KHN’s ‘What the Well being?’: A Huge Week for Biden


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Health policy was front and center as Congress rushed to pass major legislation before leaving for its summer break. President Joe Biden signed a bill this week providing health benefits to military veterans who were sickened by exposure to toxic burn pits and will likely soon sign a measure allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs and extend enhanced subsidies for those who buy their insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces.

Meanwhile, the abortion debate continues to rage around the country, with Indiana becoming the first state to pass a new ban since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Rachel Cohrs of Stat.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The Senate parliamentarian determines whether provisions in special budget legislation called reconciliation bills meet the requirements to not be subject to a filibuster and are instead eligible to be passed with a simple majority vote. With the Inflation Reduction Act, she forced Democrats last week to drop some of the drug pricing provisions that would have applied to consumers in the private health insurance market. That includes a plan that would have required drugmakers to hold any increases in the price of certain drugs to the rate of inflation.
  • Democrats were also disappointed that the parliamentarian denied their efforts to pass a price cap on insulin patients who are not covered by Medicare and that Republicans failed to support an effort to pass the measure. Several other bills designed to help keep the cost of the lifesaving medicine affordable are languishing in Congress and are unlikely to get a vote in the Senate this year.
  • But the bill still provides key guarantees for Medicare beneficiaries and is a major change in how the government will interact with drugmakers. Getting legislation like this — so strongly opposed by the industry — was an impressive feat for the Democrats in an evenly divided Senate.
  • If the bill passes the House on Friday, as expected, some of the changes to Medicare, including the price negotiations, will not take effect immediately. So consumers will have to wait to realize all the benefits of the new law.
  • Indiana’s new abortion law is set to take effect next month. But the legislative debate exposed tensions among anti-abortion groups over how strict to be about abortion access for those who may have been raped. In the end, Indiana lawmakers opted to leave in exceptions for rape and incest.
  • The new Indiana abortion law, however, prompted a statement by drugmaker Lilly, which is headquartered in the state, saying that the restrictions could hurt the company’s efforts to recruit workers and that the company will provide assistance to employees who need to go out of state for abortion care.
  • The Biden administration last week declared a public health emergency for monkeypox, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra this week gave the FDA authority to grant emergency use authorizations for monkeypox vaccines.
  • Concerns are growing about the large number of people in the U.S. who are afflicted with long-term health problems caused by covid-19. Yet there appears to be little interest on Capitol Hill in funding studies or programs to help this population.

Also, for extra credit, the panelists suggest their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “For Sleep Apnea Patients With Recalled CPAP Machines, Restless Nights,” by Laurie McGinley

Rachel Cohrs: The Washington Post’s “Conservatives Skeptical of Coronavirus Vaccines Battle to Lead a Hospital,” by Tim Craig

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The AP’s “Study Connects Climate Hazards to 58% of Infectious Diseases,” by Seth Borenstein

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Pink Sheet’s “US FDA Commissioner Califf Takes on Misinformation, Starting With ‘Rumor Control,’” by Sue Sutter

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

The Washington Post’s “Abortion Bans Complicate Access to Drugs for Cancer, Arthritis, Even Ulcers,” by Katie Shepherd and Frances Stead Sellers

Politico’s “Republicans Turn on Each Other Amid Post-Roe Chaos,” by Megan Messerly and Alice Miranda Ollstein

The Indianapolis Star’s “‘A Slap in the Face’: Some Upset Lilly, Cumming Wait to Criticize Abortion Ban Until Holcomb Signed It,” by Binghui Huang and Lizzie Kane

NBC News’ “Pregnant Women in States With Abortion Bans Face the Reality of a Post-Roe World,” by Lauren Dunn and Kristen Dahlgren

Politico’s “Tim Kaine Has Long Covid. That’s Not Moving Congress to Act,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein

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