KFF Health News' 'What the Health?'
3 Health Policy Experts You Should Know
In this special episode, host Julie Rovner, KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, interviews three noted health policy experts.
Amy Finkelstein is a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of “We’ve Got You Covered: Rebooting American Health Care,” which posits a new approach to universal health insurance. Sylvia Morris is a physician and one of the co-authors of “The Game Plan: A Woman’s Guide to Becoming a Doctor and Living a Life in Medicine,” in which five former medical school classmates share things they wish they had known earlier about how to thrive in what is still a male-dominated profession. And Michael LeNoir is a pediatrician, allergist, former broadcaster, and health educator in the San Francisco Bay Area who founded the African American Wellness Project, aimed at helping historically underserved African American patients better participate in their own care.
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325. Democrats See Opportunity in GOP Threats to Repeal Health Law41:27Sensing that Republicans are walking into a political minefield by threatening once again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Biden administration is looking to capitalize by rolling out a series of initiatives aimed at high drug prices and other consequences of “corporate greed in health care.” Meanwhile, the Supreme Court hears a case that could determine when and how much victims of the opioid crisis can collect from Purdue Pharma, the drug company that lied about how addictive its drug, OxyContin, really was.Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, and Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News join KFF Health News chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Dan Weissmann of KFF Health News’ sister podcast, “An Arm and a Leg,” about his investigation into hospitals suing their patients over unpaid bills. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: The Wisconsin State Journal’s “Dane, Milwaukee Counties Stop Making Unwed Fathers Pay for Medicaid Birth Costs,” by David Wahlberg. Anna Edney: Bloomberg News’ “Tallying the Best Stats on US Gun Violence Is Trauma of Its Own,” by Madison Muller. Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “New Abortion Restrictions Pose a Serious Threat to Fetal Surgery,” by Francois I. Luks, Tippi Mackenzie, and Thomas F. Tracy Jr. Rachana Pradhan: KFF Health News’ “Patients Expected Profemur Artificial Hips to Last. Then They Snapped in Half,” by Brett Kelman and Anna Werner, CBS News.
324. Trump Puts Obamacare Repeal Back on Agenda39:47Although Republicans have never united behind a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, 2024 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump said this week he wants to put the issue back on the national agenda. That delights Democrats, who have won at least two elections partly by defending the now-popular health law.Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court takes up a case brought by women who say their pregnancy complications further endangered their health due to the vagueness of Texas’ near-total ban on abortions.Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Victoria Knight of Axios News join KFF Health News chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more.Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Rachana Pradhan, who reported and wrote the latest “Bill of the Month” feature. Click here for a transcript of the episode. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: KFF Health News’ “Medicaid ‘Unwinding’ Makes Other Public Assistance Harder to Get,” by Katheryn Houghton, Rachana Pradhan, and Samantha Liss. Joanne Kenen: KFF Health News’ “She Once Advised the President on Aging Issues. Now, She’s Battling Serious Disability and Depression,” by Judith Graham. Victoria Knight: Business Insider’s “Washington’s Secret Weapon Is a Beloved Gen Z Energy Drink With More Caffeine Than God,” by Lauren Vespoli.
323. Congress Kicks the (Budget) Can Down the Road. Again.32:34Congress narrowly avoided a federal government shutdown for the second time in six weeks, as Democrats came to the rescue of divided House Republicans over annual spending bills that were supposed to be finished by Oct. 1. But the brinksmanship is likely to repeat itself early in 2024, when the next temporary spending patches expire. Meanwhile, a pair of investigations unveiled this week demonstrate how difficult it still is for seniors to get needed long-term and rehabilitation care.Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, and Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine 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. Julie Rovner: KFF Health News’ “How Lawmakers in Texas and Florida Undermine Covid Vaccination Efforts,” by Amy Maxmen. Alice Miranda Ollstein: The New York Times’ “They Wanted to Get Sober. They Got a Nightmare Instead,” by Jack Healy. Rachel Cohrs: Stat’s “UnitedHealth Pushed Employees to Follow an Algorithm to Cut Off Medicare Patients’ Rehab Care,” by Casey Ross and Bob Herman. Joanne Kenen: ProPublica’s “Mississippi Jailed More Than 800 People Awaiting Psychiatric Treatment in a Year. Just One Jail Meets State Standards,” by Isabelle Taft, Mississippi Today. Visit our website for transcript of the episode.
322. A Very Good Night for Abortion Rights Backers35:00Abortion rights backers won major victories in at least five states in the 2023 off-year elections Nov. 7, proving the staying power of abortion as a political issue in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health finally has a new director, after Democrats temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s nominee over a mostly unrelated fight about prescription drug prices.Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Julie Appleby, who reported and wrote the latest “Bill of the Month” feature. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too:Julie Rovner: ProPublica’s “Find Out Why Your Health Insurer Denied Your Claim.”Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “Congenital Syphilis Jumped Tenfold Over the Last Decade,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein. Sandhya Raman: The Texas Tribune’s “Sex Trafficking, Drugs and Assault: Texas Foster Kids and Caseworkers Face Chaos in Rental Houses and Hotels,” by Karen Brooks Harper. Tami Luhby: ProPublica’s “Big Insurance Met Its Match When It Turned Down a Top Trial Lawyer’s Request for Cancer Treatment,” by T. Christian Miller.Visit our website for a transcript of the episode.
321. For ACA Plans, It’s Time to Shop Around28:46It’s Obamacare open enrollment season, which means that, for people who rely on these plans for coverage, it’s time to shop around. With enhanced premium subsidies and cost-sharing assistance, consumers may find savings by switching plans. It is especially important for people who lost their coverage because of the Medicaid unwinding to investigate their options. Many qualify for assistance.Meanwhile, the countdown to Election Day is on, and Ohio’s State Issue 1 is grabbing headlines. The closely watched ballot initiative has become a testing ground for abortion-related messaging, which has been rife with misinformation.This week’s panelists are Mary Agnes Carey of KFF Health News, Jessie Hellmann of CQ Roll Call, Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, and Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News.Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too:Mary Agnes Carey: Stat News’ “The Health Care Issue Democrats Can’t Solve: Hospital Reform,” by Rachel Cohrs.Jessie Hellmann: The Washington Post’s “Drugstore Closures Are Leaving Millions Without Easy Access to a Pharmacy,” by Aaron Gregg and Jaclyn Peiser.Joanne Kenen: The Washington Post’s “Older Americans Are Dominating Like Never Before, but What Comes Next?” by Marc Fisher.Rachana Pradhan: The New York Times’ “How a Lucrative Surgery Took Off Online and Disfigured Patients,” by Sarah Kliff and Katie Thomas.Visit our website for a transcript.
320. The New Speaker’s (Limited) Record on Health47:27The House finally has a new speaker: Mike Johnson (R-La). He’s a relative newcomer who’s been a lower-level member of the House GOP leadership. And while he’s an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, his record on other health issues is scant. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health appears on track to be getting a new director, and Georgia’s Medicaid work requirement experiment is off to a very slow start.Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico and Rachel Cohrs of Stat join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.Click here for a transcript of the episode.Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too:Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “The Pandemic Has Faded in This Michigan County. The Mistrust Never Ended,” by Greg Jaffe and Patrick Marley.Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “Dozens of States Sue Meta Over Addictive Features Harming Kids,” by Rebecca Kern, Josh Sisco, and Alfred Ng.Rachel Cohrs: The New York Times’ “Ozempic and Wegovy Don’t Cost What You Think They Do,” by Gina Kolata.
319. The Open Enrollment Mixing Bowl41:28Open enrollment for Medicare beneficiaries with private health plans began Oct. 15, to be followed Nov. 1 by open enrollment for Affordable Care Act plans. The selection for both is large — often too large to be navigated easily alone. And people who choose incorrectly can end up with unaffordable medical bills. Meanwhile, those on both sides of the abortion issue are looking to Ohio’s November ballot measure on abortion to see whether anti-abortion forces can break their losing streak in statewide ballot questions since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022.Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, and Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News’ Arielle Zionts, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about how the cost of chemotherapy varies by state.Click here for a transcript of the episode. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: NPR’s “How Gas Utilities Used Tobacco Tactics to Avoid Gas Stove Regulations,” by Jeff Brady. Lauren Weber: KFF Health News’ “Doctors Abandon a Diagnosis Used to Justify Police Custody Deaths. It Might Live On, Anyway,” by Markian Hawryluk and Renuka Rayasam. Joanne Kenen: The Washington Post’s “How Lunchables Ended Up on School Lunch Trays,” by Lenny Bernstein, Lauren Weber, and Dan Keating. Alice Miranda Ollstein: KFF Health News’ “Pregnant and Addicted: Homeless Women See Hope in Street Medicine,” by Angela Hart.
318. Health Funding in Question in a Speaker-Less Congress42:49A bitterly divided Congress managed to keep the federal government running for several more weeks, while House Republicans struggle — again — to choose a leader. Meanwhile, many people removed from state Medicaid rolls are not finding their way to Affordable Care Act insurance, and a major investigation by The Washington Post attributes the decline in U.S. life expectancy to more than covid-19 and opioids.Lauren Weber of The Washington Post, Victoria Knight of Axios, 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 physician-author-playwright Samuel Shem about “Our Hospital,” his new novel about the health workforce in the age of covid. Click here for a transcript of the episode. Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: The Atlantic’s “Virginia Could Decide the Future of the GOP’s Abortion Policy,” by Ronald Brownstein. Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Wall Street Journal’s “Children Are Dying in Ill-Prepared Emergency Rooms Across America,” by Liz Essley-Whyte and Melanie Evans. Lauren Weber: ProPublica’s “Philips Kept Complaints About Dangerous Breathing Machines Secret While Company Profits Soared,” by Debbie Cenziper, ProPublica; Michael D. Sallah, Michael Korsh, and Evan Robinson-Johnson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and Monica Sager, Northwestern University. Victoria Knight: KFF Health News’ “Feds Rein In Use of Predictive Software That Limits Care for Medicare Advantage Patients,” by Susan Jaffe.
317. An Encore: 3 HHS Secretaries Reveal What the Job Is Really Like57:18In this special encore episode, KFF Health News’ “What the Health?” asks three people who have served as the nation’s top health official: What does a day in the life of the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services look like? And how much of their agenda is set by the White House? Taped in June 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 HHS secretaries. 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.Click here for a transcript of the episode.