Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ (Almost) Live from Austin!

From left: Julie Rovner, Joanne Kenen, Alice Ollstein and Anna Edney(Courtesy of The Texas Tribune Festival)

President Donald Trump’s proposed rule that would make it more difficult for immigrants to gain permanent status if they use government aid programs could have a major impact in Texas, with its large immigrant population.

Texas is also ground zero for the health debate in this year’s midterm elections. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is the lead plaintiff in a case filed by 20 GOP state officials arguing that the entire Affordable Care Act is now unconstitutional in light of last year’s tax bill, which canceled the penalties for people who fail to obtain health insurance. The Trump administration does not agree that the whole law should fall, but says the parts protecting people with preexisting health conditions should be struck down. A federal district court judge in Fort Worth is expected to issue a decision in the case soon.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?,” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Alice Ollstein of Politico. Technical difficulties prevented us from bringing you the discussion taped Sept. 27 before a live audience in Austin as part of the 2018 Texas Tribune Festival. So, the panelists, back in D.C., joined Rovner, still in Austin, for a redo Sept. 28.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The latest version of the new “public charge” regulations proposed by the Trump administration could penalize immigrants who use food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance or Medicare prescription drug subsidies. But unlike an earlier version of the proposal, it would not take into account immigrants’ use of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
  • With less than six weeks to go before the critical midterm elections, federal protections for people with preexisting health conditions has become the top campaign health issue in many states, in many races eclipsing concerns about prescription drug pricing and other out-of-pocket health costs.
  • As hearings continued on the nomination of federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court, a three-judge appeals court panel heard arguments on a case he decided earlier this year concerning the right of minor immigrants to obtain an abortion.
  • Increases in premiums for insurance under the Affordable Care Act appear to moderating, and some states are reporting decreases for plans that start Jan. 1, 2019. The Trump administration is now trying to take credit for “fixing” the ACA’s marketplaces. However, state insurance officials have noted that premiums are moderating in spite of, rather than because of, the administration’s actions.

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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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