KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Judge Takes Aim at the Affordable Care Act’s Preventive Care Benefits
The same federal judge in Texas who tried — unsuccessfully — to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act in 2018 has ruled that portions of the health law’s preventive care benefit package are unconstitutional. But it will be a long time, with many more court actions, before it becomes clear whether the decision will change how the law works.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, after several weeks of deliberations, has decided to make abortions available to patients and some dependents in some circumstances. And in Michigan, a closely watched ballot measure on abortion scheduled for this fall may not get a vote after all because of a printing problem.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- A decision announced this week by a federal judge in Texas could have a major impact on a popular provision of the Affordable Care Act that gives consumers no-cost access to a host of preventive care tests and treatments. Judge Reed O’Connor said the group that determines which services are eligible for that coverage does not have proper authorization from Congress.
- O’Connor also ruled that employers with deep religious beliefs should not have to provide HIV prevention medications to workers if the employers believe those drugs encourage improper sexual behavior. The judge has not yet announced how he will suggest both these issues be remedied.
- The Biden administration announced Thursday that it is overturning a rule implemented by the Trump administration that restricted immigrants’ ability to apply for permanent status in the U.S. if they had received government subsidies.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it will now provide limited abortions for veterans and their eligible dependents at VA facilities in states that have restricted access to the procedure. The care will be available to veterans and dependents if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or is jeopardizing the life of the woman.
- In Michigan, a state judge ruled that a 1931 ban on abortions is unconstitutional, but that is expected to be appealed. In the meantime, abortion-rights supporters are seeking to get a ballot measure that would guarantee access approved for consideration in the November election. The supporters have enough signatures, but the measure was drafted with a typographical error that could invalidate it. A court is expected to rule on the issue soon.
- New covid-19 booster immunizations are rolling out to health centers and pharmacies across the country. The administration is encouraging anyone 12 or older (who hasn’t had a vaccination in the past two months) to get the shot. Administration health experts suggest this is the beginning of an effort to simplify the vaccination schedule and hope that most people will need only one shot a year after this. But that goal will depend on how the virus continues to mutate.
- The Senate is back at work on Capitol Hill, and the House will return next week. The lawmakers still must come up with funding for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Most people expect that they will turn to a temporary funding measure for the short term.
- Three senators are out with covid, and one key Republican, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, is absent because of a hip replacement. His absence comes at an inopportune time because he has worked with Democrats to try to push through a bill that extends the FDA’s ability to charge user fees to drugmakers to help pay for the agency’s assessments of drugs. He has also helped pull together a bill with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to fund more efforts for public health preparedness.
Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Lauren Sausser, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment, about a patient in need of a biopsy who did all the right things in advance and still got stuck with a giant bill. If you have an enormous or outrageous medical bill you’d like to send us, you can do that here.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: KHN’s “When Does Life Begin? As State Laws Define It, Science, Politics, and Religion Clash,” by Sarah Varney
Alice Miranda Ollstein: The New Yorker’s “When Private Equity Takes Over a Nursing Home,” by Yasmin Rafiei
Joanne Kenen: ProPublica’s “‘The Human Psyche Was Not Built for This,’” by Marilyn W. Thompson and Jenny Deam
Sarah Karlin-Smith: Stat’s “Study Raises Concerns About the Effectiveness of the Monkeypox Vaccine,” by Helen Branswell
Also mentioned in this week’s episode:
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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.
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