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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

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