Skip to content
KFF Health News' 'What the Health?'

A Judicial Body Blow to the ACA

Episode 291

Return to the Full Article View You can republish this story for free. Click the "Copy HTML" button below. Questions? Get more details.

KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': A Judicial Body Blow to the ACA

The Host

Julie Rovner KHN @jrovner Read Julie's stories. Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent and host of KHN’s weekly health policy news podcast, “What the Health?” A noted expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically praised reference book “Health Care Politics and Policy A to Z,” now in its third edition.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act may have stopped trying to overturn the entire law in court, but they have not stopped challenging pieces of it — and they have found an ally in Fort Worth, Texas: U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor. In 2018, O’Connor held that the entire ACA was unconstitutional — a ruling eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. Now the judge has found that part of the law’s requirement for insurers to cover preventive care without copays violates a federal religious freedom law.

In a boost for the health law, though, North Carolina has become the 40th state to expand the Medicaid program to lower-income people who were previously ineligible. Even though the federal government will pay 90% of the cost of expansion, a broad swath of states — mostly in the South — have resisted widening eligibility for the program.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, and Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.

Panelists

Rachel Cohrs Stat News @rachelcohrs Read Rachel's stories Alice Miranda Ollstein Politico @AliceOllstein Read Alice's stories Sandhya Raman CQ Roll Call @SandhyaWrites Read Sandhya's stories

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Thursday’s decision out of Texas affects health plans nationwide and is expected to disrupt the health insurance market, which for years has provided preventive care without cost sharing under the ACA. Even if the decision survives a likely appeal, insurers could continue offering the popular, generally not-so-costly benefits, but they would no longer be required to do so.
  • The decision, which found that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force cannot mandate coverage requirements, hinges on religious freedom objections to plans covering PrEP, the HIV medication, alongside other preventive care.
  • Speaking of the ACA, this week North Carolina became the latest state to expand Medicaid coverage under the health law, which will render an estimated 600,000 residents newly eligible for the program. The development comes amid reports about hospitals struggling to cover uncompensated care, particularly in the 10 states that have resisted expanding Medicaid.
  • Pushback against Medicaid expansion has contributed over the years to a yawning coverage divide between politically “blue” and “red” states, with liberal-leaning states pushing to cover more services and people, while conservative-leaning states home in on policies that limit coverage, like work requirements.
  • On the abortion front, state attorneys general are challenging the FDA’s authority on the abortion pill — not only in Texas, but also in Washington state, where Democratic state officials are fighting the FDA’s existing restrictions on prescribing and dispensing the drug. The Biden administration has adopted a similar argument as it has in the Texas case challenging the agency’s original approval of the abortion pill: Let the FDA do its job and impose restrictions it deems appropriate, the administration says.
  • The FDA is poised to make a long-awaited decision on an over-the-counter birth control pill, an option already available in other countries. One key unknown, though, is whether the agency would impose age restrictions on access to it.
  • And as of this week, 160 Defense Department promotions have stalled over one Republican senator’s objections to a Pentagon policy regarding federal payments to service members traveling to obtain abortions.

Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: New York Magazine/The Cut’s “Abortion Wins Elections: The Fight to Make Reproductive Rights the Centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s 2024 Agenda,” by Rebecca Traister.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “How the Drug Industry Uses Fear of Fentanyl to Extract More Profit From Naloxone,” by Lev Facher.

Rachel Cohrs: The Washington Post’s “These Women Survived Combat. Then They Had to Fight for Health Care,” by Hope Hodge Seck.

Sandhya Raman: Capital B’s “What the Covid-19 Pandemic and Mpox Outbreak Taught Us About Reducing Health Disparities,” by Margo Snipe and Kenya Hunter.

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:

click to open the transcript Transcript: A Judicial Body Blow to the ACA

KHN’s ‘What the Health?’Episode Title: A Judicial Body Blow to the ACAEpisode Number: 291Published: March 30, 2023

[Editor’s note: This transcript, generated using transcription software, has been edited for style and clarity.]

Julie Rovner: Hello and welcome back to KHN’s “What the Health?” I’m Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent at Kaiser Health News. And I’m joined by some of the best and smartest health reporters in Washington. We’re taping this week on Thursday, March 30, at 11 a.m. As always, news happens fast, and things might have changed by the time you hear this. So here we go. Today we are joined via video conference by Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Good morning.

Rovner: Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call.

Sandhya Raman: Good morning.

Rovner: And happy birthday to you.

Raman: Thank you.

Rovner: And Rachel Cohrs of Stat News.

Rachel Cohrs: Hi, everybody.

Rovner: We’ve got breaking news, so we will get right to it. In Texas, we’ve got a major decision from a federal judge with national implications. No, not the abortion pill case — that is still out there. This time, Judge Reed O’Connor has ruled that the Affordable Care Act can’t require coverage of preventive services recommended by the [U.S.] Preventive Services Task Force because the PSTF, as an independent advisory board, can’t legally mandate anything. This case was specifically — although it was about a lot of things — but it was mostly about employers who didn’t want to cover preexposure prophylaxis [PrEP] for people at high risk of HIV because it violated their religious beliefs. And if the name Reed O’Connor sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the same judge who ruled in 2018 that the entire Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, a finding that wasn’t formally overturned until it got to the Supreme Court. Alice, you’ve been following this case. What happens now?

Ollstein: I’m expecting the Biden administration to appeal at lightning speed, although that appeal will go to the 5th Circuit, which is very right-leaning. It’s ruled to chip away at the Affordable Care Act in the past. So who really knows what will happen there? But yeah, this is really huge. This is saying that this board that has decided what services insurance companies have to cover for free, with no cost sharing, going all the way back to 2010 is not constitutional, and thus what they say can’t be enforced. And so this throws the insurance market into a bit of chaos.

Rovner: Yeah, although one would think that it wouldn’t affect this year’s policies — I mean, for people who are going to be worried that all of a sudden, you know, oh my God, I scheduled my mammogram and now my insurer might not pay for it. It’s not going to be that immediate, right?

Ollstein: We’re not expecting that. I mean, we’re expecting the Biden administration to ask for courts to stay the impact of the ruling until further arguments and appeals can be made. But we really don’t know at this point. And I will say, you know, I’ve seen some misinformation out there about how the ruling deals with contraception. They do not block the contraception mandate. That is related to this case, but the court did not accept that part of the challengers’ claims.

Rovner: Yeah, we should say there are a bunch of different claims and the judge only accepted a couple of them. It could have been even broader. But, you know, unlike the previous Affordable Care Act cases, this one doesn’t threaten the entire law, but it does threaten one of the law’s most popular pieces, those requirements that plans cover preventive care that’s been shown to be cost-effective. This could be an uncomfortable case for the Supreme Court, assuming it gets there, couldn’t it?

Cohrs: It could be an uncomfortable case for the Supreme Court, but it’s also uncomfortable for insurers, too, who’ve promised this. People have come to expect it. And if it is cost-effective, I mean, certainly there may be plans that, you know, make choices to restrict coverage or impose some cost sharing. If this stands, if this is applied nationwide — again, very big ifs at this point — but if these really are cost-effective, then it’s kind of an open question what insurers will choose to do, because obviously they want people to enroll in their plans as well.

Rovner: Yeah, I was going to say, I could see insurers sort of deciding as a group that we’re going to keep providing this stuff, as you say, Rachel, because they want, you know, they want to attract customers, because for the most part it’s not that expensive. I mean, obviously, you know, things like colonoscopies can run into the thousands of dollars, but a lot of these things are, if not de minimis, then just not very expensive. And, as I mentioned, they’re very popular. So it’s possible that, even though they may strike down the mandate, there won’t be as much of an impact from this as some people are saying. But, as Alice points out, we don’t really know anything at this point.

Ollstein: And I think some of the concern is the kind of risk-pool sorting we used to see, you know. So the challengers said that their right to purchase insurance that doesn’t cover certain things was being infringed upon. And so if insurers start to create separate plans, some of which cover all kinds of preventive care, including sexual health care, and separate ones that don’t, and people who don’t think they need a lot of stuff, you know, sort themselves into some plans and not others, you can see that reflected in premiums that could lead to some of the major pre-ACA problems we used to see.

Rovner: If the idea that somebody doesn’t like something and therefore can’t buy something without it, you can see that leading to all kinds of problems down the line about people saying, well, “I don’t like that drugstores sell condoms, so therefore I should be able to go to a drugstore that doesn’t sell condoms,” although that’s not a mandate. But you can see that this could stretch very far with people’s religious beliefs. And indeed, the basis of this claim is that this violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That’s one of the things that Judge O’Connor found, and that could be taken to quite the extreme, I imagine.

Ollstein: Right. I mean, they weren’t required to actually purchase PrEP. They weren’t required to use it. They weren’t required to prescribe it. Just the insurance company was required to cover it along with everything else they cover. And the folks said even purchasing insurance that had that as one of the things it could conceivably cover violated their religious rights.

Rovner: Yes. And this goes back to the contraceptive cases, where the religious organization said that, you know, by having birth control in their plans, it made them complicit in something that they thought was a sin. And that’s exactly what’s being stressed here, even among the individual plaintiffs: that having to buy insurance that has these benefits, even if they don’t use them, makes them complicit in, basically, sex outside of marriage. I mean, that’s what’s in the decision. It’s quite a reach. I’ll be interested to see, as this goes up, what people think of it. So, before we got Judge O’Connor’s opinion, what I thought would be the biggest news of the week comes from North Carolina, which on Monday became the 40th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, to cover people with incomes up to 138% of poverty. That’s about $20,000 in 2023. Well, it’s almost there. The newly eligible 600,000 people won’t be able to sign up until the legislature approves a budget, which is likely later this spring. North Carolina expanding the program leaves only a swath of states across the South, including Florida, Georgia, and Texas, and a couple in the Great Plains as still holding out on a 90% federal match. Is anyone else on the horizon or is this going to be it for a while?

Raman: I think one thing to note about how this is happening is that North Carolina was able to do this finally through the legislature after like a yearslong process. And it has been increasingly rare for this to happen through the legislature. The last time was Virginia, in 2018, but every other state that has done it in recent years has all been through ballot initiative and going that route. And the 10 holdouts that we have, you know, we have Republican-controlled legislatures who’ve been pretty against doing this. So I think if any of those states were to be able to do that at this point that haven’t been tempted by, you know, any of the incentives … [unintelligible] … get a higher match rate or anything like that, it would have to be through the ballot, which is already a difficult process, can take years. There have been various roadblocks to push back and even some of the states in the past that have been able to get it through ballot initiative — some of the legislatures afterwards have tried to like push back on it — when we saw with Utah a few years ago, where even if the voters had voted that they wanted to expand, they wanted to kind of pull it back.

Rovner: We thought in Maine, where the governor blocked it until basically he was out of office.

Raman: Yeah.

Ollstein: And in Missouri, where they just refused to fund it.

Raman: Yeah, so I think that’ll be definitely something to watch with how the budget goes in the next few months. But I guess, at least with North Carolina, this was something that was bipartisan. It was spearheaded in the legislature by Republicans, so I think they might not have the same issues there than Missouri, but it’s a tough haul to get the remaining 10 at this point after this many years.

Rovner: Yeah, I feel like North Carolina is much more like Virginia, which is that, finally, after a lot of wearing down, the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor were able to come to some kind of agreement. That’s what happened in Virginia. And that seems to be what’s happened here in North Carolina. Meanwhile, in those 10 states, hospitals which end up providing free care to people who can’t pay aren’t doing so well. In Florida, the state’s hospital association has been all but begging the state government to expand Medicaid pretty much since it was available to them, which is now going on 13 years. According to the American Hospital Association, 74% of rural hospital closures around the country took place in states that have not expanded Medicaid or where expansion had been in place for less than a year. And the New York Times has a story this week about the toll that that lack of insurance is taking — I’m sorry — and the New York Times has a story this week about the toll that lack of insurance for the working poor is taking there, not just on the state’s hospitals, but on the health of the state’s population. Lawmakers in these states are very happy to take federal money for all manner of things. What is it about this Medicaid expansion that’s making them say, “No, no, no”?

Raman: This was something that came up this week in the House. Appropriations’ Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee had a hearing this week specifically on rural communities and some of the issues they face. And Medicaid expansion obviously did come up with some of the witnesses and some of the lawmakers as something that would be helpful given the number of hospital closures they’ve seen, and there might only be one health care facility for miles or in a county, and just how it would be helping them to kind of relieve paying for the uncompensated care that they’re already dealing with, you know, highlighted a number of the issues there. So it’s something that comes up, but I think one of the pushbacks that we saw was, you know, again, that it is a) tied to the Affordable Care Act, which has been such a partisan back-and-forth since its inception, and then b) just the messaging has always been about the cost. I mean, even if the general consensus is that it does save money over time for taking care of that care, something that came up was why states get more of a reimbursement for expansion than they do for traditional Medicaid. That was brought up a couple times, things like that. And so I think it’s hard to get some of those folks on board just because of how partisan it has become.

Rovner: Yeah, I remember I watched the hearing in Wyoming on this last year. They didn’t want to do it, it seemed, more for ideology. I mean, a lot of states that are doing this, you know, you can levy a tax on hospitals and nursing homes, who are happy to pay the tax because they’re now getting paid for these patients who couldn’t pay. And the state’s really not out-of-pocket, as it were, at all. But and yet, as we point out, these last 10 states, including some of the really big ones, have yet to actually succumb to this. Well, while we are talking about Medicaid, there have been a couple of interesting stories from my KHN colleagues in the past few weeks about so-called social determinants of health, those not strictly medical interventions that have a big impact on how sick or healthy people are. In California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to use Medicaid to pay for six months of rent or temporary housing for homeless people. And in Montana, health professionals can now prescribe vouchers for fruit and vegetables for patients with little access to fresh food. Is this the wave of the future, or will those who want to shrink rather than expand the welfare state and government in general roll programs like these back?

Cohrs: I think there certainly is a trend, a lot of momentum behind the idea of food as medicine and, you know, moving away and exploring some of these non-medication treatments or some of these underlying reasons why people do have health issues. I think certainly support for the Medicaid program is going to be a hot-button issue in D.C. over the next few months, but there is a lot that states can do on their own as well. And I know states have, you know, programs to kind of cover people that fall between the cracks of traditional insurance programs. California has a robust program for that, the local levels as well. So I think there may be ways to get around that, even if we do see some more restrictions. And again, the administration is Democratic at this point, so I think they may be friendlier to some of these innovations than prior ones, and that could change at any time. But this certainly isn’t something that’s going to go away.

Rovner: I wonder if we’re going to end up with blue states having all of these more robust pro — I mean, we already have blue states with more robust programs, but blue states having these more inclusive programs and red states not. Alice, you’re nodding.

Ollstein: Absolutely. And that’s been the trend for a while, but it could even accelerate now, I think, and you’re seeing that on both sides, with blue states looking to cover more and more things; also looking to cover more and more people, including undocumented people. That’s another trend in Medicaid. At the same time, you have red states that have long explored how to cover fewer and fewer, you know, trying to change the income eligibility threshold for expanded Medicaid, trying to do work requirements, trying to do, like, other restrictions. And so I think the patchwork and the divide is only going to continue.

Rovner: Well, moving on to abortion this week, we are still waiting, as I said, for that other decision out of Texas that could impact the future of the abortion pill mifepristone. But Alice, there’s another case at the other end of the country that could have something to say about the Texas case. What’s going on in Washington state?

Ollstein: This one has really flown under the radar. So this is an interesting situation where the same — a lot of the same Democratic attorneys general who were siding with the Biden administration in the Texas case are challenging the Biden administration in a different case in Washington state, basically saying that the remaining federal restrictions on abortion pills — mainly that providers have to get certified in order to prescribe the drugs or dispense them — saying that that should be tossed out, that it’s not supported by medicine and science. And so it’s interesting because you have the Biden administration fighting back against an effort to make the pills more accessible, which is not what a lot of people expect. It goes sort of against their rhetoric in recent months; they’ve talked about wanting to make the pills more accessible and they’re opposing an effort that would do that. But it is somewhat consistent with their position in the Texas case, which is, they’re saying, “Look, this is the FDA’s job. Let the FDA do its job. The FDA has a process, came up with these rules, got rid of some, kept others, and you outside folks don’t have the right to challenge and overturn it.”

Rovner: So what happens if the judges in both of these cases find for the plaintiffs, which would be kind of, but not completely, conflicting?

Ollstein: Yeah, so the Washington state case could just apply to the dozen states that are part of the challenge. And so you could have, again, more of a patchwork in which the abortion pills become even more accessible in those blue states and even less accessible in other states. You could also have these competing rulings that ultimately trigger Supreme Court review.

Rovner: Yeah, it’s not exactly a circuit split because it wouldn’t be opposite decisions on the same case; they’re different cases here. But as you point out, it’s really a case challenging the authority of the FDA to do what the FDA does. So it’s going to be really interesting to watch how this all plays out. While the future of mifepristone remains in doubt, the FDA is going to consider making at least one birth control pill over the counter. We know that morning-after pills, which are high doses of regular birth control pills, are already available without a prescription. So why hasn’t there been an over-the-counter birth control pill until now?

Ollstein: Everything concerning birth control, emergency contraception, abortion, it just — these fights drag on for years and years and years. So finally, we seem to be on the cusp of having a decision on this. It’s expected, from most people I’ve talked to, that they will approve this over-the-counter birth control. There’s a lot of data from around the world. A lot of other countries already have this. And one key unknown is whether the FDA will maintain an age restriction on it. A lot of progressive advocates do not want an age restriction because they think that this is important to help teens prevent unwanted pregnancies. And I think that’s going to be a big piece of the fight that I’m watching.

Rovner: And oh, my goodness, it was that age restriction that held up the over-the-counter morning-after pill for years. That was like a 13-year process to get that over the counter. It went on and on and on, and I covered it. All right. Well, there is abortion-related action on Capitol Hill too this week. We’ve got a potential abortion standoff brewing in the Senate over reproductive health policy at the Department of Defense. Who wants to talk about that one?

Raman: This one has been, I think, really interesting, since we’re all health reporters. And it’s been really something that I think my defense colleagues have been following so closely. But we have Senator Tuberville, who’s been holding up military nominations because the Pentagon has a policy that allows, you know, service members leave for reproductive care and it covers travel to seek an abortion. And so —

Rovner: Although it still doesn’t pay for the abortion.

Raman: It does not pay for the abortions. It’s for the travel. And so I know that my colleagues have looked at this and how this point, like, both sides have been getting a little frustrated, you know, with even some senators saying, “Hey, I agree that I don’t like this policy, but you need to find another way,” because as of earlier this week 160 promotions have been stalled. And so it’s just been kind of ramping up and holding up a lot of folks for kind of an unusual method.

Rovner: Yeah, and the defense secretary saying, I mean, this threatens national security because these are promotions — are important promotions. Flag officers, these are not, you know, just sort of — they’re routine, but they’re, you know, but if they don’t happen, if they get stalled, it’s a problem. In all of my years of seeing anti-abortion senators hold up things, this is not one I have seen before. It’s at least — it’s sort of new and imaginative, and I guess we will see how that plays out. Back in the states, though, it seems that the efforts to restrict reproductive rights are getting very extreme, very fast. Yes, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that a pregnant woman does have a right to an abortion when continuing the pregnancy threatens her life. But four of the nine justices there didn’t even want to go that far, suggesting that the legislature has the right to basically require saving the fetus even at the cost of the pregnant person’s life. In Texas, a lawsuit in which the ex-husband is suing the friend of his ex-wife for the wrongful death of his child for helping her get abortion medication is setting the stage for the so-called personhood debate: the idea that a new person with full legal right is created upon fertilization of an egg by sperm. Over the past few decades, several states have rejected personhood ballot measures as a bridge too far. But it feels like all bets are off now. I mean, it’s sort of like a race to see who can be the most extreme state.

Ollstein: I think the trends are revealing some interesting things. I mean, one, anti-abortion folks are well aware that people are still getting abortions, mainly in one of two ways: either traveling out of state or ordering pills online and taking them at home, both of which are very difficult to enforce and stop. And so there’s just a lot of, like, throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks, in terms of, can we actually criminalize either of those things? If so, how is it enforced, or does it even need to be enforced? Or is just the fear and the chilling effect enough? I mean, we definitely see that. We definitely see medical providers holding off on doing even perfectly legal things because of fear and the chilling effect. And so there’s just a lot of experimentation at the state level right now.

Rovner: Yeah, I forgot to mention Idaho, where the legislature introduced a bill that would make it a crime — that creates abortion trafficking as a crime — for someone to take a minor, it’s not really across state lines, because the state can’t do that, so it’s like taking the minor to the border in an effort to cross state lines to get an abortion. There was, for many years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, something called the Child Custody Protection Act in Congress, because they needed that for the interstate part of it, that would make it a crime to take a minor across state lines in violation of the home state’s parental involvement laws. It passed both the House and the Senate at various times. It never became law. It’s been introduced recently, but nobody’s tried to take it up recently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that come back up, too. But it really does seem that every day there’s another bill in another state legislature that says — after all the claims of the anti-abortion movement for decades, that we don’t want to punish the women, we only want to punish the providers — that’s gone out the window, right?

Raman: I guess I would add that, you know, we’re seeing a lot of this activity now. But something that I keep in mind is that a) it’s gotten a lot harder to know what’s going to, you know, using the spaghetti metaphor that Alice did, like what will stick. So there’s just a lot more flurry of action. And then I feel like I see increasingly, you know, people, since they don’t know that, just like fixating a lot on various things, just because you don’t know. I think, you know, even a few years ago, there were a lot of things that would have one sponsor or two sponsors and have no chance of going anywhere, as most bills introduced anywhere do. But now, a) a lot of these things are moving very, very quickly in the legislature, and b) since we don’t know, it’s hard to know where to kind of focus, even to some of the experts that I’ve talked to, where it’s just, “We’re not sure.” So just be aware of all of these things in various places because of kind of that uncertainty.

Rovner: Yeah, I know I’m generally loath to talk about bills that got introduced either in Congress or in state legislatures, because I think it unnecessarily creates expectations that for the most part don’t happen. But as both of you say, some of these things are happening so fast that, if you mention them one week, they’re law by the next week. So we will see as this continues to move quickly. All right. That’s the news for this week. Now it is time for our extra credit segment. That’s when we each recommend a story we read this week we think you should read too. As always, don’t worry if you miss it. We will post the links on the podcast page at kffhealthnews.org and in our show notes on your phone or other mobile device. Rachel, why don’t you go first this week?

Cohrs: All right. So my story is from the Washington Post, and the headline is “These Women Survived Combat. Then They Had to Fight for Health Care,” by Hope Hodge Seck. And I thought it was just a really great feature on this very niche issue. And I think veterans’ kind of health care overall just doesn’t get as much coverage as it should, and —

Rovner: Particularly women’s veteran’s health care.

Cohrs: Exactly. Yes. And so these women were essentially going into combat situations to help relations with women in very conservative cultures, and they were exposed to the grenade blasts and a lot of these combat situations. But then their health care coverage upon returning wasn’t covered. And there is kind of a new bill with some momentum behind it that is trying to plug that loophole. So, yeah, I thought it was a very great feature on an issue that’s undercovered.

Rovner: Yeah, this was something I knew nothing about until I read this story. Alice?

Ollstein: I chose a piece by Rachel’s colleague at Stat, Lev Facher, called “How the Drug Industry Uses Fear of Fentanyl to Extract More Profit From Naloxone.” And this is really timely, with the approval this week of over-the-counter opioid-overdose-reverse medication. And basically it’s about how these drug companies are coming up with new forms of the drug, really huge doses, new delivery forms, injectables, and nasal sprays, and stuff that are not really justified by science and are sort of just an opportunity for more profit because the basic form of the drug that works extremely well and is very affordable, they are basically hyping the fear of fentanyl to try to push these stronger products they’re coming up with. And the fear is that municipal governments that have limited resources are going to spend their money on those not really justified new forms and get fewer medication for everyone than just using the basic stuff that we know works.

Rovner: Indeed. Sandhya?

Raman: My extra credit is from Margo Snipe and Kenya Hunter at Capital B, and it’s called “What the Covid-19 Pandemic and Mpox Outbreak Taught Us About Reducing Health Disparities.” And I thought this was an interesting look that they did, highlighting how, you know, there’s been a lot more talk about the various health inequities among, you know, racial and ethnic and sexual minority communities after these two pandemics have started. And they look at how some of the targeted efforts have narrowed some of the gaps in things like vaccines, but just how some of these lessons can be used to address other health disparities, you know, things like community outreach and expanding types of screenings and how many languages public health information is translated into and things like that. So, it’s a good read.

Rovner: Well, my extra credit this week is a long read, a very long read, by Rebecca Traister in New York Magazine, called “Abortion Wins Elections: The Fight to Make Reproductive Rights the Centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s 2024 Agenda.” And while I’m not sure I’m buying everything that she’s selling here, this is an incredibly thorough and interesting look at the past, present, and possibly future of the abortion rights movement at the national, state, and local levels. If you are truly interested in this subject, it’s well worth the half hour or so of your time that it takes to get through the entire thing. It’s a really, really good piece. OK, that is our show for this week. As always, if you enjoyed the podcast, you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. We’d appreciate it if you left us a review; that helps other people find us too. Special thanks, as always, to our ever-patient producer, Francis Ying. Also, as always, you can email us your comments or questions. We’re at whatthehealth@kff.org. Or you can tweet me still. I’m @jrovner. Alice?

Ollstein: @AliceOllstein.

Rovner: Rachel?

Cohrs: @rachelcohrs.

Rovner: Sandhya?

Raman: @SandhyaWrites.

Rovner: We will be back in your feed next week. Until then, be healthy.

Credits

Francis Ying Audio producer Emmarie Huetteman Editor

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? on SpotifyApple PodcastsStitcherPocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Health News), 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.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.

Some elements may be removed from this article due to republishing restrictions. If you have questions about available photos or other content, please contact khnweb@kff.org.