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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: How’s That Open Enrollment Going?

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Open enrollment for 2020 health coverage under the Affordable Care Act is halfway over. So far, sign-ups appear to be lagging behind last year’s, but not dramatically.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and Congress still say they want to do something about the teen vaping epidemic, the high cost of prescription drugs and “surprise” medical bills. But it’s Thanksgiving week, and official Washington has not much to show for any of those issues.

And Democrats appear to be moving further into the abortion-rights camp than ever — although whether that will help them in more conservative parts of the country is far from clear.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Although average premium costs for the ACA’s marketplace plans have declined slightly, many experts suspect that overall enrollment for next year may dip, too. That’s because there is less outreach from the administration, deductibles are still high, and the penalty for not having insurance was canceled as part of the 2017 GOP tax cut bill.
  • One state to watch on enrollment is California. Officials there have expanded subsidies to more middle-income families. California also has a longer enrollment period and is spending $100 million on enrollment marketing.
  • The Trump administration may wait to issue its long-promised plan to regulate vaping products until after the Senate acts on the nomination of Dr. Stephen Hahn to be the next chief of the Food and Drug Administration. Trump had promised to ban flavored vaping products but is reportedly having second thoughts.
  • In a marked shift, the Democratic presidential candidates generally agree there should be virtually no restrictions on abortions. That’s a big step from where Democrats were a few decades ago, when they suggested that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Regulators Allege Christian-Based Health Care Provider Broke State, Federal Rules,” by Todd Bookman

Paige Winfield Cunningham: Kaiser Health News’ “The Startlingly High Cost Of The ‘Free’ Flu Shot,” by Phil Galewitz

Kimberly Leonard: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “He Didn’t Know He Had a Preexisting Condition — Until His Insurer Rejected His $35,000 Hospital Bill,” by Sarah Gantz

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The New York Times’ “University to Students on Medicaid: Buy Private Coverage, or Drop Out,” by Sarah Kliff, and The Salt Lake Tribune’s “BYU-Idaho Will Allow Students to Use Medicaid, Apologizes for Causing ‘Turmoil’” by Courtney Tanner

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

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