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Democrats in Congress have a harder time drafting legislation to lower drug prices than making promises about it. But the drug pricing provisions of the $ 3.5 trillion social spending bill are critical – not only to keep that promise to voters, but to produce savings that will pay for many other promised improvements, like new benefits. dental and other for Medicare patients.
Meanwhile, the abortion debate has been rocked by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow a very restrictive law to go into effect in Texas. And the Biden administration is unveiling a “Covid Control 2.0” strategy that includes more sticks and fewer carrots.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein from Politico, Rachel Cohrs from Stat and Shefali Luthra from The 19th.
Some of the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- The budget reconciliation process captured the attention of Congress this week. Different committees drafted and voted on their parts of this detailed and complex budget and cost-saving measure. There have been marathon markup sessions and some drama.
- What could become a major sticking point are the prescription drug provisions of the Reconciliation Bill, which, by limiting drug costs, provide the lion’s share of the savings planned to pay for Medicare extensions. , Medicaid and ACA. The drug proposal would tie the prices Medicare pays for drugs to those in other countries, which the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes.
- Democratic leaders continue to project confidence that drug price restrictions will be in the final bill. Driving down drug costs was a big campaign problem for Democrats. In addition, the funding it would provide is paying the price for a number of progressive priorities. However, the margins in the House are very slim and the action of the committee has already shed light on those caucus members who voted against it.
- It also appears that executives are looking at cutting back on certain investments – doing a little for everyone rather than embarking on certain initiatives. For example, expanding Medicare dental and vision coverage is not as strong as many progressives wanted. Investments in home health care have also been cut, and a new cancer research institute will receive much less funding. However, the reconciliation measure currently appears to make funding for the expansion of Medicaid and ACA grants permanent.
- As a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling, abortion is effectively not available in Texas. While the new Texas law that the court allowed to come into effect does not make abortion a felony, it does allow private citizens to sue someone who allegedly aided or abetted a woman to have an abortion. . It has already had an intense freezing effect. Healthcare professionals who previously performed abortions are ceasing, even though the law technically allows abortions during the first six weeks of pregnancy.
- The Supreme Court’s ruling on this measure will likely open the door to other laws in that state. The scope could also go beyond abortion to other issues, such as voting rights. Politically, the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas law to go ahead plays into the angst and debate surrounding the court itself. Chief Justice Roberts, for example, who is concerned about the court’s credibility, voted with the minority to block the law.
- Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, who has come under fire for not speaking out on the issue, has spoken more and expressed his position. And Congress is planning a vote to write the protections of Roe vs. Wade in federal law. However, such a bill would likely not get Senate approval, as it would take 60 votes to overcome the filibuster of abortion opponents.
- Medicare administrators finally released their delayed annual report, which found the program’s hospital insurance trust fund would likely remain solvent until 2026 – the same estimate was issued last year. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau released its annual health insurance statistics, which also mostly stick to the status quo – although many people who lost private health coverage in 2020 have apparently switched to public coverage. in place.
Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN senior correspondent Phil Galewitz, who reported on KHN-NPR’s latest “Bill of the Month” article on two similar jaw surgeries with two very different price tags. If you have an outrageous medical bill that you want to send to us, you can do so here.
Plus, for added credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: New York Times’ “A Medical Career at a Cost: Infertility” by Jacqueline Mroz
Alice Miranda Ollstein: “New York Times’ False Diagnoses Hide High Rates of Drug Addiction in Nursing Homes,” by Katie Thomas, Robert Gebeloff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
Rachel Cohrs: “More than half of KHN states have reduced public health powers in the event of a pandemic”, by Lauren Weber and Anna Maria Barry-Jester
Shefali Luthra: 19th Annual “‘No one wants to be sued’: Some abortion providers have stopped working in Texas”, by Jennifer Gerson
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