KHN’s ‘What’s Health?’: On government spending, Congress chooses not to decide

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Congress is scheduled to finish its annual appropriations bills on Oct. 1, before the fiscal year begins. But that rarely happens, and this year is no exception, as lawmakers scramble to pass a short-term funding bill so they can hold off on the final moratorium. Decision by at least December.

Meanwhile, with an eye toward the midterms, House Republicans have put forth a “Promise to America,” which includes only vague promises about health care. It’s yet another demonstration that the only thing on health care that unites Republicans is opposition to Democrats’ health policies. It is noteworthy that this is the latest Republican plan no Recommend repealing the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Wolstein, Stat’s Rachel Kohrs and Axios’ Victoria Knight.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The short-term funding bill to keep the government open includes a five-year reauthorization of the FDA’s user fees, which are charged to drugmakers and help pay the salaries of many FDA employees. Democrats had hoped to add provisions to the measure that would create regulations on dietary supplements, cosmetics and lab testing. The current authorization period expires on Oct. 1, and Republicans have insisted they will support only a clean bill that does not include new government directives.
  • That government funding bill would not include President Joe Biden’s $20 billion request to pay for additional Covid-19 and monkeypox vaccines and testing. Democrats said they wanted to expand those programs, but Republicans balked and said the administration had not yet accounted for all previous appropriations.
  • Biden’s comments on “60 Minutes” suggesting the Covid pandemic is “over” hurt the administration’s efforts to persuade Congress to pass additional Covid funding.
  • Biden took a victory lap this week and touted the administration’s priorities for Medicare. Among them, he said, is a reduction in next year’s Part B premiums, which typically cover beneficiaries’ outpatient costs. But those premiums fell, primarily because Medicare charged more in 2022.
  • Medicare premiums rose dramatically this year as officials projected the federal health program would see higher costs associated with the use of Adduhelm, an expensive drug for some Alzheimer’s patients that received tentative approval by the FDA in 2021. Medicare officials later said they would cover the drug only for patients who enrolled in clinical trials and expected the drug’s use to decline.
  • The agenda proposed by Republican House members promises to roll back Democrats’ decision this year to allow Medicare to negotiate some drug prices. While Democrats say the provision will help reduce costs, Republicans say they don’t like government interference in the private market and fear the measure will stifle innovation.

Also this week, Rovner interviews filmmaker Cynthia Loewen, whose new documentary, “Battleground,” explores how anti-abortion forces have played the long game to overturn. Ro.

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 “Britain’s hard lessons from care for the elderly to private equity handover” by Christine Spoiler

Alice Miranda Wolstein: KHN’s “Embedded Bias: How Medical Records Sow Discrimination,” by Darius Tahir

Rachel Kohrs: The New York Times’ “Arbitrage has arrived in senior living. You don’t have to sign up,” by Paula Spann

Victoria Knight: Forbes’ “Mark Cuban Considers Leaving Shark Tank as He Bets His Inheritance on Low-Cost Drugs” by Jemima McEvoy

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

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