Americans to wear face coverings in public, but certain groups are resisting. Polling finds that most Americans don’t object to wearing a mask, but it is a significant change in the U.S. culture and also a key change in public health recommendations. That shift has added to the confusion and may have led to some of the resistance.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Kaiser Health News’ and The Guardian’s “Lost on the Frontline,” by the staffs of KHN and The Guardian

Kimberly Leonard: Business Insider’s “How Coronavirus Will Permanently Change Healthcare, According to 26 Top Industry Leaders,” by Lydia Ramsey, Kimberly Leonard and Blake Dodge

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Atlantic’s “Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing,” by Ed Yong

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “Politics Could Dictate Who Gets a Coronavirus Vaccine,” by Sarah Owermohle


To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlaySpotify, or Pocket Casts.

Related Topics

Multimedia Public Health States