December 3, 2022

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When the lame-duck Congress returns to Washington after Election Day, it will face a long list of health items needing attention before the end of the year, including setting overall spending for health programs and averting a series of Medicare payment cuts to health care providers.

Meanwhile, in California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a first-in-the-nation bill aimed at curbing covid-19 misinformation and disinformation by doctors.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN; Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call; Jessie Hellmann, also of CQ Roll Call; and Mary Agnes Carey of KHN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • When congressional lawmakers left town last week for a month of campaigning before the midterm elections, they agreed to fund the government — but only until mid-December. The election results may impact whether they reach agreements on funding for the full fiscal year when they come back.
  • Key Democratic members of the House have pledged to jettison the so-called Hyde Amendment from any spending bills, but clearly those efforts don’t have enough support to get through the Senate. The Hyde Amendment, named for Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), who died in 2007, bans federal funds from being used for most abortions.
  • Among the funding issues still to be settled by lawmakers is whether they will continue certain programs begun during the pandemic, such as allowing Medicare to cover telehealth services and whether enhanced Medicaid will continue for U.S. territories.
  • Also still awaiting a decision by Congress is a bipartisan effort to improve mental health services.
  • In response to some of the unusual treatments and theories that emerged surrounding covid, California has enacted a law that could bring more discipline for doctors who knowingly spread disinformation directly to patients. They can be reprimanded by the state medical board.
  • The issue of abortion is heating up in campaigns around the country, especially among Democrats running for Congress, governor, or attorney general. Republicans, on the other hand, are playing down the issue while they try to emphasize economic and immigration issues.
  • A new report from Ohio officials points to the surprisingly high number of girls and young teens seeking abortions. The state health department reported that among 538 children age 17 and younger who got abortions in Ohio last year, 57 were under 15.
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Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Sam Whitehead, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode about a family who tried to use urgent care to save money but ended up with a big emergency room bill, anyway. If you have an outrageous or enormous medical bill you’d like to share with us, you can do that here.

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

Julie Rovner: NPR’s “The Ice Bucket Challenge Wasn’t Just for Social Media. It Helped Fund a New ALS Drug,” by Wynne Davis

Sandhya Raman: Mountain State Spotlight’s “As WV Officials Tout Small Reductions in Drug Overdose Deaths, Epidemic Remains at Crisis Levels,” by Allen Siegler

Jessie Hellmann: KHN’s “Severe Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Panics Reporter Until He Finds a Simple, No-Cost Solution,” by Jay Hancock

Mary Agnes Carey: The Washington Post’s “Seniors Are Stuck Home Alone as Health Aides Flee for Higher-Paying Jobs,” by Christopher Rowland

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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