KHN’s ‘What’s the Health?’: Drug price bill passes Senate


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President Joe Biden is the latest top Washington official to test positive for Covid-19, following Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. But work continues, particularly on a Senate bill that would, for the first time, allow Medicare to cap prescription drug prices and seniors’ out-of-pocket drug costs.

Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents of abortion rights are struggling to find their footing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of federal abortion rights. Roe v. Wade.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, The 19’s Shefali Luthra, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico’s Joan Kenen and STAT’s Rachel Kohrs.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • While some Democrats and many political pundits have criticized the Senate for rolling back the president’s Build Back Better agenda as much of the health care bill, the bill’s proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some drugs would be a major change that drugmakers have made. Successfully fought for two decades.
  • The bill, which has not been fully released, would include only those provisions that have been approved by Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), as all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus would be needed to pass the bill. In addition to allowing 10 drug price negotiations in the first year, the law would penalize drugmakers who raise prices above the rate of inflation and cap Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 a year.
  • The bill is also expected to include a provision to extend for an additional two years increased subsidies for premiums for health policies purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. Those details have not yet been released.
  • Progressives were disappointed by the administration’s lackluster response to overturning the Supreme Court decision. Ro. Even as the White House noted that there are limits to what the president can do, the administration has been more cautious than many expected in announcing how it plans to respond. For example, shortly after the Supreme Court decision was released, the administration said it would protect women’s access to medication abortions — but there has been little follow-up.
  • An Indiana doctor who treated a 10-year-old rape victim for an abortion is threatening a defamation lawsuit against the state’s attorney general, who falsely said on national television that she didn’t file required paperwork.
  • That 10-year-old’s case has put anti-abortion groups on the defensive and suggests they are divided about how to handle such a situation. Some leaders suggest that the child should have gone ahead with the pregnancy, while other groups say that those who have been raped should not carry a child during pregnancy.
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton continues his push to limit abortion. The state originally banned most abortions last September with a tough law that allows community members to sue doctors and others who help a woman perform an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Now, Paxton is challenging the Biden administration’s statement that federal law gives people the right to have abortions for emergency care because of pregnancy problems. Paxton said federal law does not preempt state restrictions.
  • Texas’ hard line on abortion could have economic ramifications within the state. Some youth and companies are not in favor of the abortion policy and some are threatening to leave the state.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., a California dermatologist who is the new president of the American Medical Association.

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 “Conservative blocs file lawsuit to curb public health powers” by Lauren Weber and Anna Maria Barry-Jester

Shefali Luther: Bob Herman, Kate Sheridan, J. “Healthcare’s High Rollers: As Pandemic, CEOs’ Earnings Soar” by Emory Parker, Adam Feuerstein, and Mohana Rabindranath.

Rachel Kohrs: Politico’s “Anthony Fauci wants to put the politicization of Covid behind him,” by Sara Owermohle

From Joan: Inside Climate News’ “Who Suffers When Power Goes Out? Climate epidemiologists are now trying to figure that out,” by Laura Byssus

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:


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