Podcasts

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Abortion Pill’s Legal Limbo Continues

A federal appeals court issued a split decision on whether the abortion pill mifepristone should remain on the market — rejecting a lower court’s decision to effectively cancel the drug’s FDA approval in 2000, while ordering the rollback of more recent rules that made the drug easier to obtain. Nothing changes immediately, however, as the Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s ruling in the spring. It will be up to the high court to determine whether the pill remains available in the U.S. and under which conditions. Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Shefali Luthra of The 19th join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too.

Epidemic: Zero Pox!

In the early 1970s, public health workers buoyed by the motto “zero pox!” worked across India to achieve 100% vaccination against smallpox. This episode is about what happened when these zealous young people encountered hesitation.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': On Abortion Rights, Ohio Is the New Kansas

Nearly a year to the day after Kansas voters surprised the nation by defeating an anti-abortion ballot question, Ohio voters defeated a similar, if cagier, effort to limit access in that state. This week, they rejected an effort to raise the threshold for approval of future ballot measures from a simple majority, which would have made it harder to protect abortion access with yet another ballot question come November. Meanwhile, the number of Americans without health insurance has dropped to an all-time low, though few noticed. Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, and Emmarie Huetteman of KFF Health News join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Kate McEvoy, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, about how the “Medicaid unwinding” is going, as millions have their eligibility for coverage rechecked.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Congress Is Out. The Presidential Campaign Is In.

Congress is in recess until after Labor Day, and lawmakers won’t have much time when they return to get the government funded before the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Republican campaign for president has begun in earnest, and while repealing the Affordable Care Act is no longer the top promise, some candidates have lively ideas about what to do with federal health programs. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Lauren Weber of The Washington Post join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Phil Galewitz, who reported the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month,” about how a bill that should never have been sent created headaches for one patient.

Epidemic: Do You Know Dutta?

Who gets credit for wiping smallpox from the planet? American men have been widely recognized while the contributions of South Asian public health workers have been less celebrated. Episode 2 of the “Eradicating Smallpox” podcast tells the story of Mahendra Dutta, an Indian public health leader, whose political savvy helped usher in a transformative approach to finding and containing smallpox cases.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Another Try for Mental Health ‘Parity’

President Joe Biden is kicking off his reelection campaign in part by trying to finish a decades-long effort to establish parity in insurance benefits between mental and physical health. Meanwhile, House Republicans are working to add abortion and other contentious amendments to must-pass spending bills. Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Céline Gounder about her podcast “Epidemic.” The new season focuses on the successful public health effort to eradicate smallpox.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Let’s Talk About the Weather

It’s been the summer of broken weather records around the world — for heat, rain, and wildfire smoke — advertising the risks of climate change in a big way. But, apparently, it’s not enough to break the logjam in Washington over how to address the growing climate crisis. Meanwhile, in Texas, women who were unable to get care for pregnancy complications took their stories to court, and Congress gears up to — maybe — do something about prescription drug prices. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Shefali Luthra of The 19th, and Rachel Cohrs of Stat join Julie Rovner, KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Meena Seshamani, the top administrator for the federal Medicare program.

Epidemic: The Goddess of Smallpox

To defeat smallpox in South Asia, public health workers had to navigate the region’s layered cultural ideas about the virus. They also dreamed big. In Episode 1, host Céline Gounder wonders how the U.S. might tap into similar “moral imagination” to prepare for the next public health crisis.

Timeline: The Final Years of the Campaign to End Smallpox

Many people working in global health thought eradicating smallpox was impossible. They were wrong. Season 2 of the Epidemic podcast, “Eradicating Smallpox,” is a journey to South Asia during the last days of variola major smallpox. Explore the timeline to learn about significant dates in the final push to end the virus.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': The Long Road to Reining In Short-Term Plans 

President Biden made good on a campaign promise this week with a proposal that would limit short-term health insurance plans that boast low premiums but also few benefits. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw affirmative action programs could set back efforts to diversify the nation’s medical workforce. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post, and Rachel Cohrs of Stat News join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Bram Sable-Smith, who reported the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” about how a hospital couldn’t track down a patient, but a debt collector could.

An Arm and a Leg: Wait, What’s a PBM?

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, are companies that negotiate the prices of prescription drugs. Hear about their role in raising drug prices and the ongoing efforts to regulate this complex industry.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': A Year Without Roe

It’s been a year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and, with it, the nationwide right to abortion. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization set off widespread uncertainty in government and the courts about the legality or illegality of the procedure. But the decision has had other consequences too, including affecting where health professionals choose to locate. In this special episode of KFF Health News’ “What the Health?” Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Shefali Luthra of The 19th, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF’s Alina Salganicoff about the organization’s research and other work on women’s health policy over the past year.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Live From Aspen: Three HHS Secretaries on What the Job Is Really Like

What does a day in the life of the nation’s top health official really look like? And how much of their agenda is set by the White House? In this special episode of KFF Health News’ “What the Health?” — taped before a live audience at Aspen Ideas: Health, part of the Aspen Ideas Festival, in Aspen, Colorado — host and chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner leads a rare conversation with the current and two former U.S. secretaries of Health and Human Services. Secretary Xavier Becerra and former secretaries Kathleen Sebelius and Alex Azar talk candidly about what it takes to run a department with more than 80,000 employees and a budget larger than those of many countries.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Slow Your Disenroll

More than a million Americans have lost Medicaid coverage since pandemic protections ended. The Biden administration is asking states to slow disenrollment, but that does not mean states must listen. Meanwhile, a Supreme Court decision gives Medicaid beneficiaries the right to sue over their care, and a new deal preserves coverage of preventive services nationwide as a Texas court case continues. Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ Mary Agnes Carey to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner interviews Dan Mendelson, CEO of Morgan Health, a new unit of JPMorgan Chase, about employers’ role in insurance coverage.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Debt Deal Leaves Health Programs (Mostly) Intact

The bipartisan deal to extend the U.S. government’s borrowing authority includes future cuts to federal health agencies, but they are smaller than many expected and do not touch Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, Merck & Co. becomes the first drugmaker to sue Medicare officials over the federal health insurance program’s new authority to negotiate drug prices. Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, and Jessie Hellmann of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, Julie Rovner, to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble, who reported the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature, about the perils of visiting the U.S. with European health insurance.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Our 300th Episode!

When KFF Health News’ “What the Health?” podcast launched in 2017, Republicans in Washington were engaged in an (ultimately unsuccessful) campaign to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. The next six years would see a pandemic, increasingly unaffordable care, and a health care workforce experiencing unprecedented burnout. In the podcast’s 300th episode, host and chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner explores the past and possible future of the U.S. health care system with three prominent “big thinkers” in health policy: Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, Jeff Goldsmith of Health Futures, and Farzad Mostashari of Aledade.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': When an Anti-Vaccine Activist Runs for President

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s official entry into the presidential race poses a thorny challenge for journalists: how to cover a candidate who’s opposed to vaccines without amplifying misinformation. And South Carolina becomes the latest state in the South to ban abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KFF Health News chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News senior correspondent Aneri Pattani about her project to track the billions of dollars coming from opioid makers to settle lawsuits.