KHN’s ‘What’s the Health?’: Looking at the Lam-Duck Session


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When the lame-duck Congress returns to Washington after Election Day, it will face a long list of health issues before the end of the year, including fixing overall spending for health programs and avoiding a series of cuts to Medicare payments to health care providers. .

Meanwhile, in California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed a first-in-the-nation bill aimed at curbing Covid-19 misinformation and confusion by doctors.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner; Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call; Jesse Hellman, also of CQ Roll Call; and KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • When congressional lawmakers left town last week for a month of campaigning ahead of the midterm elections, they agreed to fund the government — but only until mid-December. Whether they reach an agreement on funding for the full fiscal year when they return could affect the outcome of the election.
  • Key Democratic members of the House have vowed to drop the so-called Hyde Amendment from any spending bill, but apparently there isn’t enough support to get those efforts through the Senate. The Hyde Amendment, named for Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who died in 2007, prohibits federal funds from being used for most abortions.
  • Funding issues still to be resolved by lawmakers include whether they will continue certain programs that began during the pandemic, such as allowing Medicare to cover telehealth services, and whether enhanced Medicaid for U.S. territories will continue.
  • Also still awaiting a decision from Congress is a bipartisan effort to improve mental health services.
  • In response to some of the unusual treatments and theories emerging around Covid, California has enacted a law that could bring more discipline to doctors who knowingly spread misinformation directly to patients. State medical boards can reprimand them.
  • The issue of abortion is heating up in campaigns across the country, especially among Democrats running for Congress, governor or attorney general. Republicans, on the other hand, are sidestepping the issue while trying to emphasize economic and immigration issues.
  • A new report by Ohio officials shows a surprisingly high number of girls and young teenagers seeking abortions. Of the 538 children 17 and younger in Ohio last year, 57 were younger than 15, the state health department said.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed KHN’s Sam Whitehead, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode about a family who tried to use urgent care to save money but ended up with a large emergency room. gave the bill If you have an outrageous or huge medical bill that you’d like to share with 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: NPR’s “The Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t just for social media. It helped fund a new ALS drug,” by Wayne Davis

Sandhya Raman: “As WV officials claim small drop in drug overdose deaths, epidemic remains at crisis level,” by Allen Sigler in Mountain State Spotlight

Jesse Hellman: “Severe Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Panics Reporter Until He Finds A Simple, No-Cost Solution” by Jay Hancock

Mary Agnes Carey: “Seniors stuck at home alone as health aides flee for higher-paying jobs” by Christopher Rowland, Washington Post

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:


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