Tagged KHN’s ‘What The Health?’

KHN’s ‘What The Health’: Spending Bill Slowdown


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The fiscal year started a month and a half ago, but Congress has still not agreed on an annual spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services – or any of the other annual spending bills that fund the government.

Meanwhile, Congress IS moving on efforts to further restrict tobacco and vaping products, particularly to limit their marketing to underage users. The Trump administration has been vowing to use its own authority to crack down on a youth vaping epidemic, but so far has not acted.

The administration is moving on the drug price front, however, filing a lawsuit against drugmaker Gilead for allegedly infringing a government-owned patent on a drug regimen to prevent HIV.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Rovner also interviews Dan Weissmann, host of the podcast “An Arm and a Leg,” about why health care costs so much and what patients can do about it. KHN is co-producing the podcast’s new season.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Among the partisan arguments holding up the HHS funding bill are disagreements on spending for family planning programs and the amount of an increase for HHS as a whole.
  • A House subcommittee this week approved new regulations that would limit flavors for vaping and other tobacco products. But that comes as the administration appears likely to step back from Trump’s earlier vow to outlaw flavored products.
  • Some lawmakers and administration officials suggest that any legislation to prohibit flavored e-cigarette products should include carve-outs for some groups, including small businesses that cater to vapers and to members of the military.
  • The recent revelation that Google is working with a major health care system to analyze patient records is raising concerns about consumers’ privacy. That and other recent issues surround health care tech may signal that the federal privacy law, HIPAA, needs to be updated.
  • The Trump administration’s suit against Gilead seeking to bring down costs of its HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis drug may signal that the government is ready to take on other companies with high price tags on drugs developed with federal support.

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

Julie Rovner: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “A Philly woman’s broken back and $36,000 bill shows how some health insurance brokers trick consumers into skimpy plans,” by Sarah Gantz.

Rebecca Adams: CQ Roll Call’s “Surprise billing fight highlights hurdles for bolder health care changes,” by Mary Ellen McIntire.

Alice Ollstein: Politico’s “Trump allies received hundreds of thousands of dollars under federal health contract,” by Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn.


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Courts Health Care Costs Health Industry Multimedia Pharmaceuticals Public Health

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Elections Matter


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Big Democratic wins in the 2019 off-year elections could spell big changes for Medicaid and other health policies in Virginia and Kentucky.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new “Medicare For All” plan is getting hammered from all parts of the political spectrum, including most of her opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination.

And in Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp wants permission from the federal government to make major changes to both his state’s Medicaid program and the way people purchase individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Caitlin Owens of Axios and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • In Kentucky, the governor’s race featured incumbent Republican Matt Bevin, an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, versus Attorney General Andy Beshear, a supporter. Under Bevin, Kentucky tried to institute a work requirement for Medicaid recipients (currently blocked by federal courts). Beshear said in his victory speech Tuesday night he would withdraw the plan.
  • The Kentucky race is not quite over, however. The margin of victory for Beshear was so small that Bevin is not yet conceding.
  • Meanwhile, in Virginia, Democrats won both houses of the state legislature — giving them complete control of the state capital. Virginia struggled to pass Medicaid expansion and ultimately was able to do so only by including a work requirement to gain some GOP support. It’s not likely that policy will now take effect.
  • A common thread in these elections is that Medicaid has proven to be a popular political issue. Republicans have embraced a strategy in which opposing Medicaid would garner support but this is proving not the case.
  • In Georgia, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp wants to add his own work requirement as a condition for the state to expand Medicaid. He also wants to reconfigure the individual insurance market to allow people to get federal subsidies to purchase cheaper plans with fewer benefits.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren is still getting heat over her proposal to pay for the Medicare For All plan she has been pushing.
  • It’s clear that Warren’s plan — or any Medicare For All plan — would be an enormous lift both politically and financially and would cause significant dislocation in more than just the health care industry.
  • Also still a question is whether putting out so much detail is good for Warren politically. If she wins the nomination, support for such a dramatic change might alienate more moderate voters. On the other hand, candidates frequently moderate their positions between primary and general elections.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Laura Ungar, who wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about a women who bought a health insurance policy that didn’t cover some services — and then ended up needing those services. 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: Politico’s “Why North Carolina might be the most innovative health care state in America,” by Joanne Kenen

Caitlin Owens: ProPublica’s “How One Employer Stuck a New Mom With a $898,984 Bill for Her Premature Baby,” by Marshall Allen

Joanne Kenen: Politico’s “How the FDA and EPA’s failure to communicate could put patients in danger,” by Sarah Karlin-Smith, Annie Snider and Sarah Owermohle

Kimberly Leonard: Bloomberg Businessweek’s “America’s Largest Health Insurer Is Giving Apartments to Homeless People,” by John Tozzi


To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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

Related Topics

Cost and Quality Elections Health Industry Insurance Medicaid Multimedia States The Health Law