“What is health?” from KHN: on government spending, Congress decides not to decide
Congress is supposed to complete its annual appropriation bills before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. But he rarely does, and this year is no different, as lawmakers scramble to pass a short-term funding bill so they can put off final decisions until at least December.
Meanwhile, with an eye to the midterms, House Republicans released a “Pledge to America,” which includes only the most vague health care-related promises. It’s yet another demonstration that the one thing in health care that unifies Republicans is their opposition to Democratic health care policies. It should be noted that this latest Republican plan does not not suggest repealing the Affordable Care Act.
This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein, Stat’s Rachel Cohrs, and Axios’ Victoria Knight.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- The short-term funding bill to keep government open includes the 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 this measure that would create regulations on dietary supplements, cosmetics and laboratory testing. The current authorization expires Oct. 1, and Republicans have insisted they will only support a clean bill that has no new government guidelines.
- This government funding bill will also not include President Joe Biden’s request for $20 billion to help pay for additional vaccines and testing for covid-19 and monkeypox. Democrats said they wanted to extend those programs, but Republicans balked and said the administration still hadn’t accounted for all previous appropriations.
- Biden’s comment on “60 Minutes” suggesting the covid pandemic “is over” hurt the administration’s efforts to persuade Congress to pass the extra covid funding.
- Biden took a victory lap this week and touted the successes of Medicare’s administrative priorities. Among them, he said, was a reduction in next year’s Part B premium, which generally covers outpatient expenses for beneficiaries. But that premium has come down, mostly because Medicare overcharged in 2022.
- Medicare premiums this year have seen a dramatic increase because officials predicted the federal health care program would see higher costs associated with the use of Aduhelm, an expensive drug for some Alzheimer’s patients who received tentative approval in 2021 from the FDA. Medicare officials later said they would only cover the drug for patients who had also enrolled in a clinical trial, and expectations for the drug’s use plummeted.
- The agenda proposed by Republican House members pledged to overturn the Democrats’ decision this year to allow Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices. Although Democrats said the provision would help cut costs, Republicans said they didn’t like the government interfering in the private market and worried the measure would stifle innovation.
Also this week, Rovner interviews filmmaker Cynthia Lowen, whose new documentary, “Battleground,” explores how anti-abortion forces have played the long game to overthrow deer.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should also read:
Julie Rovner: “The Hard British Lessons of Passing Aged Care to Private Equity” by KHN, by Christine Spolar
Alice Miranda Ollstein: “Embedded Bias: How Medical Records Sow Discrimination” by KHN, by Darius Tahir
Rachel Cohrs: The New York Times'”Arbitration has come to Senior Living. You do not have to registerby Paula Span
Victoria Knight: “Mark Cuban considers quitting Shark Tank as he bets his inheritance on cheap drugsby Jemima McEvoy
Also mentioned in this week’s episode:
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