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Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ 2017: The Year In Health Policy

This has been quite a year in health policy. In 2017, the Affordable Care Act survived numerous GOP efforts to repeal and replace it, although the year-end tax bill will eliminate fines for failing to obtain health insurance in 2019. And, ironically, the more Republicans talked the health law down, the more popular it got.

Meanwhile, Congress may have passed the tax bill, but lawmakers are still scrambling to finish legislation needed to keep the government open after Dec. 22. On the line in that bill is the Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides coverage to 9 million kids around the country. Its formal funding ran out in September.

This week’s “What the Health?” guests are:

Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News Joanne Kenen of Politico Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times

They discuss these topics as well as health issues in 2017 that were less covered and remain unresolved.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Republican repeal of the individual mandate penalties will lead to higher premiums and higher numbers of uninsured, but the magnitude of that change is still unknown.
  • The promise Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) secured for bills to help stabilize the individual insurance market has faltered, and those bills will not be part of any end-of-the-year legislation. This time, she didn’t have other moderate GOP allies to help strengthen her negotiating position.
  • Two surprising year-end observations: Despite Republicans’ efforts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, the health law seems to be resilient and the public appears to be more committed than ever to sustaining Medicaid, the health program for low-income residents.

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

Julie Rovner: Politico’s “The stealth repeal of Obamacare,” by Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen: HuffPost’s “Health Insurers See Higher Prices And A Big Mess Ahead Without The Obamacare Mandate,” by Jeffrey Young

Alice Ollstein: Politico’s “HHS defends withholding comments critical of abortion, transgender policy,” by Dan Diamond

Margot Sanger-Katz: Bloomberg’s “A Hospital Giant Discovers That Collecting Debt Pays Better Than Curing Ills,” by John Tozzi and’s “How well does bariatric surgery work? We asked 11 people who got it,” by Julia Belluz

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcher or Google Play.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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