KHN’s ‘What’s Health?’: Kansas makes a statement

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Kansas voters told the rest of the country this week that they don’t want their state to ban abortion. In a nearly 60%-40% split, voters turned back efforts by anti-abortion activists to amend the state constitution to remove abortion rights, which would have allowed the legislature to ban the procedure.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Congress is pressing its pre-recess to pass legislation. A bill to provide health benefits to veterans injured after inhaling toxins from military burn pits has finally reached President Joe Biden’s desk. But Democrats continue to debate a health-care-climate-tax bill that would, among other things, allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some prescription drugs and extend increased subsidies for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, CNN’s Tami Luhby, CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman and Stat’s Rachel Cohrs.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • At least four states — California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont — will have abortion questions on their ballots in November. Michigan is also likely to have one, but the necessary applications are still being certified.
  • The Justice Department sued Idaho, arguing that its near-total abortion ban — set to go into effect after August — conflicts with federal laws guaranteeing patients access to emergency medical care. If the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, it could jeopardize the Urgent Care Act, which has not previously faced this type of legal challenge.
  • Biden signed an executive order this week that could, among other things, allow Medicaid to cover travel expenses for women seeking out-of-state abortion care if their state restricts it. But the White House has not provided many details about how such a program would work or be paid for. The so-called Hyde Amendment, abortion opponent Rep. Named for Henry Hyde, who died in 2007, bans federal funding for most abortions. Supporters of the president’s action have suggested that the restrictions apply only to medical care and not transportation, but that any attempt by Medicaid to establish such a transportation program would be sued.
  • New data released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that the number of uninsured Americans fell to an all-time low of 8%. That estimate comes as the Senate considers funding to continue increased premium subsidies for buying insurance in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. If this law is struck down, the number of people without insurance is expected to increase rapidly, as premiums become unaffordable for many.
  • Biden’s recapitulation of Covid-19 symptoms reminded the country that standards are not firm when a patient has recovered and raised questions about how patients should be re-entered after battling the disease.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Bram Sable-Smith, who reports and writes the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about a single-car accident that resulted in three different ambulance bills. If you have a large or outrageous medical bill that you would like to send us, you can do so here.

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

Julie Rovner: KHN’s “They lost Medicaid when paperwork was sent to an empty field, signaling chaos to come,” Brett Kellman of KHN

Rachel Kohrs: “Thousands of Lives Depend on a Transplant Network in Need of Vast Reconstruction,” by Joseph Menn and Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post.

Tami Luhby: KHN’s “Hospices become big business for private equity firms, raising concerns about end-of-life care,” Markian Hawriluk

Sandhya Raman: KHN’s “Nursing Homes Sue Residents’ Friends and Family to Collect Debts,” by Noam N. Levey

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