Skip to content

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Let’s Talk Politics

It seems increasingly likely that health care politics will play an important role in the midterm elections come November. But unlike every election since 2010, this year finds the Democrats playing offense and the Republicans back on their heels.

There is one health proposal most Democrats and Republicans agree is a good idea — providing “reinsurance” to help insurers pay for their sickest patients, thus enabling them to lower premiums for everyone. This week, the Trump administration approved reinsurance plans requested by Maine and Wisconsin. But legislation in Congress that would extend those programs nationwide failed to get a vote in either the House or Senate earlier this year — another casualty in the partisan fight over health care.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Congressional Democrats are making preexisting conditions a key debating point, including Senate candidates running in deep-red states, such as Missouri and West Virginia. The guarantee of coverage even when a person has a medical problem is one of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Democrats are playing up the Trump administration’s contention in a lawsuit that since the Congress got rid of the penalty for people who don’t get health coverage, insurers don’t need to cover preexisting conditions.
  • Republicans are seeking to prove that they care about health care too, by pointing to their efforts to cut taxes on health care industries and to expand health savings accounts that allow consumers to set aside money for medical bills in tax-free accounts. But the GOP is in a bind because often if people don’t feel the direct benefits of a policy — such as the industry savings from the tax changes — politicians may not reap much benefit.
  • A growing number of Democrats in the House and Senate are also expressing support for a “Medicare-for-all” health care system. Although some may be more interested in skirting the complex details of such a transition in favor of backing a policy that appeals to Democratic voters.

Rovner also interviews KHN’s Emmarie Huetteman, who wrote the latest Bill of the Month. It features a very expensive surgical bill and a very persistent patient. You can read it here.

If you have a medical bill you’d like NPR and KHN to investigate, you can submit it here.

And if you have a question for the podcast, you can send it to

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’ “Meet the Rebate, the New Villain of High Drug Prices,” by Katie Thomas

Anna Edney: USA Today’s “Hospitals Know How to Protect Mothers. They Just Aren’t Doing It,” by Alison Young

Alice Ollstein: Politico’s “Trump Policy Shop Filters Facts to Fit His Message,” by Dan Diamond

Rebecca Adams: The Atlantic’s “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,” by Olga Khazan

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

Related Topics

Elections Health Care Costs Health Industry Insurance Medicare Multimedia The Health Law