KHN’s “What the Health?”: Dems agree, but not what they should agree on
Negotiations on what to include and cut from the domestic spending package on Capitol Hill are reportedly progressing, but so far all Democrats must show that their efforts to enforce President Biden’s health and other social spending are an ongoing promise to keep trying.
Meanwhile, Biden government officials are revealing plans to make Covid-19 vaccines available to younger children without looking like they are anticipating the science to avoid the mixed messages heralding the introduction of booster doses for adults .
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen from Politico and Johns Hopkins, Tami Luhby from CNN and Rachel Cohrs from Stat.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- While the Democrats on Capitol Hill currently have a different feeling, it still seems very unlikely to achieve the goal of both the House and Senate passing the Social Expenditure Bill by the end of October. It is possible that by that time the negotiators could agree on a framework that would allow Congress to pass an infrastructure bill while they work on the social spending bill. Plus, things are likely to fall apart a few more times before something is finally accomplished.
- The Congressional Budget Office this week estimated the health insurance impact the version of the House Bill would have. It found that insurance coverage increased sharply, but employer-provided insurance coverage decreased. The CBO also forecast a major loss in employer coverage when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but that did not happen.
- Neither the House nor Senate versions of the Department of Health’s Annual Spending Act (not the same as the Social Spending Act) contain the Hyde Amendment language, which prohibits federal funding for most abortions. But without the language, the bill can’t pass the Senate as it needs 60 votes. This really is an example of virtue signals for progressives, although it is difficult to predict how the abortion debate will play out if the Supreme Court overrides as expected Roe versus Wade this designation.
- The Biden government has until November 15 to nominate someone to head the FDA. The top candidate is said to be Robert Califf, who headed the agency for the last year of President Barack Obama’s term in office. Still, he has baggage similar to Janet Woodcock, the current acting commissioner who the Biden administration first sought for the job. Some Senate Democrats oppose Woodcock because of their permissive stance on the approval of opioids in recent years.
- Speaking of the FDA, the agency released long-awaited regulations this week that will allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter. The idea was supported by both parties and selling OTC will make a huge difference in terms of affordability and accessibility. Without these regulations, people in many states had to see an audiologist to get hearing aids. Some places just don’t have audiologists.
- In terms of Covid, the White House appears to be a little more cautious this time around when it announces its plans to vaccinate children under 12 than it does when it reveals its plans for boosters. Officials messed up communications around adult boosters. This time around, they stress that they are not pre-empting science and leaving actual medical decisions to be made by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- With a few exceptions, the vaccination regulations seem to be working. Some of the places that originally offered their workers a trial option – including New York City – are now taking them away. Ultimately, however, the vaccination regulations are again causing cracks in the social fabric of the country.
- Nurses are a big part of the “Great Resignation”. They are also leaving traditional staff positions to make much more money as travel nurses. This contributes to the inflation of health care costs and disrupts the continuity of care. It’s a huge problem.
Panellists also recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week, which they think you should read as well, for added recognition:
Julie Rowner: KHN’s “Hygienists Prepare for Open Battles with Dentists Over Practice Laws” by Giles Bruce.
Tami Luhby: The modern healthcare “Rural Billing: COVID-19 highlights longstanding challenges for rural hospitals. Will there be impulses for change? “ by Jessie Hellmann.
Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic”“I don’t know if I would still call it meth”, ‘“By Sam Quinones.
Rachel Cohrs: US News & World Reports “After Death Debt: The Painful Blow of Medicaid Estate Recovery“By Sarah True.
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