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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Health Care’s Back (In Court)

A federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Arkansas and Kentucky. Since the Arkansas program took effect in 2018, more than 18,000 people have lost health coverage because they failed to report their work hours to the state.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration changed its position in a lawsuit filed by Republican state officials challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The administration is now officially supporting cancellation of the entire health law in light of Congress’ elimination in the 2017 tax bill of the penalty for failing to have insurance.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

Also, Rovner interviews filmmaker Mike Eisenberg about his movie “To Err Is Human: A Patient Safety Documentary.”

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • In blocking the Arkansas Medicaid and Kentucky work requirements (Kentucky for the second time), U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said the Trump administration’s approval “did not address … whether and how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.”
  • A last-minute Department of Justice filing in another pending court case — this one renewing questions of whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional — has thrown the national health care debate on its ear. The Trump administration Monday night changed its position on the case. Last summer, it refused to defend the health law in full, but said the tax law changes eliminating the penalty for not having insurance should result in only a few closely related provisions being declared unconstitutional. Now the administration agrees with the lower-court ruling in the case that the entire ACA is invalid.
  • Democrats were thrilled by what they see as a political misstep by the president. Democrats rode the health issue to victory in many 2018 elections and see this as an opening to pursue the issue even more strongly in 2020. House Democrats this week also unveiled proposals to expand and shore up the ACA.
  • The final sign-up numbers are in for individuals purchasing coverage on the ACA’s health exchanges. While enrollment dropped slightly, to 11.4 million, the continued stability of the individual insurance market suggests that eliminating the tax penalty is having less of an impact than some supporters of the law had feared.

Ask Us Anything!

Do you have a health policy question you’d like the panelists to answer? You can send it to Please include where you’re from and how to pronounce your name.

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

Julie Rovner: The New York Times’ “My Friend’s Cancer Taught Me About a Hole in Our Health System,” by Aaron E. Carroll

Joanne Kenen: The Dallas News’ “Pain & Profit: Investigating Medicaid Managed Care in Texas,” by J. David McSwane and Andrew Chavez

Margot Sanger-Katz: Kaiser Health News’ “Medicaid Expansion Boosts Hospital Bottom Lines — And Prices,” by Phil Galewitz

Kimberly Leonard: CNN’s “The Inside Story of How John Roberts Negotiated to Save Obamacare,” by Joan Biskupic

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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

Related Topics

Courts Insight Insurance Medicaid Multimedia The Health Law