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Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ There’s A Really Big Health Bill In That Budget Deal

The bipartisan budget deal that passed Congress this week includes enough health policy changes to keep reporters and analysts busy for months.

In addition to renewing funding for Community Health Centers for two more years, the bill extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for four years beyond the six approved last month; repeals the controversial (but never implemented) Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare and permanently repeals Medicare’s caps on certain types of outpatient therapy.

Also, the final enrollment numbers for individual insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act came out this week. Spoiler: They are higher than most analysts expected.

Plus, Andy Slavitt, former acting head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, talks about his new group, “The United States of Care.”

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The budget bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday provides a lot of funding for health programs, but it also takes money away from others. It takes a big chunk of funding out of the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund and raises premiums for some wealthier Medicare beneficiaries.
  • That bill could make a number of changes to how Medicare works, including some new rules for accountable care organizations and more flexibility in telemedicine rules.
  • Trump’s proposed budget for next year, which comes out Monday, will offer a number of options to bring down drug prices. Some of them might be possible through the regulation process rather than requiring congressional action.
  • A data analysis this week of the ACA marketplace enrollment numbers points out big variations among states.
  • The panel takes on a listener’s question about the possibility that states could let insurers charge higher premiums to marketplace customers who didn’t have insurance before.
  • In the recent debate about the administration’s approval of work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees, officials often talk about “able-bodied” adults. That term has little definition and goes back to Elizabethan England.

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

Julie Rovner: Vox.com, “Why a Simple, Lifesaving Rabies Shot Can Cost $10,000 in America,” by Sarah Kliff.

Alice Ollstein: The New York Times, “In Sweeping War On Obesity, Chile Slays Tony The Tiger,” by Andrew Jacobs.

Joanne Kenen: Politico, “Trump’s Controversial New Health Care Idea,” by Sarah Karlin-Smith.

Margot Sanger-Katz: Harvard Business Review, “What Could Amazon’s Approach to Health Care Look Like,” by Robert S. Huckman.

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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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