The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the federal constitutional right to abortion has left confusion in its wake. State abortion laws are in constant flux, patients and providers are unsure what services are legal where, and employers struggling to accommodate workers face privacy and, potentially, legal obstacles.
Meanwhile, Congress is back from its July Fourth recess, with time running out if lawmakers are to pass legislation that will continue expanded subsidies for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act. Without the subsidies, premiums will jump and voters will start getting those notices right before the midterm elections. Congressional Democrats have also resumed talks on some of President Joe Biden’s agenda items, including efforts to lower Medicare drug costs.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- The Supreme Court’s decision has created turmoil in many states as abortion rights supporters and opponents fight over the issue in state courts. It’s creating whiplash for patients and health care providers in states like Louisiana as courts wobble back and forth about whether strict abortion restrictions can take effect.
- Although the decision is less than a month old, abortion providers in states that protect the right to abortion say they are already seeing high numbers of patients traveling for care.
- The administration is seeking to buttress abortion access, but abortion rights advocates continue to complain that the federal response to the court’s action has been slow and weak. Officials say, however, that they have little power in this new battle over abortion because it will be fought on the state level and they are wary of setting up new cases that could allow the Supreme Court to strip more federal powers.
- President Joe Biden last Friday ordered federal agencies to assess options to help people seeking abortion services. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance to doctors, hospitals, and other providers reaffirming that federal law protects them if they offer lifesaving services to pregnant women in emergency situations. HHS also notified pharmacies that if they failed to fill prescriptions for drugs that are used for medical abortions but also for other conditions, they could be violating federal civil rights law.
- In other reproductive health news, a French drugmaker has applied to the FDA for permission to market an over-the-counter birth control pill. A decision is not likely until next year, but a brewing controversy may hinge on whether the pill would be available to minors.
- States are beginning to set the rates for 2023 insurance plans sold on the ACA marketplaces, and the rates are going up. That could be a shock to consumers purchasing those plans if Congress doesn’t renew the enhanced premium subsidies that Democrats pushed through two years ago. Those increased subsidies appear to be in jeopardy on Capitol Hill.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: KHN-NPR’s “In America, Cancer Patients Endure Debt on Top of Disease” by Noam N. Levey
Alice Miranda Ollstein: NiemanLab’s “Unimaginable Abortion Stories Will Become More Common. Is American Journalism Ready?” by Laura Hazard Owen
Sandhya Raman: The Atlantic’s “The Great Veterinary Shortage,” by Sarah Zhang
Tami Luhby: The Wall Street Journal’s “Medical Debt Is Being Wiped Off Credit Reports. What That Means for You,” by Ayse Kelce
Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:
KHN’s “Three Things to Know About Insurance Coverage for Abortion,” by Julie Appleby
KHN’s “How Much Health Insurers Pay for Almost Everything Is About to Go Public,” by Julie Appleby
CNN’s “HHS Unlawfully Varied Hospital Reimbursement Rates, Supreme Court Says,” by Tierney Sneed, Ariane de Vogue, and Tami Luhby
The Los Angeles Times’ “Post-Roe, Many Autoimmune Patients Lose Access to ‘Gold Standard’ Drug,” by Sonja Sharp
Politico’s “FDA Weighs First-Ever Application for Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pills in the Wake of Roe’s Fall,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein
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This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Health News), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.