KHN’s ‘What’s Health?’: On government spending, Congress decides not to make a decision

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Congress must complete its annual appropriations bills before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. But that rarely happens, and this year is no different, as lawmakers scramble to pass a short-term funding bill so they can delay a final decision until at least December.

Meanwhile, with an eye toward the midterm elections, House Republicans have laid out a “Commitment to America” ​​that includes only the vaguest promises related to health care. It’s yet another demonstration that the only thing on health care that unites Republicans is their opposition to Democratic health policies. Remarkably, this latest Republican plan does no propose repealing the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Olstein, Stat’s Rachel Kors and Axios’ Victoria Knight.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The short-term funding bill to keep the government open includes a five-year reauthorization of FDA user fees, which are charged to drugmakers and help pay the salaries of many FDA employees. Democrats had hoped to add provisions to that measure that would create regulations on dietary supplements, cosmetics and laboratory testing. The current authorization expires on October 1, and Republicans have insisted they will only support a clean bill that has no new government directives.
  • This government funding bill also would not include President Joe Biden’s request for $20 billion to help pay for additional covid-19 and monkeypox vaccines and tests. Democrats have said they want to extend those programs, but Republicans balked and said the administration still hasn’t accounted for all previous appropriations.
  • Biden’s comments on “60 Minutes” suggesting the COVID pandemic is “over” hurt the administration’s efforts to convince Congress to pass additional COVID funding.
  • Biden took a victory lap this week and touted successes on the administration’s Medicare priorities. Among them, he said, is a reduction in next year’s Part B premium, which typically covers beneficiaries’ outpatient costs. But that premium declined, mainly because Medicare billed too much in 2022.
  • Medicare premiums this year saw a dramatic increase because officials expected the federal health program would drive higher costs associated with the use of Aduhelm, an expensive drug for some Alzheimer’s patients that received preliminary approval in 2021 from the FDA. Medicare officials later said they would only cover the drug for patients who also enrolled in a clinical trial, and expectations for the drug’s use fell.
  • House Republicans’ proposed agenda promised to reverse Democrats’ decision this year to allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of some drugs. Although Democrats said the provision would help reduce costs, Republicans said they disliked government interference in the private market and feared the measure would stifle innovation.

Also this week, Rovner interviews filmmaker Cynthia Lowen, whose new documentary Battlefield explores how anti-abortion forces played the long game to exaggerate Rowe.

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

Julie Rovner: KHN “Britain’s hard lessons from taking care of the elderly to private equity”, by Christine Spolar

Alice Miranda Olstein: “Built-in Bias: How Medical Records Sow Discrimination” on KHN by Darius Tahir

Rachel Kors: “Arbitrage Has Entered the Lives of the Elderly,” New York Times. You don’t need to register,” by Paula Spahn

Victoria Knight: “Mark Cuban Considers Quitting Shark Tank as He Bets His Inheritance on Cheap Drugs” Forbes, by Jemima McEvoy

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

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