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KFF Health News' 'What the Health?'

The Struggle Over Who Gets the Last Word

Ep. 332

As science skepticism pervades politics, the Supreme Court will soon consider two cases that seek to define the power of “experts.” Meanwhile, abortion opponents are laying out plans for how Donald Trump, if reelected as president, could effectively curtail abortion even in states where it remains legal.


Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more.


Also this week, Rovner interviews Samantha Liss, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature about a husband and wife who got billed for preventive care that should have been fully covered.


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: ProPublica’s “Amid Recall Crisis, Philips Agrees to Stop Selling Sleep Apnea Machines in the United States,” by Debbie Cenziper, ProPublica, and Michael D. Sallah, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Joanne Kenen: The New York Times’ “Elmo Asked an Innocuous Question,” by Callie Holtermann.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Texas Tribune’s “Texas Attorney General Requests Transgender Youths’ Patient Records From Georgia Clinic,” by Madaleine Rubin.

Sandhya Raman: The AP’s “Community Health Centers Serve 1 in 11 Americans. They’re a Safety Net Under Stress,” by Devi Shastri.

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  • 342. Arizona Turns Back the Clock on Abortion Access

    37:27
    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.  Plus, for “extra credit” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: Stat’s “Your Dog Is Probably on Prozac. Experts Say That Says More About the American Mental Health Crisis Than Pets,” by Sarah Owermohle.  Rachel Cohrs Zhang: KFF Health News’ “Ten Doctors on FDA Panel Reviewing Abbott Heart Device Had Financial Ties With Company,” by David Hilzenrath and Holly K. Hacker.  Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Texas Tribune’s “How Texas Teens Lost the One Program That Allowed Birth Control Without Parental Consent,” by Eleanor Klibanoff.  Rachel Roubein: The Washington Post’s “As Obesity Rises, Big Food and Dietitians Push ‘Anti-Diet’ Advice,” by Sasha Chavkin, Caitlin Gilbert, Anjali Tsui, and Anahad O’Connor.  Click here for a transcript of the episode.
  • 341. Florida Limits Abortion — For Now

    44:13
    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.Click here for a transcript of the episode.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.   Plus, for “extra credit” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week they think you should read, too: Julie Rovner: Politico’s “Republicans Are Rushing to Defend IVF. The Anti-Abortion Movement Hopes to Change Their Minds,” by Megan Messerly and Alice Miranda Ollstein. Tami Luhby: The Washington Post’s “Biden Summons Bernie Sanders to Help Boost Drug-Price Campaign,” by Dan Diamond.  Lauren Weber: The Washington Post’s “Bird Flu Detected in Dairy Worker Who Had Contact With Infected Cattle in Texas,” by Lena H. Sun and Rachel Roubein.  Joanne Kenen: The 19th’s “Survivors Sidelined: How Illinois’ Sexual Assault Survivor Law Allows Hospitals to Deny Care,” by Kate Martin, APM Reports.  
  • 340. The Supreme Court and the Abortion Pill

    41:47
    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.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’ “Overdosing on Chemo: A Common Gene Test Could Save Hundreds of Lives Each Year,” by Arthur Allen. Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “Fetal Tissue Research Gains in Importance as Roadblocks Multiply,” by Olivia Goldhill. Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Washington Post’s “The Confusing, Stressful Ordeal of Flying With a Breast Pump,” by Hannah Sampson and Ben Brasch. Lauren Weber: Stateline’s “Deadly Fires From Phone, Scooter Batteries Leave Lawmakers Playing Catch-Up on Safety,” by Robbie Sequeira. 
  • 339. The ACA Turns 14

    40:36
    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. Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Arizona Lawmaker Tells Her Abortion Story to Show ‘Reality’ of Restrictions,” by Praveena Somasundaram. (Full speech here.)Alice Miranda Ollstein: CNN’s “Why Your Doctor’s Office Is Spamming You With Appointment Reminders,” by Nathaniel Meyersohn.Tami Luhby: KFF Health News’ “Georgia’s Medicaid Work Requirement Costing Taxpayers Millions Despite Low Enrollment,” by Andy Miller and Renuka Rayasam.Mary Agnes Carey: The New York Times’ “When Medicaid Comes After the Family Home,” by Paula Span, and The AP’s “State Medicaid Offices Target Dead People’s Homes to Recoup Their Health Care Costs,” by Amanda Seitz.Click here for a transcript of the episode.
  • 338. Maybe It’s a Health Care Election After All

    46:31
    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. Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Navy Demoted Ronny Jackson After Probe Into White House Behavior,” by Dan Diamond and Alex Horton.Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic’s “Frigid Offices Might Be Killing Women’s Productivity,” by Olga Khazan.Margot Sanger-Katz: Stat’s “Rigid Rules at Methadone Clinics Are Jeopardizing Patients’ Path to Recover From Opioid Addiction,” by Lev Facher.Anna Edney: Scientific American’s “How Hospitals Are Going Green Under Biden’s Climate Legislation,” by Ariel Wittenberg and E&E News.Click here for a transcript of the episode.
  • 337. The State of the Union Is ... Busy

    37:42
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  • 336. Alabama’s IVF Ruling Still Making Waves

    47:21
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  • 335. Alabama Court Rules Embryos Are Children. What Now?

    42:06
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  • 334. Biden Wins Early Court Test for Medicare Drug Negotiations

    39:03
    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.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: Stateline’s “Government Can Erase Your Medical Debt for Pennies on the Dollar — And Some Are,” by Anna Claire Vollers.Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “‘There Was a Lot of Anxiety’: Florida’s Immigration Crackdown Is Causing Patients to Skip Care,” by Arek Sarkissian.Rachel Cohrs: Stat’s “FTC Doubles Down in Welsh Carson Anesthesia Case to Limit Private Equity’s Physician Buyouts,” by Bob Herman. And Modern Healthcare’s “Private Equity Medicare Advantage Investment Slumps: Report,” by Nona Tepper.Lauren Weber: The Wall Street Journal’s “Climate Change Has Hit Home Insurance. Is Health Insurance Next?” by Yusuf Khan.