Julie Rovner KFF Health News @jrovner
Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent and host of KFF Health News’ weekly health policy news podcast “What Is Health?” A leading expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically acclaimed reference book Health Care Politics and Policy from A to Z, now in its third edition.
Congress narrowly avoided a second federal shutdown in as many months, with House Democrats giving new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson the votes he needed to avoid the first legislative disaster of his short tenure. But funding the federal government won’t get any easier when the latest interim patch expires in early 2024. House Republicans don’t seem to have come to terms with the fact that they won’t be able to achieve the deep spending cuts they want as long as the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats.
Meanwhile, two surveys released this week highlight how difficult it is for seniors to get the long-term care they need. One, from KFF Health News and the New York Times, documents the economic toll on families of people who need help with activities of daily living. Another article from Stat details how some insurance companies are using artificial intelligence algorithms to deny Medicare patients needed rehabilitation care.
This week’s panelists include KFF Health News’ Julie Rovner, Stat’s Rachel Cohrs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico’s Joanne Kenen and Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein.
Highlights from this week’s episode include:
- Congress this week passed a two-part continuing resolution that would prevent the federal government from shutting down when the current CR expires at 12:01 a.m. on November 18. 19. Remaining federal agencies, including most of the Department of Health and Human Services, have an extension until February 2.
- House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) said he hopes to use the next two months to complete work on an individual appropriations bill, but so far neither the House nor the Senate has passed the bill. The problem: They would slash many popular federal programs. They are also filled with changes to abortion restrictions and transgender policy, highlighting divisions between the far right of the Republican caucus and its more moderate members.
- Following the success of abortion rights ballot initiatives, lawmakers in Ohio and Michigan are launching new efforts that they argue will Dobbs Leave that decision back to the states, meaning state legislatures, not the courts or voters. Most experts agree this approach is unlikely to catch on. Still, it highlights ongoing efforts to change the rules surrounding this polarizing issue.
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only Republican presidential candidate pushing for a national 15-week abortion ban, suspended his campaign last week. Along with former Vice President Mike Pence, who dropped out of the race in late October, he is the strongest anti-abortion candidate in the field. This seems to indicate that the 15-week ban does not have support among voters, even among Republicans. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, remains willing to play both sides of the abortion debate.
- As concerns grow over the use of artificial intelligence in health care, a California class-action lawsuit alleges that UnitedHealth Group is using algorithms to deny rehabilitation care to participants in its Medicare Advantage plans. The lawsuit follows Stat’s investigation into insurance companies’ demands that case managers strictly follow AI estimates of how long the company will pay for rehab care, regardless of the patient’s actual medical condition.
- More than 10 million people have lost Medicaid coverage since states began reviewing eligibility earlier this year. Advocates for Medicaid patients are concerned that the Biden administration is not doing enough to ensure that people who are still eligible for the program, especially children, are not wrongfully terminated.
Plus, for “extra points,” the panelists suggested health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: ” How lawmakers in Texas and Florida are derailing COVID vaccination efforts ,” by Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News.
Alice Miranda Olstein: “They Wanted to Wake Up. Instead They Had a Nightmare,” by Jack Healy, The New York Times.
Rachel Coles: Stat’s “UnitedHealth urges employees to follow an algorithm that cuts off Medicare patients from rehab care,” by Casey Ross and Bob Herman.
Joanne from: “Mississippi jailed more than 800 people in one year awaiting psychiatric treatment. Only one prison met state standards,” by ProPublica’s Isabelle Taft, Mississippi Today.
Also mentioned in this week’s episode:
” Seniors face financial ruin as care costs soar ,” KFF Health News by Reed Abelson, The New York Times and Jordan Rau.
“Excess Mortality among Republican and Democratic Registered Voters in Florida and Ohio During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” by Jacob Wallace et al., JAMA Internal Medicine .
- Zach Dell Audio Producer
- Edited by Stephanie Stapleton
This article is reprinted from khn.org, a national newsroom specializing in in-depth journalism on health issues and one of KFF’s core operating programs – an independent source of health policy research, polling and news.