Skip to content

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Democrats Do Drugs (Prices)

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

Despite the turmoil from the ongoing impeachment inquiry, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are proceeding with work on a major prescription drug price bill crafted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, broader health issues continue to be a point of contention among the Democratic presidential candidates.

And courts around the country are dealing setbacks to many of the Trump administration’s health agenda items, including one that would make it harder for immigrants to get green cards if they use public programs.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Getting an ambitious drug pricing package through Congress by the end of the year seems unlikely, not only because of impeachment, but also because the Senate is not on board with Pelosi’s plan.
  • Still, a Congressional Budget Office analysis released this week found the Pelosi bill would save Medicare $345 billion over 10 years, giving Democrats a major talking point. On the other hand, the CBO also suggested the measure could reduce the number of new drugs that come to market by eight to 15 in the coming decade, providing a talking point for opponents.
  • Also of interest, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to consider adding some benefits — including dental, vision and hearing — to traditional Medicare. It’s not clear if this is a response to the campaign season, or the idea that before pursuing “Medicare for All” there are changes to the traditional Medicare program that could be made.
  • Health care again was a hot topic in this week’s Democratic presidential primary debate, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, now viewed as the front-runner, was in the hot seat. Warren again evaded the question of who would pay for her preferred Medicare for All plan and was criticized by candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., both of whom support more incremental changes to the health system.
  • Meanwhile, the courts continue to play a key role in health policy. Federal judges in several states blocked the administration’s “public charge” rule that would make it harder for legal immigrants to obtain green cards if they or their family members use any of a long list of public programs. Federal judges also heard arguments on Medicaid work requirements. Meanwhile, a panel of judges in Ohio blocked a state abortion ban, while a federal judge in Texas blocked an Obama-era rule intended to enforce anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

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

Julie Rovner: KHN’s “We Vape, We Vote’: How Vaping Crackdowns Are Politicizing Vapers, by Rachel Bluth and Lauren Weber

Joanne Kenen: The Los Angeles Times’ “In the rush to harvest body parts, death investigations have been upended,” by Melody Petersen

Tami Luhby: ProPublica’s “It’s Very Unethical”: Audio Shows Hospital Kept Vegetative Patient on Life Support to Boost Survival Rates,” by Caroline Chen

Margot Sanger-Katz: “Tradeoffs,” a podcast hosted by Dan Gorenstein, Sayeh Nikpay and Anupam Jena

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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

Related Topics

Courts Elections Health Care Costs Medicare Multimedia Pharmaceuticals States The Health Law