Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Drug Prices Are Rising Again. Is Someone Going To Do Something About It?

Many drugmakers have announced price increases with the start of the new year. The new Congress wants to do something about that. And even though both Republicans and Democrats want to address the politically potent issue of drug prices, it is unclear what they might be able to agree on.

Battle lines are forming between the House and Senate on the matter of abortion. The House is led by abortion-rights supporters and, since the election, the Senate has become slightly more against abortion.

And even though the majority of the Department of Health and Human Services remains unaffected by the partial government shutdown, the lapse of funding for other agencies is having spillover effects on health programs.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Alice Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The biggest conflict among Republicans and Democrats on the drug issue centers on the GOP’s reluctance to give the government a role in directly negotiating prices. Adding to the pressure is the clear indication that the issue will be front and center in the 2020 campaign.
  • Some states, such as California, are looking to find ways to bring down drug costs on their own. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has proposed that the state have direct negotiations with drugmakers. Such efforts could mean cutting off consumers’ access to some drugs, if manufacturers don’t agree to a price the state likes, and that is a painful choice for officials and patients.
  • When House committee assignments were released this week, women were appointed to lead many of the key panels that have a hand in health policy, including the chairman and top Republican on the Appropriations Committee and two Energy and Commerce subcommittees.
  • The House Democratic Caucus now has more liberal members and fewer conservatives, so the party’s efforts to roll back restrictions on abortion are likely to be more robust. That could also trigger some big battles with Republicans through the legislative session.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is putting a bill on the Senate floor that would make permanent the Hyde Amendment — which bars federal funding of abortions in nearly all circumstances. But it seems unlikely that bill could be passed by the Senate, where it needs 60 votes, and even some Republicans are believed to oppose it.

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

Julie Rovner: Bloomberg News’ “This JPMorgan Health Conference Is So Packed Attendees Are Meeting in the Bathroom,” by Kristen V Brown

Joanne Kenen: The New York Times’ “The Strange Marketplace for Diabetes Test Strips,” by Ted Alcorn

Margot Sanger-Katz: Kaiser Health News’ “Patients Turn To GoFundMe When Money And Hope Run Out,” by Mark Zdechlik

Alice Ollstein: The Washington Post’s “Federal Officials Launch Audit of D.C. Government’s Opioid Grant Spending,” by Peter Jamison

Kaiser Health News

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Next 3 Surprising Comedies: ‘What Men Want,’ ‘Isn’t It Romantic,’ ‘Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral’

Next 3 Surprising Comedies: 'What Men Want,' 'Isn't It Romantic,' 'Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral'

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart star in The Upside (above), which opened in theaters everywhere over the weekend. In the comedy, Cranston plays a disabled man who is wealthy, yet unhappy. Hart portrays a poor man on parole who desperately needs a job, yet displays a great sense of humor. The two wind up together and soon embrace the idea that they each have something to offer the other. Nicole Kidman also stars.

The idea of two unlikely, mismatched people being forced together has often…

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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Doctors, Guns And Lame Ducks

Election Day was Nov. 6, but results remain undetermined in some races at the state and federal levels. Nonetheless, it is already clear that the election could have major implications for health policy in 2019.

The current Congress is back in Washington for a lame-duck session, and while the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services is set for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, other health bills, including ones addressing AIDS and bioterrorism, are on the to-do list.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call, Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner and Alice Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • With the political divide between a Republican Senate and a Democratic House, getting legislation passed in the next Congress may prove hard. But bipartisan support could arise for bills to protect consumers from surprise medical bills and, perhaps, to control some drug prices.
  • The House will likely spend much of its time exercising oversight responsibilities, including possible probes of the Trump administration’s policies on separating immigrant children from their parents, changes in health law rules for contraception coverage, changes in Medicaid and the administration’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in a key court case.
  • Among the issues on state ballots this month was a constitutional amendment in Alabama that makes it state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.” Although abortion opponents hail such “personhood” measures, they have been defeated in other states because they could impinge on infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization. It’s not clear whether the Alabama measure will be challenged in court because of that.
  • On the ballot in Oregon and Washington were industry-backed measures that would stop localities from instituting soda taxes. The effort failed in Oregon and passed in Washington.
  • During Congress’ current lame-duck session, members will be looking to pass an appropriations bill for parts of the government. Although HHS already got its appropriations bill, other health measures — such as the renewal of the PEPFAR global HIV initiative, grants for states on bioterrorism and pandemic planning, and changes to Medicare’s doughnut hole funding — could be added.
  • A tweet by the National Rifle Association urging doctors to keep out of the gun control debate and “stay in their lane” has provoked a furor from doctors, who say they must deal with the ramifications of a flawed policy.

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

Julie Rovner: The New York Times’ “When Hospitals Merge to Save Money, Patients Often Pay More,” by Reed Abelson

Rebecca Adams: The New York Times’ “Something Happened to U.S. Drug Costs in the 1990s,” by Austin Frakt

Kimberly Leonard: Harper’s Magazine’s “Discovery, Interrupted: How World War I Delayed a Treatment For Diabetes and Derailed One Man’s Chance at Immortality,” by Jeffrey Friedman

Alice Ollstein: The Incidental Economist‘s “The Trump Administration Targets the Contraception Mandate,” by Nicholas Bagley

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Kaiser Health News

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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Split Decision On Health Care

Voters on Election Day gave control of the U.S. House to the Democrats but kept the U.S. Senate Republican. That will mean Republicans will no longer be able to pursue partisan changes to the Affordable Care Act or Medicare. But it also may mean that not much else will get done that does not have broad bipartisan support.

Then the day after the election, the Trump administration issued rules aimed at pleasing its anti-abortion backers. One would make it easier for employers to exclude birth control as a benefit in their insurance plans. The other would require health plans on the ACA exchanges that offer abortion as a covered service to bill consumers separately for that coverage.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Joanne Kenen of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Trump administration’s new contraception coverage rule comes after an earlier, stricter regulation was blocked by federal courts.
  • The insurance bills that the Trump administration is now requiring marketplace plans to send to customers for abortion coverage will be for such a small amount of money that they could become a nuisance and may persuade insurers to give up on the benefit.
  • House Democrats, when they take control in January, say they want to move legislation that will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But fiscal experts say that may not have a big impact on costs unless federal officials are willing to limit the number of drugs that Medicare covers.
  • It appears that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are interested in doing something to protect consumers from surprise medical bills. The issue, however, may fall to the back of the line given all the more pressing issues that Congress will face.
  • One of the big winners Tuesday was Medicaid. Three states approved expanding their programs, and in several other states new governors are interested in advancing legislation that would expand Medicaid.

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

Julie Rovner: Kaiser Health News’ “Hello? It’s I, Robot, And Have I Got An Insurance Plan For You!” by Barbara Feder Ostrov

Margot Sanger-Katz: Stat News’ “Life Span Has Little to Do With Genes, Analysis of Large Ancestry Database Shows,” by Sharon Begley

Joanne Kenen: The Washington Post’s “How Science Fared in the Midterm Elections,” by Ben Guarino and Sarah Kaplan

Rebecca Adams: The New Yorker’s “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers,” by Atul Gawande

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Kaiser Health News

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Hugh Jackman: ‘What happens in America affects the world’

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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Open Enrollment And A Midterm Preview

Nov. 1 marks the start of Open Enrollment for people buying their own coverage for 2019 in most states. Despite the turmoil surrounding the Affordable Care Act, most consumers will have more choices and mostly flat — and in some cases lower — premiums.

What will happen to the health law going forward, however, will depend largely on what happens in the midterm elections Tuesday. Important health decisions will result not just from which party controls the U.S. House and Senate, but who wins governorships and comes to control state legislatures as well.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Joanne Kenen of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • With changes in the ACA marketplace for 2019, it will be very important for consumers to look at the variety of options. Those earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (just under $ 24,300 for an individual) are likely well served by silver plans on the federal health law’s exchanges. But the choices for benefits and prices are much more complicated for people earning more than that.
  • People who don’t get insurance through work or the government and earn too much to qualify for premium subsidies under the health law might be tempted to try the new, less-expensive short-term plans being touted by the Trump administration. But they should be cautious and consider two major downsides: The plans likely won’t cover preexisting conditions, and the benefits will be skimpier than those of ACA plans. For example, many short-term plans are expected not to cover mental health and maternity services or prescription drugs.
  • Federal officials announced Wednesday that Wisconsin could implement work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees. They also said, however, that the state could not begin drug testing for the enrollees.
  • If Democrats take control of the House or Senate, it’s possible that they could work with President Donald Trump on some specific issues, especially efforts to bring down drug prices or consumer protections against surprise medical bills.
  • Perhaps the biggest change that could come from the election results is an increase in the number of states that expand Medicaid under a provision of the ACA. Seventeen states have not taken that step, but several deep-red states in the West have the question on their ballots, and the outcomes from governors’ races in other states could also lead to expansion.

Rovner also interviews Barbara Feder Ostrov, who wrote the latest “Bill of the Month” feature for Kaiser Health News and NPR. It’s about a California college professor whose skin rash led to a $ 48,000 bill for allergy skin testing. You can read the story here.

If you have a medical bill you would like NPR and KHN to investigate, you can submit it here.

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post and Kaiser Health News’ “For The Disabled, A Doctor’s Visit Can Be Literally An Obstacle Course — And The Laws Can’t Help,” by Rachel Bluth.

Anna Edney: Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Your DNA Is Out There. Do You Want Law Enforcement Using It?” by Drake Bennett and Kristen V Brown.

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Federalist’s “How An Obscure Regulatory Change Could Transform American Health Insurance,” by Christopher Jacobs.

Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic’s “The Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Language Of Dieting,” by Amanda Mull.

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Kaiser Health News

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‘Making a Murderer: Part 2’ Creators Tell All: ‘What Happens When Injustice Is Exposed?’

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Upon its premiere in late 2015, Netflix’s Making a Murderer became an instant phenomenon (and sparked a true-crime documentary renaissance) by bringing to national attention the plight of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, residents Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who in 2005—shortly after Avery was released from prison after serving 18 years for a rape he didn’t commit—were charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Filmed over the course of 10 years, during which time Avery and Dassey were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ series was an exhaustive examination of injustice, laying bare the devious motivations and tactics (including planting evidence and eliciting a false Dassey confession) used by state and law enforcement officials to put the men behind bars. Depressing and enraging in equal measure, it was an expert non-fiction exposé, as compulsively addictive as anything released during our modern binge-watching era.

Fans of Making a Murderer are thus thrilled by its return for an all-new 10-episode run—except, of course, that like its predecessor, the series continues to paint a portrait of the legal system that’s destined to infuriate. Charting Avery and Dassey’s attempts to exonerate themselves with the aid of new lawyers (famed attorney Kathleen Zellner for Avery; Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth co-founders Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin for Dassey), Ricciardi and Demos’ follow-up affords a detailed look at the myriad obstacles of the post-conviction process, the amazing possibilities afforded by forensic science, and the dogged obstinacy of the state of Wisconsin, which continues to uphold Avery and Dassey’s convictions even in the face of contradictory evidence. Multifaceted, eye-opening and heartbreaking, it’s yet another must-see effort from the directors.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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