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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Dems Debate Health Care

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Health care played a feature role in the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday, with would-be nominees spreading across the spectrum on the question of how quickly to move to universal coverage and what, if any, role should remain for private insurance.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump earlier this week signed an executive order calling for hospital prices to be made more available to the public. But some analysts wonder if publicizing prices could cause them to rise rather than fall.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call and Anna Edney of Bloomberg News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s strong endorsement during the debate for eliminating private health insurance could come back to haunt her with moderate voters. The more nuanced stance of moving more gradually to universal care championed by other candidates, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, seems geared to a general election campaign.
  • President Donald Trump’s order this week for federal agencies to come up with a rule mandating more transparency in health care touches on a pain point for patients: They want to be able to know their costs upfront.
  • It has been an article of faith among conservatives that if consumers had access to transparent pricing in health care, it would help bring down costs because people would migrate to cheaper care options. But some recent studies raise questions about that.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision to take a case brought by insurers who did not get money originally promised them under the Affordable Care Act could lead to some difficult remedies. Several of the insurers have gone out of business and it’s not clear how they or their enrollees would be compensated if they prevail in court.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the health costs bill sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will be a priority to get on the floor for a vote this summer. But the sponsors are still in negotiations with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) about how to resolve “surprise” medical bills.

Also this week, Rovner interviews NPR’s Jon Hamilton, who wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature about expensive monitoring during spine surgery. 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: The Washington Post’s “When Abortion Was Illegal: A 1966 Post Series Revealed How Women Got Them Anyway,” by Elisabeth Stevens

Stephanie Armour: STAT News’“Ghost Networks of Psychiatrists Make Money for Insurance Companies but Hinder Patients’ Access to Care,” by Jack Turban

Rebecca Adams: NPR’s “San Francisco Bans Sales of E-Cigarettes,” by Laura Klivans

Anna Edney: The New York Times’ “Vaccine Injury Claims Are Few and Far Between,” by Pam Belluck and Reed Abelson

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Related Topics

Cost and Quality Courts Elections Health Care Costs Health Industry Insurance Medicare Multimedia Pharmaceuticals Public Health