KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Health Spending? Only Congress Knows
Congress has a tentative framework for government spending through this fiscal year. Now, lawmakers must fill in the blanks, including on key health care provisions, and get it passed. The Biden administration will send more free covid-19 home tests to Americans after initial fears the program was running out of money.
And there’s plenty of news coming in from the states, where this week a Texas judge tossed out a lawsuit based on the state’s so-called vigilante abortion law, and the governor of Florida is asking for a grand jury investigation into harm caused by covid vaccines.
This week’s panelists are Mary Agnes Carey of KHN, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Rebecca Adams of KHN.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- Congressional appropriators have settled on an omnibus framework that would set government spending through next fall and hope to pass it by the end of next week. But lawmakers still have details to iron out. While health measures like extended flexibilities for telehealth are likely to get approved — and others, like more money for pandemic response, are not — the outcome is less clear for some key provisions. Will lawmakers relax or even nix Medicare pay cuts for doctors scheduled for next year?
- Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens announced a major settlement this week in lawsuits alleging they mishandled opioid prescriptions. Most of the settlement money awarded in ongoing opioid epidemic litigation is earmarked to pay for opioid-related treatment, and families of victims are also asking for compensation for the harm opioids have caused. Meanwhile, federal lawmakers have shown little urgency to respond to the country’s epidemic of opioid-related overdoses.
- Abortion fights continued to play out in the states this week, including in Iowa, where a judge blocked an effort to ban most abortions in the state. In Texas, a judge dealt a blow to the state’s so-called vigilante law, ruling that an individual who is not directly affected by an abortion may not sue for violations of the state’s ban. Watch for the legal challenges to continue, especially as some state legislatures return to session in January for the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
- In pandemic news, the Biden administration plans to reopen its program allowing Americans to request free covid home tests through the U.S. Postal Service. And the House of Representatives select committee investigating the pandemic wrapped up its work this week, with Democrats and Republicans coming to different conclusions and issuing recommendations unlikely to come to pass — a reflection of partisan tensions and a loss of public interest in the pandemic.
- And Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican who is considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate, has called for a grand jury to examine alleged “crimes and wrongdoing” related to the covid vaccines.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:
Mary Agnes Carey: Scientific American’s “Kindness Can Have Unexpectedly Positive Consequences,” by Amit Kumar
Rachel Cohrs: The Washington Post’s “From Heart Disease to IUDs: How Doctors Dismiss Women’s Pain,” by Lindsey Bever
Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “Watch: With Little More Than a Typewriter, an Idaho Man Overturns the Entire State’s Policy on Hepatitis C Treatment in Prison,” by Nicholas Florko
Rebecca Adams: KHN’s “Mass Shootings Reopen the Debate Over Whether Crime Scene Photos Prompt Change or Trauma,” by Lauren Sausser
Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:
- The New York Times’ “Two Decades After 9/11 Inquiry, a Similar Plan for Covid Stalls in Congress,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg
- KHN’s “Schools, Sheriffs, and Syringes: State Plans Vary for Spending $26B in Opioid Settlement Funds,” by Aneri Pattani
- The Washington Post’s “Cause of Death: Washington Faltered as Fentanyl Gripped America,” by Nick Miroff, Scott Higham, Steven Rich, Salwan Georges, and Erin Patrick O’Connor
- Stat’s “Congress Has Its Sights Set Too Low on Addiction, Advocates Charge,” by Lev Facher
- The Washington Post’s “Conservatives Complain Abortion Bans Not Enforced, Want Jail Time for Pill ‘Trafficking,’” by Caroline Kitchener
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