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Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Let’s Blow It Up

With Congress having given up on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, at least for now, President Donald Trump stepped in to try to make some changes himself.

On Thursday, he signed an executive order aimed at making insurance cheaper for some people, but in ways that could make it more expensive for others.

And late Thursday night, the White House announced it would no longer pay insurance companies money they are owed for providing discounts to policyholders who earn less than 250 percent of the poverty level. Those “cost-sharing reductions” have been the subject of a long-running lawsuit filed by the U.S. House of Representatives against the Obama administration.

In this episode of “What the Health?” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Sarah Kliff of, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News discuss these issues, as well as the recent rules making it easier for employers with religious or moral objections to stop offering birth control as part of their employee health plans.

Among their observations:

  • More than half of people buying insurance through the federal health law’s marketplaces get the cost-sharing subsidies. But they will still get the subsidies — it’s their insurance companies that will feel the pain.
  • Consumers should carefully consider any insurance options that come out of the president’s earlier announcement Thursday to expand the types of policies available. Some of them may not offer the kinds of protection that consumers have come to expect after the passage of the federal health law.
  • And the administration’s effort to offer more exemptions to employers who do not want to offer birth control at no cost to women is unlikely to lead to a lot of companies reinstating copayments, but some may cut back on the number of contraceptive options they cover.

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

Julie Rovner:’s “An old-school pharmacy hand-delivers drugs to Congress, a little-known perk for the powerful,” by Erin Mershon; and’s, “The pharmacist to Congress has something to say about that Alzheimer’s remark,” by Erin Mershon.

Sarah Kliff:’s podcast, “The Impact,” hosted by Sarah Kliff.

Margot Sanger-Katz: “The Constitution Finally Takes Precedence over Obamacare,” by Chris Jacobs.

Julie Appleby:’s “Everything that’s been reported about deaths in Puerto Rico is at odds with the official count,” by Eliza Barclay and Alexia Fernández Campbell; and’s “Not Even Hospitals in Puerto Rico Know How Many People Have Died,” by Alexa Liautaud.

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