The Host

The general election campaign for president is (unofficially) on, as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have each apparently secured enough delegates to become his respective party’s nominee. And health care is turning out to be an unexpectedly front-and-center campaign issue, as Trump in recent weeks has suggested he may be interested in cutting Medicare and taking another swing at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, the February cyberattack of Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, continues to roil the health industry, as thousands of hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and other providers are unable to process claims and get paid.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine, and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • It is unclear exactly what Trump meant in his recent remarks about possible cuts to Medicare and Social Security, though his comments provided an opening for Biden to pounce. By running as the candidate who would protect entitlements, Biden could position himself well, particularly with older voters, as the general election begins.
  • Health care is shaping up to be the sleeper issue in this election, with high stakes for coverage. The Biden administration’s expanded subsidies for ACA plans are scheduled to expire at the end of next year, and the president’s latest budget request highlights his interest in expanding coverage, especially for postpartum women and for children. Plus, Republicans are eyeing what changes they could make should Trump reclaim the presidency.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans are grappling with an internal party divide over access to in vitro fertilization, and Trump’s mixed messaging on abortion may not be helping him with his base. Could a running mate with more moderate perspectives help soften his image with voters who oppose abortion bans?
  • A federal appeals court ruled that a Texas law requiring teenagers to obtain parental consent for birth control outweighs federal rules allowing teens to access prescription contraceptives confidentially. But concerns that if the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case a conservative-majority ruling would broaden the law’s impact to other states may dampen the chances of further appeals, leaving the law in effect. Also, the federal courts are making it harder to file cases in jurisdictions with friendly judges, a tactic known as judge-shopping, which conservative groups have used recently in reproductive health challenges.
  • And weeks later, the Change Healthcare hack continues to cause widespread issues with medical billing. Some small providers fear continued payment delays could force them to close, and it is possible that the hack’s repercussions could soon block some patients from accessing care at all.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies about a new, four-part documentary series on the history of public health, “The Invisible Shield.”

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Navy Demoted Ronny Jackson After Probe Into White House Behavior,” by Dan Diamond and Alex Horton.

Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic’s “Frigid Offices Might Be Killing Women’s Productivity,” by Olga Khazan.

Margot Sanger-Katz: Stat’s “Rigid Rules at Methadone Clinics Are Jeopardizing Patients’ Path to Recover From Opioid Addiction,” by Lev Facher.

Anna Edney: Scientific American’s “How Hospitals Are Going Green Under Biden’s Climate Legislation,” by Ariel Wittenberg and E&E News.

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:

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