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Based on the results of the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, it appears more likely than ever before that the 2024 presidential election will be a rerun of 2020: Joe Biden versus Donald Trump. And health is shaping up to be a key issue.

Trump is vowing — again — to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is even more popular than it was when Republicans failed to muster the congressional votes to kill it in 2017. Biden is doubling down on support for contraception and abortion rights.

And both are expected to highlight efforts to rein in the cost of prescription drugs.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, and Jessie Hellmann of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Trump had a strong showing in the New Hampshire GOP primary. But Biden may be gathering momentum himself from an unexpected source: Drug industry lawsuits challenging his administration’s Medicare price negotiation plan could draw attention to Biden’s efforts to combat rising prescription drug prices, a major pocketbook issue for many voters.
  • Biden’s drug pricing efforts also include using the government’s so-called march-in rights on pharmaceuticals, which could allow the government to lower prices on certain drugs — it’s unclear which ones. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is calling on his committee to subpoena the CEOS of two drugmakers in the latest example of lawmakers summoning Big Pharma executives to the Hill to answer for high prices.
  • More than a year after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, abortion opponents gathered in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life rally, looking now to continue to advance their priorities under a future conservative presidency.
  • One avenue that abortion opponents are eying is the 19th-century Comstock Act, which could not only prohibit the mailing of abortion pills to patients, but also prevent them from being mailed to clinics and medical facilities. Considering the abortion pill is now used in more than half of abortions nationwide, it would amount to a fairly sweeping ban.
  • And state legislators continue to push more restrictive abortion laws, targeting care for minors and rape exceptions in particular. The ongoing quest to winnow access to the procedure amid public reservations reflected in polling and ballot initiatives highlights that, for at least some abortion opponents, fetuses are framed as an oppressed minority whose rights should not be subject to a majority vote.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Sarah Somers, legal director of the National Health Law Program, about the potential effects on federal health programs if the Supreme Court overturns a 40-year-old precedent established in the case Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: Health Affairs’ “‘Housing First’ Increased Psychiatric Care Office Visits and Prescriptions While Reducing Emergency Visits,” by Devlin Hanson and Sarah Gillespie.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Stat’s “The White House Has a Pharmacy — And It Was a Mess, a New Investigation Found,” by Brittany Trang.

Anna Edney: The New Yorker’s “What Would It Mean for Scientists to Listen to Patients?” by Rachael Bedard.

Jessie Hellmann: North Carolina Health News’ “Congenital Syphilis — An Ancient Scourge — Claimed the Lives of Eight NC Babies Last Year,” by Jennifer Fernandez.

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:

Stat’s “Pharma’s Attack on Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Might Benefit Biden,” by John Wilkerson.

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