Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Some Things Old, Some Things New

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Congress passed major health-related legislation in time for the fiscal year, which began Monday, including a broad bill to address the opioid epidemic and a spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. This marks the first time since the 1990s that Congress has agreed to HHS spending levels before the start of the fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on teen use of e-cigarettes as well as brand-name drugmakers who work to delay generic competition (and keep drug prices high). And a new survey shows health insurance costs continue to rise for people with coverage provided by their employers.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

The package of bills addressing the opioid epidemic passed Congress on a rare note of bipartisanship. Many of the measures are designed to help prevent opioid addiction but are short on treatment options. California Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have required public university health centers to offer drugs used for medical abortions surprised many people since Democrats in the state often position themselves as defenders of abortion rights. New data on insurance coverage shows that the percentage of employers offering plans is holding steady, despite concerns that the rate would fall once the Affordable Care Act was enacted and provided easy access. Still causing concern: the high deductibles required of patients in many of these work-based plans. A federal raid on the offices of the e-cigarette maker Juul Labs signals a dilemma for FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. While he once backed e-cigarettes as a way to help smokers cut back on their habit, it appears he is now concerned about their use by young people.

Rovner also interviews Alison Kodjak of NPR, who wrote the latest “ Bill of the Month ” feature for Kaiser Health News and NPR. It’s about a Texas radiologist who had an accident that resulted in a very expensive air ambulance ride.

If you have a medical bill you would like NPR and KHN to investigate, you can submit it here.

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

Julie Rovner: Bloomberg News’ “Thousands of People’s Insurance Appeals Went to a Doctor Feds Say Is a Fraud,” by John Tozzi

Margot Sanger-Katz: The New York Times’ “In Australia, Cervical Cancer Could Soon Be Eliminated,” by Livia Albeck-Ripka

Kimberly Leonard: Politico’s “Kavanaugh’s Drinking Spotlights Trump’s ‘Abnormal’ Abstinence,” by Andrew Restuccia

Rebecca Adams: The New Yorker’s “The Comforting Fictions Of Dementia Care,” by Larissa MacFarquhar

To hear all our podcasts,  click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on  iTunes,  Stitcher  or  Google Play.

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