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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Is ‘Medicare For All’ Losing Steam?

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A second House committee this week held a hearing on proposals for a single-payer health system, such as “Medicare for All,” featuring experts from the Congressional Budget Office. But it appears the enthusiasm for a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s health system is waning, as even some Democratic supporters clarify that they are in favor of more incremental changes.

Meanwhile, there’s a new push on Capitol Hill to raise the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. And some of that effort is coming from senators from tobacco states.

Also this week, still more lawsuits are being filed challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to address reproductive health issues, including one suit from an anti-abortion family planning group.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Republicans are eager for House Democrats to hold hearings on the Medicare for All proposal — or other single-payer options — because it offers them an opportunity to rail against a government takeover of health care.
  • The legislation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to increase the age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 follows similar actions in about a dozen states, including Texas, Arkansas and Virginia.
  • Efforts to spare consumers from surprise medical bills — those that come when a patient gets services from a hospital or doctor outside their insurance network — appear to have enough momentum on Capitol Hill that a bill may be able to get through despite the frosty relationship between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • Democratic-controlled states are using lawsuits to slow down the Trump administration’s plans to allow medical providers more flexibility to opt not to perform services they find morally wrong.  This has the potential to be a flashpoint with every change of administration, similar to the way Democratic and Republican White Houses often switch each other’s policies on funding for overseas groups that offer abortion counseling.

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

Julie Rovner: KHN and California Healthline’s “Heat And Violence Post Twin Threats For Asylum-Seekers Waiting At Border,” by Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Joanne Kenen: The New Yorker’s “The Troubled History of Psychiatry,” by Jerome Groopman

Kimberly Leonard:’s “The Children of Central City,” by Jonathan Bullington and Richard A. Webster

Stephanie Armour: Bloomberg News’ “Heart-Drug Suppliers for Millions Faulted Over Data, Bugs, Dirt,” by Anna Edney

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[Correction: The description of this podcast was corrected at 8:30 p.m. ET on May 23 to remove a reference suggesting that the House “Medicare for All” bill had not yet had a hearing. The Rules Committee had a hearing on the bill in April.]

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