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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Rocky Road Ahead In Congress For Insurance Market Bills

Congress is barreling toward a March 23 deadline to finish work on a bill to fund much of the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. That bill is also supposed to include separate legislation aimed at stabilizing premiums for individuals who buy their own health insurance. But the legislation is being slowed by a number of policy disputes, including ones related to abortion.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has told Idaho that it cannot authorize insurance plans that specifically violate the Affordable Care Act. And a new study shows — again — that while people in the U.S. use about the same amount of health services as people in other wealthy countries, Americans pay far higher prices for those services.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts on stabilizing the individual insurance market, may have the upper hand for the long term. Some Democrats think that recent special elections show that voters care more about preserving the benefits of the health law than undermining it.
  • Republicans, too, could gain with a stabilization bill because studies suggest the efforts could help lower premiums, which would be especially pronounced among people who earn too much to get federal subsidies to help pay their premiums.
  • With Congress having failed to defund Planned Parenthood in legislation last year, HHS seems to be trying to rework the federal family planning program to minimize the group’s participation. But, so far, the administration has not gone as far as it could have.
  • The saga in Idaho is continuing — at least, that’s what Idaho officials suggest. Despite a letter from federal officials saying the state must obey the Affordable Care Act, Idaho officials say the matter is not yet settled because the changes they are suggesting for the insurance market are better than what the Trump administration is promoting.

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

Julie Rovner: Journal of the American Medical Association’s “Health Care Spending in the United States and Other High-Income Countries,” by Irene Papanicolas, Liana R. Woskie and Ashish K. Jha.

Joanne Kenen: The New York Times’ “Museums Fight the Isolation and Pain of Dementia,” by Farah Nayeri.

Alice Ollstein: Kaiser Health News’ “Medicaid Is Rural America’s Financial Midwife,” by Shefali Luthra.

Paige Winfield Cunningham: CNN’s “The More Opioids Doctors Prescribe, The More Money They Make,” by Aaron Kessler, Elizabeth Cohen and Katherine Grise.

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Related Topics

Health Care Costs Multimedia The Health Law