KHN’s ‘What’s the Health?’: The Midterm Shake-Up

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The predicted Republican “red wave” in this week’s midterm elections was a no-show, but the margins in both the US House and Senate are so narrow that the GOP could still wrest control from Democrats as the last few “too close to call” races are decided. Whichever party wins a majority from 2023 will also affect how much Congress tries to finish in the lame-duck session that begins on November 14.

Meanwhile, abortion rights supporters won big. Voters in three states (Michigan, California, and Vermont) approved ballot measures to make abortion rights part of their state constitutions, while two other states (Montana and Kentucky) defeated efforts to further restrict abortion.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Wolstein, Stat’s Rachel Kohrs and Pink Sheets’ Sarah Carlin-Smith.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • If Republicans take control of the House, expect some tough oversight hearings on the policies and decisions of the Biden administration. Among those who may be called before the Republican-controlled committee. Anthony Fauci, who is expected to be grilled over his handling of the pandemic and decisions on school closings and other key elements of the economy.
  • The GOP’s focus on legislation is more ambiguous. Much of what Republicans can push through Congress will depend on what margin they have in the House and whether they end up controlling the Senate.
  • Meanwhile, Congress returns to Washington next week to wrap up business for the year. Several top Republican senators are retiring and are expected to promote the health system, including more public health initiatives, pandemic preparedness and reforms to the FDA.
  • That lame-duck congressional session will also consider funding for the government and ways to avoid scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursements to health care providers.
  • South Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It was the seventh state where voters overruled conservative Republican leaders who opposed an expansion.
  • Officials in several populous states, including Texas, Florida and Georgia, continue to block an expansion. Some health care advocates in Florida have floated the idea of ​​trying to get a ballot initiative there as well, but that could cost millions of dollars to organize.
  • Doctors and consumers are warning about recent drug shortages, including a common children’s antibiotic. This points to a long-term problem of drug shortages that is often overlooked.
  • A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on the detrimental impact of Covid-19 and prolonged Covid on productivity in the country. Although patient advocates and public health officials have long sounded the alarm, the issue has not received much attention from political leaders. With Republicans likely to gain more power in the next Congress — and their opposition to more funding for the Covid response — it doesn’t appear that the long-term economic impact will gain much support in the coming year.

Also this week, Rovner interviews former jewelry magnate Carolee Lee about her efforts to increase gender equality in medical research.

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

Julie Rovner: Columbia Journalism Review’s “How Much Coverage Are You Worth?” By Kyle Pope

Alice Miranda Wolstein: PBS NewsHour’s “Study reveals stark number of alcohol-related deaths among young Americans” by John Young and Dorothy Hastings

Sarah Carlin-Smith: “The clock has run out on efforts to make Daylight Saving Time permanent,” writes Dan Diamond of the Washington Post

Rachel Kohrs: ESPN’s “Review Shows Overstated Benefits of Favor-Backed Drug Companies, Connections,” by Mark Fainaru-Wada

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.

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