Think Tank

Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ While You Were Celebrating …

The year in health policy has already begun: The Trump administration Thursday released a long-awaited regulation aimed at making it easier for small businesses and others to form “association health plans.” Now advocates and opponents will be able to weigh in with more specific recommendations.

Meanwhile, in December, the health policy focus was on the tax bill and its repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” penalty for most people who don’t have health insurance. But some recent key court decisions could reshape the benefits millions of people receive as part of their health coverage.

This week’s “What the Health?” guests are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.

They discuss these topics, as well as the prospects for pending health legislation on Capitol Hill.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Trump administration’s decision to expand association health plans faces a number of obstacles, including the lack of good oversight in many states and the poor track record of many past plans.
  • Consumer advocates fear that growth of association plans could leave many consumers without adequate benefits because some plans will not cover the same essential benefits that Obamacare plans guarantee. They also are concerned that healthy customers will migrate to the new plans and leave the ACA’s marketplace plans with an abundance of enrollees who are ill.
  • The prospects of the bill to stabilize the individual insurance market sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) appear to be dimming.
  • Two federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration rule to change the ACA’s contraception mandate. The decisions, though, are not based on the policy but on faulty rule-making.
  • In another highly watched court case, a federal judge has ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has until 2019 to set new rules on what employers can require of workers in their wellness programs.

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

Julie Rovner: The New York Times’ “Care Suffers as More Nursing Homes Feed Money Into Corporate Webs,” by Jordan Rau (of Kaiser Health News).

Paige Winfield Cunningham: The New York Times’ “In Pursuit of Liquid Gold,” by David Segal.

ALSO: Bloomberg News’ “How Doctors Are Getting Rich on Urine Tests for Opioid Patients,” by Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas (of Kaiser Health News).

Alice Ollstein: ProPublica’s “Want to Lower Health Care Costs? Stop Wasting Our Money,” by Marshall Allen.

Margot Sanger-Katz: The New York Times’ “Unfiltered Fervor: The Rush to Get Off the Water Grid,” by Nellie Bowles.

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