Think Tank

Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Hurricane Harvey And Health Costs

Clockwise from left, Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times. (Caitlin Hillyard/KHN)

Hurricane Harvey and its torrential aftermath disrupted everything on the Texas and Louisiana coasts — including health care. Patients can expect months of chaos, as their providers scramble just to get back to work and sort out medical records. In addition, the storm may end up killing, injuring and sickening many more people, as toxins such as mold and chemical explosions take their toll.

Even so, Harvey could have been worse, says a panel of experienced health care journalists on the latest Kaiser Health News “What the Health?” podcast. That’s because the medical infrastructure, unlike in many previous national disasters, held up relatively well. Hospitals planned for flooding, to the point that underground tunnels connecting one to another could be sealed off with “submarine doors” to keep the water from invading every facility.

Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times also discuss what impact the relief effort in Washington could have on an already jampacked September agenda. The pressing need for money to rebuild in Texas and Louisiana could complicate and delay other important congressional decisions, including deliberations on stabilizing or changing the Affordable Care Act.

Also this week: an interview with KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of “An American Sickness,” about why medical care costs so much.

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This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.