Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Trump, GOP Fight Back On Health Care

With Election Day less than two weeks away, the Trump administration tried to pivot away from Democrats’ attacks that they are out to dismantle health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions.

The administration made three health care moves over the course of the week, including addressing high prices paid by the Medicare program for drugs administered in doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities.

Officials also released a proposed regulation that could strengthen the individual insurance market — by making it easier for employers to provide workers with funds so they can purchase their own health insurance. But the third action of the week could make the individual market more unstable — by providing a route for allowing states to use federal subsidies to let healthier individuals purchase less comprehensive coverage.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner and Alice Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The administration’s latest salvo in the battle against high drug prices deals with Medicare Part B drugs, which are those usually given for serious diseases like cancer or arthritis and are administered in a doctor’s office or outpatient facility because they involve injections or infusions.
  • The Medicare pricing for Plan B drugs often has been criticized for driving up costs. Medicare reimburses doctors for the costs they incur, plus 6 percent. Critics suggest that percentage encourages doctors to pay a high price for their drugs and that a flat administrative fee would be less inflationary.
  • Despite a raft of statements in recent weeks by Republicans  — including President Donald Trump — that they support protecting insurance coverage for people with preexisting medical problems, few GOP candidates have articulated any measures that would effectively do that.
  • Guidance announced by the administration this week to allow states to seek waivers for their ACA insurance marketplaces would upend some of the “guardrails” designed to make sure that all plans provide a set group of benefits, including preexisting condition guarantees.
  • Another proposed policy announced this week would allow employers to begin to decouple insurance from the job by giving workers tax-free money to buy policies on the ACA marketplaces.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: Politico’s “HHS Reviews Refugee Operations As Trump Calls for Border Crackdown,” by Dan Diamond

and:

Rolling Stone’s “The Health Department’s Christian Crusade,” by Tessa Stuart

Kimberly Leonard: Reason.com’s “Trump’s Misleading Statement on Obamacare Is a Sign That Republicans Have No Idea How to Talk About Health Policy,” by Peter Suderman

Anna Edney: The New York Times’ “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination,” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Natalie Kitroeff

Alice Ollstein: Kaiser Family Foundation’s “50-State Survey Finds Flat Medicaid Enrollment Tied to a Stronger Economy and New Eligibility Systems”

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