Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Virginia, The VA, And Military Medicine

After a five-year fight, the Virginia legislature voted this week to expand the Medicaid program to an estimated 400,000 low-income residents who are not currently eligible for health coverage. And New Jersey became the second state to impose a state-level “individual mandate” requiring most residents to have health insurance or pay a fine, following last year’s repeal of the federal penalty.

Meanwhile, Congress has quietly passed a major bipartisan bill to overhaul and streamline health programs provided to the nation’s veterans. The bill includes an expansion of veterans’ ability to get private care paid for outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system, in certain cases.

Also this week, an interview with Dr. Arthur Kellerman, dean of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the military’s medical school in Bethesda, Md.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Two key factors helped push Medicaid expansion through the Virginia General Assembly. One was the Trump administration’s endorsement of work requirements for nondisabled adults and the other was the blue wave that shook the state last November when the House of Delegates nearly turned from a safe Republican majority to Democratic control.
  • New Jersey’s passage of a mandate that state residents get coverage or face a penalty was surprising because that provision was one of the most disliked parts of the federal Affordable Care Act.
  • Even as Congress sent the president the bill expanding VA programs, there is a widening debate in Washington about whether the system should be privatized. That debate has helped both create the vacancy at the top of the Department of Veterans Affairs and complicated efforts to fill it.

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

Julie Rovner: Bloomberg News’ “Is There a Doctor Aboard? Airlines Often Hope Not,” by Ivan Levingston

Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic’s “Ambien Doesn’t Cause Racism,” by Olga Khazan

Rebecca Adams: ProPublica’s “Why Your Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills,” by Marshall Allen

Paige Winfield Cunningham: The New York Times’ “Origins of an Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew Its Opioids Were Widely Abused,” by Barry Meier

Also: The New Yorker’s “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,” by Patrick Radden Keefe

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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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