KHN’s “What the Health?”: A Look at the Lame-Duck Session

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When Congress returns to Washington after Election Day, it will face a long list of health care items that need attention before the end of the year, including setting overall spending for health care programs and preventing a series of cuts to Medicare payments to health care providers.

Meanwhile, in California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the nation’s first bill aimed at curbing misinformation about COVID-19 and misinformation by doctors.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner; Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call; Jesse Hellman, also of CQ Roll Call; and KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • When congressional lawmakers left town last week for a month-long campaign ahead of the midterm elections, they agreed to fund the government — but only until mid-December. The election results could affect whether they reach funding agreements for the full fiscal year when they return.
  • Key House Democrats have vowed to remove the so-called Hyde Amendment from all spending bills, but that effort apparently lacks enough support to pass the Senate. The Hyde Amendment, named for Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who died in 2007, prohibits the use of federal funds for most abortions.
  • Among the funding issues still to be decided by lawmakers is whether they will continue certain programs started during the pandemic, such as allowing Medicare to cover telehealth services and whether enhanced Medicaid will continue for U.S. territories.
  • Also still awaiting action from Congress is a bipartisan effort to improve mental health services.
  • In response to some of the unusual treatments and theories that have emerged surrounding covid, California has passed a law that could bring more discipline to doctors who knowingly spread misinformation directly to patients. They can be reprimanded by the state medical board.
  • The abortion issue is heating up in campaigns across the country, especially among Democrats running for Congress, governor or attorney general. Republicans, on the other hand, play down the issue while trying to emphasize economic and immigration issues.
  • A new report from Ohio officials points to a surprisingly high number of girls and young teenagers seeking abortions. The state health department reported that among the 538 children age 17 and younger who had abortions in Ohio last year, 57 were under the age of 15.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed KHN’s Sam Whitehead, who reported on and wrote the latest episode of KHN-NPR’s “Bill of the Month” about a family that tried to use emergency assistance to save money, but ended up with a big bill anyway emergency room. If you have an outrageous or huge medical bill that you want to share with us, you can do so here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should also read:

Julie Rovner: NPR “The Ice Bucket Challenge Wasn’t Just About Social Media. Helped Fund New ALS Drug,” by Wynn Davis

Sandhya Raman: Mountain State spotlight “As WV officials tout small drops in drug overdose deaths, epidemic remains at crisis level,” by Alan Sigler

Jesse Hellman: KHN “Severe Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Panicks Reporter Until He Finds Simple, Free Solution” by Jay Hancock

Mary Agnes Carey: The Washington Post “Older people stay home alone as health care aides flee for higher-paying jobs,” by Christopher Rowland

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

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