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Repeal & Replace Watch

Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Whiplash

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week agreed on a bill they say could help stabilize the struggling health insurance exchanges. But despite compromises made by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), it’s still unclear whether Congress can pass the measure, particularly in time for the Affordable Care Act’s 2018 open enrollment season, which begins Nov. 1.

President Donald Trump, who in the past week has taken multiple positions on whether he supports or opposes the bipartisan efforts, is not helping the effort.

In this episode of “What The Health?” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, and Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo discuss these issues, as well as the fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, whose funding authorization expired on Oct. 1.

The Senate compromise would appear to be a win-win: Democrats restore Obamacare markets’ stability and Republicans help bring down premium prices. But politics keep getting in the way.

The panelists agreed that the bipartisan bill faces a perilous path to passage, with Republicans in both the House and Senate loath to vote for something that could be seen as shoring up the health law they promised voters they would repeal. Even if it appears “really, really dead,” proposals often come back to life in health care. Keep an eye on end-of-the-year congressional compromises.

But it also seems that Trump’s cutoff last week of subsidies that reimburse insurers for discounts they provide to lower-income enrollees has had less of an impact than many predicted. In some states, insurance regulators had insurers file two separate sets of rates, including a higher one in case the president stopped the payments. In other states, insurers are letting states file new rates, even though the deadline for that has technically passed.

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA,” by Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein.

Joanne Kenen: The Pacific Standard’s “Doctor and Advocate: One Surgeon’s Global Fight For The Rights Of Rape Survivors,” by Fabiola Ortiz and Megan Clement.

Margot Sanger-Katz:’s “Dark chocolate is now a health food. Here’s how that happened,” by Julia Belluz.

Alice Ollstein: Bloomberg News’ “The Health Plans Trump Backs Have a Long History of Disputes,” by Erik Larson and Zachary Tracer.

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The Health Law