KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’

Join Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for KFF Health News, along with top health policy reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and other media outlets to discuss the latest news and explain what the health is going on here in Washington.

Listen and Subscribe on  Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Pocket Casts

If you have a question for the podcast, you can send it to whatthehealth@kff.org.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Live From Aspen: Health and the 2024 Elections

Health policy may not be the top issue in this year’s presidential and congressional elections, but it’s likely to play a key role. President Joe Biden and Democrats intend to hold Republicans responsible for the Supreme Court’s unpopular ruling overturning the right to abortion, and former President Donald Trump aims to take credit for government efforts to lower prescription drug prices — even in cases in which he played no role. Meanwhile, some critical health care issues, such as those involving Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, are unlikely to get discussed much, even though the party in power after the elections would control the future of those programs. This week, in an episode taped before a live audience at the Aspen Ideas: Health festival in Aspen, Colorado, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': SCOTUS Rejects Abortion Pill Challenge — For Now 

The Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge to the FDA’s approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, ruling unanimously that the anti-abortion doctor group that filed the suit lacked standing. But abortion opponents are expected to pursue other strategies to ban or restrict the medication. Meanwhile, the Biden administration moves to stop the inclusion of medical debt on individual credit reports, and former President Donald Trump tries to claim credit for $35 insulin. Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News, and Emmarie Huetteman of KFF Health News join KFF Health News chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF president and CEO Drew Altman about KFF’s new “Health Policy 101” primer.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Nursing Home Staffing Rules Prompt Pushback

The nursing home industry — as well as a healthy number of Congress members — are all pushing back on the Biden administration’s new rules on nursing home staffing. Industry officials say that there are not enough workers to meet the requirements and that the costs would be prohibitive. Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to force Republicans to explain their exact positions on assuring access to contraceptives and in vitro fertilization. Rachel Cohrs Zhang of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Bram Sable-Smith, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature about a free cruise that turned out to be anything but.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Waiting for SCOTUS

June is when the Supreme Court typically issues rulings in the major cases it hears during that year’s term. This year, those interested in health policy are awaiting decisions in two abortion-related cases and one that could reshuffle the way health policies (and all other federal policies) are made. In this special episode, KFF’s Laurie Sobel, associate director for women’s health policy, joins Julie Rovner for a review of the cases and a preview of how the court might rule.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Anti-Abortion Hard-Liners Speak Up

While Republican candidates in many states downplay their opposition to abortion, the most vehement wing of the movement, which helped overturn Roe v. Wade — those who advocate prosecuting patients, outlawing contraception, and banning IVF — are increasingly outspoken. Meanwhile, some state legislatures continue to advance new restrictions, like a proposal moving in Louisiana to include abortion medications mifepristone and misoprostol on the list of the most dangerous drugs. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, and Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins schools of public health and nursing and Politico Magazine join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Shefali Luthra of The 19th about her new book on abortion in post-Roe America, “Undue Burden.”

Watch: Medical Residents Are Increasingly Avoiding Abortion Ban States

On KFF Health News’ “What the Health?,” chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner interviewed Atul Grover of the Association of American Medical Colleges about its recent analysis showing that graduating medical students are avoiding training in states with abortion bans and major restrictions.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Bird Flu Lands as the Next Public Health Challenge

Public health authorities are closely watching an unusual strain of bird flu that has infected dairy cows in nine states and at least one dairy worker. Meanwhile, another major health system suffered a cyberattack, and Congress is moving to extend the availability of telehealth services. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Rachel Cohrs Zhang of Stat join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Atul Grover of the Association of American Medical Colleges about its recent analysis showing that graduating medical students are avoiding training in states with abortion bans and major restrictions.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Newly Minted Doctors Are Avoiding Abortion Ban States

For the second year in a row, medical school graduates across specialties are shying away from applying for residency training in states with abortion bans or significant restrictions, according to a new study. Meanwhile, Medicare’s trustees report that the program will be able to pay its bills longer than expected — which could discourage Congress from acting to address the program’s long-term financial woes. Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins University schools of nursing and public health and Politico Magazine, and Anna Edney of Bloomberg News join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Abortion Access Changing Again in Florida and Arizona

A six-week abortion ban took effect in Florida this week, dramatically restricting access to the procedure not just in the nation’s third-most-populous state but across the South. Patients from states with even more restrictive bans had been flooding in since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Meanwhile, the CEO of the health behemoth UnitedHealth Group appeared before committees in both the House and Senate, where lawmakers grilled him about the February cyberattack on subsidiary Change Healthcare and how its ramifications are being felt months later. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Abortion — Again — At the Supreme Court

For the second time in as many months, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an abortion case. This time, the justices are being asked to decide whether a federal law that requires emergency care in hospitals can trump Idaho’s near-total abortion ban. Meanwhile, the federal government, for the first time, will require minimum staffing standards for nursing homes. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN, and Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Too Big To Fail? Now It’s ‘Too Big To Hack’

Congress this week had the chance to formally air grievances over the cascading consequences of the Change Healthcare cyberattack, and lawmakers from both major parties agreed on one culprit: consolidation in health care. Plus, about a year after states began stripping people from their Medicaid rolls, a new survey shows nearly a quarter of adults who were disenrolled are now uninsured. Jessie Hellmann of CQ Roll Call, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Lauren Weber of The Washington Post join KFF Health News’ Mary Agnes Carey to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner interviews Caroline Pearson of the Peterson Health Technology Institute.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Arizona Turns Back the Clock on Abortion Access

A week after the Florida Supreme Court said the state could enforce an abortion ban passed in 2023, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that state could enforce a near-total ban passed in 1864 — over a half-century before Arizona became a state. The move further scrambled the abortion issue for Republicans and posed an immediate quandary for former President Donald Trump, who has been seeking an elusive middle ground in the polarized debate. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs Zhang of Stat, and Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Molly Castle Work, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature, about an air-ambulance ride for an infant with RSV that his insurer deemed not medically necessary.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Florida Limits Abortion — For Now

The Florida Supreme Court handed down dual abortion rulings this week. One said voters will be allowed to decide in November whether to create a state right to abortion. The other ruling, though, allows a 15-week ban to take effect immediately — before an even more sweeping, six-week ban replaces it in May. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is doubling down on his administration’s health care accomplishments as he kicks off his general election campaign. Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins University schools of nursing and public health, and Tami Luhby of CNN join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these stories and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews health care analyst Jeff Goldsmith about the growing size and influence of UnitedHealth Group in the wake of the Change Healthcare hack.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': The Supreme Court and the Abortion Pill

The Supreme Court this week heard its first abortion case since overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022, about an appeals court ruling that would dramatically restrict the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone. But while it seems likely that this case could be dismissed on a technicality, abortion opponents have more challenges in the pipeline. Meanwhile, health issues are heating up on the campaign trail, as Republicans continue to take aim at Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act — all things Democrats are delighted to defend. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, 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’ Tony Leys, who wrote a KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature about Medicare and a very expensive air-ambulance ride. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': The ACA Turns 14

Saturday marks the 14th anniversary of the still somewhat embattled Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra joins host Julie Rovner to discuss the accomplishments of the health law — and the challenges it still faces. Also this week, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN, and Mary Agnes Carey of KFF Health News join Rovner to discuss what should be the final funding bill for HHS for fiscal 2024, next week’s Supreme Court oral arguments in a case challenging abortion medication, and more. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Maybe It’s a Health Care Election After All

Health care wasn’t expected to be a major theme for this year’s elections. But as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump secured their respective party nominations this week, the future of both Medicare and the Affordable Care Act appears to be up for debate. Meanwhile, the cyberattack of the UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Change Healthcare continues to do damage to the companies’ finances with no quick end in sight. Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, and Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies about a new, four-part documentary series on the history of public health, “The Invisible Shield.” Plus, for “extra credit” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': The State of the Union Is … Busy

At last, Congress is getting half of its annual spending bills across the finish line, albeit five months after the start of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden delivers his annual State of the Union address, an over-the-counter birth control pill is (finally) available, and controversy erupts over new public health guidelines for covid-19 isolation. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Neera Tanden, the White House domestic policy adviser, about Biden’s health agenda. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Alabama’s IVF Ruling Still Making Waves

Lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures are scrambling to react to the ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization are legally children. Abortion opponents are divided among themselves, with some supporting full “personhood” for fertilized eggs, while others support IVF as a moral way to have children. Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Riley Griffin of Bloomberg News, and Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins University schools of nursing and public health and Politico Magazine join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews University of Pittsburgh law professor Greer Donley, who explains how a 150-year-old anti-vice law that’s still on the books could be used to ban abortion nationwide. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Alabama Court Rules Embryos Are Children. What Now?

In a first-of-its-kind ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court has determined that embryos created for in vitro fertilization procedures are legally people. The decision has touched off massive confusion about potential ramifications, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham has paused its IVF program. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to endorse a national 16-week abortion ban, while his former administration officials are planning further reproductive health restrictions for a possible second term. Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News, and Victoria Knight of Axios join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Biden Wins Early Court Test for Medicare Drug Negotiations

A federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate the Biden administration’s Medicare prescription-drug price negotiation program. But the suit turned on a technicality, and several more court challenges are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, health policy pops up in Super Bowl ads, as Congress approaches yet another funding deadline. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, and Rachel Cohrs of Stat join KFF Health News’ 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.