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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: SCOTUS Punts On ACA Case — For Now

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The Supreme Court has declined to take up immediately a case out of Texas that could overturn the entire Affordable Care Act. But that is not likely to stop the case from becoming a major political issue in the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.

Meanwhile, the American College of Physicians, which represents internists, became one of the first major doctor groups to endorse “Medicare for All” — although the group also endorsed a somewhat less sweeping public option.

And the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, prompted activity on both sides of the contentious issue, including a change in policy from the Trump administration.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico and Caitlin Owens of Axios.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The uncertainty about the ACA’s future is a reminder that Republicans have promised to have a backup plan for consumers if the law is struck down in its entirety, but there is no indication that they have settled on an option. In fact, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently told an interviewer that administration officials are not prioritizing the development of such a plan.
  • The endorsement by the American College of Physicians of a single-payer, Medicare for All plan — or, instead, a public option offered to consumers — points to major demographic changes for doctors: Where once the profession was made up of largely white, older men working in individual practices, today many more primary care physicians are women and people of color and work for practices owned by hospitals or other outside groups.
  • The coronavirus outbreak in China, which has sickened nearly 600 people, is raising fears about whether the United States is prepared for a major contagion. Some of the health industry’s financial incentives don’t necessarily help: They are not geared toward developing vaccines or antibiotics.
  • The ACA’s mandate for health insurance to cover contraceptives is getting another date in the Supreme Court. This time, the justices will determine whether the Trump administration’s new rules give more latitude to employers to cut such coverage if they have moral or religious objections to contraception.
  • In another development in reproductive health news, the administration told Texas on Wednesday — the anniversary of the Roe decision — that it can again get federal funds for its family planning programs, even though it specifically excludes Planned Parenthood facilities because the organization provides abortions at some centers.

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

Julie Rovner: The Atlantic’s “America’s Most Powerful Medical-Debt Collector,” by Jared Bennett and Olga Khazan

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The New York Times’ “In Oval Office Meeting, Trump Expresses Regret of Vaping Policy,” by Maggie Haberman

Margot Sanger-Katz: Tradeoffs Podcast’s “The Price of Innovation,” by Dan Gorenstein

Caitlin Owens: Axios’ “Employers, Not Patients, Have the Most Health Insurance Choices,” by Caitlin Owens

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