Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Falling Premiums And Rising Political Tensions

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The Trump administration announced that, for the first time, the average premium for a key plan sold on the federal health law’s insurance marketplaces will fall slightly next year. Federal officials said that changes they have made helped facilitate the reduction, but others argue that it was because more plans are moving back into those federal exchanges and making money.

The news is likely to further inflame the political debate on health care in the run-up to the midterm elections. Democrats and Republicans are battling over which party is more attuned to consumers’ needs on protections for people with preexisting conditions and affordable health care.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump signed two bills this week that would ban efforts to keep pharmacists from telling customers that their prescriptions would be cheaper if they paid in cash, rather than using their insurance. And the Food and Drug Administration this week announced it will ease the process for drugmakers to bring some products to market.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

The drop in the average price for ACA plans follows a recent analysis that found insurers are regaining profitability in the individual market. Democrats this week were unsuccessful in their effort to get the Senate to reverse a new policy that eased rules for short-term health plans. The administration argues that these plans help provide a more affordable option for many people, but Democrats complain that they are junk insurance because they don’t have many of the protections offered through the ACA. Trump and members of Congress celebrated a rare moment of bipartisanship on health care when the president signed the two bills restricting gag orders on pharmacists. Despite the goodwill, the much-touted aim of the administration to constrain drug prices has not made much progress. Health care has been a key issue in midterm campaigns, with Democrats hitting hard at their opponents to charge that the GOP would not guarantee ACA protections for people with preexisting conditions. But Republicans are fighting back with personal stories of their own health concerns — and an op-ed by the president on concerns about some Democrats’ plans to expand Medicare. The new policy announced by the FDA this week will apply to complex drugs, which are drugs that are coupled with a device, such as patches or auto-injectors. The agency said it would be more flexible in reviewing materials for approving those devices.

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

Mary Agnes Carey: The Washington Post’s “Patrick Kennedy Shepherded a Major Mental-Health Bill Into Law. Ten Years Later, Big Barriers Remain,” by Colby Itkowitz

Rebecca Adams:  The New York Times’ “Migrant Children in Search of Justice: A 2-Year-Old’s Day in Immigration Court,” by Vivian Yee and Miriam Jordan

Julie Appleby: Kaiser Health News’ “Spurred By Convenience, Millennials Often Spurn The ‘Family Doctor’ Model,” by Sandra G. Boodman

Anna Edney: The New York Times’  “These Cholesterol-Reducers May Save Lives. So Why Aren’t Heart Patients Getting Them?” and “In Medical Reporting, the Impact of Patients’ Stories,”  both by Gina Kolata

To hear all our podcasts,  click here.

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

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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