Mary Agnes Carey
KFF Health News
The Biden administration this week pleaded with states to slow the post-pandemic removal of beneficiaries from their Medicaid rolls, as government data shows more than a million Americans have lost coverage since pandemic protections ended in April. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled Medicaid beneficiaries may sue over their care.
In an appearance at the U.S. Capitol, the outgoing chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, offered no revelations as House Republicans pressed her about the agency’s response to the covid-19 pandemic. And senators are pushing for action on drug pricing, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowing to hold up nominations to press the Biden administration for drug pricing reform.
This week’s panelists are Mary Agnes Carey of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.
Alice Miranda Ollstein
CQ Roll Call
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- Asking states to slow the pace of Medicaid disenrollment, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra offered options intended to reduce the number of Americans who lose coverage due to bureaucratic hurdles, such as by allowing community organizations to help people get coverage reinstated. But those options are only guidance for Medicaid programs across the country, and nothing says that states — especially conservative ones that have rushed to trim the number of low-income and disabled people relying on the program — will adopt the administration’s suggestions.
- A deal in the Braidwood Management v. Becerra court case will preserve, for now, the mandate requiring insurance coverage of preventive services for all but the litigants. The threat of a court order halting that coverage mandate nationwide has contributed to growing concerns about the overuse of injunctions allowing a single judge to bring down an entire program or law.
- The Supreme Court ruled that a woman is entitled to sue over the nursing home care her husband received that was covered by Medicaid, setting a precedent that allows beneficiaries to pursue legal action over their care.
- This week, House Republicans pressed CDC Director Walensky about the agency’s response to the pandemic, but, producing few new details, the hearing mostly proved an attempt by Republicans to relitigate concerns over issues like gain-of-function research funding. And Ashish Jha, the White House’s covid coordinator, is preparing to step down without a successor, offering more fodder for the argument that the Biden administration is de-emphasizing covid policy.
- Reports of threats against an Alabama clinic that does not provide abortions illuminate the realities of the post-Dobbs era: Even the state attorney general has taken issue with the clinic’s efforts to provide non-abortion maternal health care — and 40% of Alabama counties already have no access to maternal care.
- And on Capitol Hill, Sanders — head of a key Senate health committee — has said he will hold up reviewing nominations in an effort to pressure the Biden administration to produce a comprehensive drug pricing plan. Meanwhile, another key Senate committee releases its proposal to rein in fees charged by pharmacy benefit managers.
Also this week, KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner interviews Dan Mendelson, chief executive of Morgan Health — the successor project to Haven Healthcare, a joint venture by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase that aimed in 2018 to disrupt how Americans get health coverage but quickly disbanded. Rovner and Mendelson discuss the role of employers in insuring American workers.
Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:
Mary Agnes Carey: The Washington Post’s “I Lost 40 Pounds on Ozempic. But I’m Left With Even More Questions,” by Ruth Marcus.
Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “AMA Asks Doctors to De-Emphasize Use of BMI in Gauging Health and Obesity,” by Brittany Trang and Elaine Chen.
Rachel Cohrs: Politico’s “Thousands Lose Medicaid in Arkansas: Is This America’s Future?” by Megan Messerly.
Sandhya Raman: The Markup’s “Suicide Hotlines Promise Anonymity. Dozens of Their Websites Send Sensitive Data to Facebook,” by Colin Lecher and Jon Keegan.
Also mentioned in this week’s episode:
- KFF Health News’ “Biden Admin Implores States to Slow Medicaid Cuts After More Than 1M Enrollees Dropped,” by Hannah Recht.
- Politico Magazine’s “This Alabama Health Clinic Is Under Threat. It Doesn’t Provide Abortions,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein.
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By Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.