Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Health Care Politics, Midterm Edition

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The 2018 midterm elections were supposed to be a referendum on President Donald Trump, not about issues such as health care. Still, voters, Democrats and, to a lesser extent, Republicans seem to be keeping health care on the front burner.

The news from Medicare’s trustees that its hospital trust fund is on shakier financial footing than it was last year, hefty premium increases being proposed in several states and activity on Medicaid expansion all take on a political tinge as the critical elections draw closer.

Also this week, an interview with Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance industry trade group.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

Outside Washington, concerns about health care accessibility and prices remain a big issue. Democrats, looking toward the midterm elections in the fall, think that health care can be a potent issue for them. But many also believe that they can’t just run on complaints that the Republicans are sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. They are seeking to find a message that looks to the future. Republicans see the plans by the White House to implement new regulations that allow expansion of association health plans and short-term health plans as a strong action that will thwart complaints that they haven’t fixed the ACA. The states are beginning to release the initial requests from health insurers for premium increases. They vary substantially, but many appear to be partly attributed to the decision last year by Congress to repeal the penalty for people who don’t get insurance. The report this week by the Medicare trustees that the hospital trust fund is closer to insolvency has ignited Democratic criticism of changes in health care law that were part of the GOP tax cut last year. Arkansas has begun implementing its work requirements for healthy adults covered by the Medicaid expansion. It’s the first state to do that. But critics point out that those adults will have to register their work hours online only — and many do not have access to computers.

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

Julie Rovner: Mother Jones’ “’ Behave More Sexually:’ How Big Pharma Used Strippers, Guns, And Cash To Push Opioids,” by Julia Lurie

Alice Ollstein: Politico’s “ Trump Seeks to Reorganize the Federal Government,” by Helena Bottemiller Evich and Andrew Restuccia

Rebecca Adams: ProPublica’s “ Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared for Release,” by Duaa Eldeib

Stephanie Armour: Kaiser Health News’ “ Outsiders Swoop In Vowing To Rescue Rural Hospitals Short On Hope – And Money,” by Barbara Feder Ostrov

To hear all our podcasts,  click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on  iTunes,  Stitcher  or  Google Play.

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