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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ What’s Next For The VA?

The Trump administration has withdrawn the nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs after allegations surfaced about inappropriate handling of prescription drugs, issues with alcohol and difficulties working with other White House medical unit staffers. It is unclear whom the White House will turn to next to take over the helm at the VA.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are working on legislation to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, although there are doubts about how effective the proposals might be and whether what is really needed is more money.

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

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is an enormous bureaucracy with hundreds of thousands of employees and the largest health system in the United States. Even before Jackson’s nomination collapsed under accusations related to his behavior, many senators from both parties questioned his lack of managerial experience. But the White House’s muddled handling of the situation may make even those well-qualified for the job reluctant to sign on.
  • On the regulatory front, the comment period for the so-called skinny plan rule closed this week. It’s clear the Trump administration wants to expand the availability of short-term plans, but health insurers and other health industry stakeholders worry that healthy people will flock to cheaper, less comprehensive plans, leaving sicker consumers with ever-more-expensive alternatives.
  • How states are viewing Medicaid expansion also continues to be a hot topic. In Ohio, a state with a Republican governor who embraced this aspect of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion continues to be a target among GOP gubernatorial candidates who want to succeed him. Meanwhile, sitting Gov. John Kasich is seeking a work requirement waiver that goes beyond many others that have been advanced so far. And a legal challenge to Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement, which is expected to land in federal court in June, could shape how other red states decide to proceed.

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

Julie Rovner: Politico, “Should Doctors Check Your Electric Bill?” by Brett Norman

Sarah Kliff: Politico, “Maine Governor Defies Ballot Initiative Expanding Medicaid,” by Rachana Pradhan

Alice Ollstein: Politico, “Trump Challenges Native Americans’ Historical Standing,” by Dan Diamond

Anna Edney: NPR, “How Medicare’s Conflicting Hospitalization Rules Cost Me Thousands Of Dollars,” by Alison Kodjak

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Related Topics

Health Industry Insurance Medicaid Multimedia States The Health Law