KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Life after ‘Row’ … Misleading

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The Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the federal constitutional right to abortion has created confusion in its context. State abortion laws continue to flow, patients and providers are not sure where any services are legal, and employers struggle to secure staffing and face privacy and potential legal hurdles.

Meanwhile, Congress is back from its July 4th vacation, if time passes to pass legislation that would allow lawmakers to continue extending subsidies for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act. Without subsidies, premiums will jump and voters will start receiving those notices just before the midterm elections. Congressional Democrats have also resumed talks on some of President Joe Biden’s agenda items, including efforts to reduce the cost of Medicare drugs.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Olstein, CNN’s Tami Luhby, and CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman.

Among the takeaways of this week’s episode:

  • The Supreme Court decision has caused unrest in many states as abortion rights advocates and opponents are fighting the issue in state courts. This is creating a whiplash for patients and healthcare providers in states like Louisiana as courts repeatedly scramble over whether strict abortion restrictions can be enforced.
  • Although the decision is less than a month old, abortion providers in abortion rights states say they are already seeing a lot of patients traveling for care.
  • The administration has sought to strengthen access to abortion, but abortion rights advocates continue to complain that the federal response to the court’s action has been slow and weak. Officials say, however, that they have very little power in this new fight against abortion because it will be fought at the state level and they are wary of filing new lawsuits that could snatch more federal power from the Supreme Court.
  • President Joe Biden last Friday instructed federal agencies to evaluate options to help people seeking abortion services. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidelines to doctors, hospitals and other providers that federal law protects pregnant women if they provide life-saving services in an emergency. HHS has also informed pharmacies that if they fail to fill a prescription for a drug that is used for medical abortion, for other conditions, they may violate federal civil rights law.
  • In other reproductive health news, a French pharmaceutical manufacturer has applied to the FDA for permission to market over-the-counter birth control pills. A decision is unlikely until next year, but there could be a debate over whether the pill will be available to minors.
  • States are starting to set rates for 2023 insurance plans sold in ACA marketplaces, and rates are rising. While Congress did not renew the increased premium subsidy that Democrats did two years ago, it could be a shock to consumers who purchase those plans. Those increased subsidies seem to be in jeopardy on Capitol Hill.

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

Alice Miranda Olstein: NiemanLab’s “Unimaginable abortion stories will become more common. Is American journalism ready? ”By Laura Hazard Owen

Evening Raman: “The Great Veterinary Shortage of the Atlantic,” by Sarah Zhang

Tami Luhbi: The Wall Street Journal’s “Medical Debt Credit Report is being deleted. What does that mean for you, ”said Ayesha Kels

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:

KHN’s “Three Things to Know About Abortion Insurance Coverage” by Julie Appleby

KHN’s “How Much Money Does Health Insurers Pay for Almost Everything” by Julie Appleby

CNN’s “HHS illegally pays hospital fees to various hospitals, Supreme Court says,” by Tierney Sneed, Ariane de Vogue, and Tami Luhby

Los Angeles Times’ “Post-Row, Many Autoimmune Patients Lose Access to ‘Gold Standard’ Drugs,” by Sonja Sharp

Politico’s “FDA weighs first-time application for over-the-counter birth control pills” by Alice Miranda Olstein

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