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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: The Health Care Campaign

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Health care continues to be a top issue for Democratic and Democratic-leaning primary voters, according to recent polls. But the presidential candidates are so busy picking at the details of their opponents’ plans, it’s unclear whether voters are becoming educated or more confused.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is pushing ahead with his health agenda. The latest effort is a series of regulations aimed at making actual prices for hospital and other health care services more available to the public.

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

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Democratic lawmakers’ stark opposition to the GOP’s plans to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act early in Trump’s term helped propel the Democrats to control of the House. Yet as the party’s presidential contenders debate, they are focusing on intraparty divisions, rather than highlighting their differences with Republicans.
  • Among the Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is generally most closely associated with a health care agenda. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has highlighted a wide array of policies she would like to implement if elected president. But her ambitious plan to pass within 100 days a new program that could provide about 130 million Americans with free or nearly free health care demonstrates that health is also a top priority for her.
  • Will the Trump administration’s new regulations mandating that hospitals provide more price information help lower prices? That’s not clear. A similar effort in Denmark with concrete suppliers ended up raising costs. Yet in California, after the state retirement system set a benchmark for what it would pay for some services, certain high-cost hospitals lowered their prices.
  • Hospitals and insurers have vowed to challenge in court the administration’s price information regulation. Many of the other rules put forth on health care have not fared well in the court system, and the legal basis for this rule could face tough questioning.
  • Among those rules facing court challenges is the administration’s effort to let states implement work requirements for some adults who gained Medicaid coverage under the ACA. Despite judges stopping several of those states from moving forward, Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, last week remained optimistic about the policy and open to approving more requests.

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 “The Health Care System Isn’t Ready to Replace Aging Caregivers,” by Dan Goldberg

Margot Sanger-Katz: ProPublica and STAT News’ “Inside Purdue Pharma’s Media Playbook: How It Planted the Opioid ‘Anti-Story,’” by David Armstrong

Caitlin Owens: The Washington Post’s “The Most Remote Emergency Room: Life and Death in Rural America,” by Eli Saslow

Julie Appleby: The Washington Post’s “Majority of Anti-Vaccine Ads on Facebook Were Funded by Two Groups,” by Lena H. Sun

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