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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is helping to negotiate the health care spending framework for the Democrats' budget plan, said lawmakers may have to settle for very basic versions of programs deployed in the package. But the key, he added, is to get the "architecture of these changes, bold changes," started and show people what is possible.

Democrats in Congress reached a tentative agreement to press ahead on a partisan bill that would dramatically expand health benefits for people on Medicare, those who buy their own insurance and individuals who have been shut out of coverage in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. Meanwhile, controversy continues to rage over whether vaccinated Americans will need a booster to protect against covid-19 variants, and who will pay for a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Rachel Cohrs of Stat and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also, Rovner interviews KHN’s Rae Ellen Bichell, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode about a mother and daughter who fought an enormous emergency room bill.

In an interview for KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra says the administration is eager for Congress to make changes to Medicare that will provide more benefits and make more older adults eligible for the program. He also said a priority will be making permanent the enhanced premium subsidies for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans.

The Biden administration is moving to undo many of the changes the Trump administration made to the enrollment process for the Affordable Care Act, in an effort to encourage more people to sign up for health insurance. Meanwhile, Congress is opening investigations into the controversial approval by the Food and Drug Administration of an expensive new drug that might or might not slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Joanne Kenen of Politico, Kimberly Leonard of Insider and Sarah Karlin-Smith of The Pink Sheet join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also, Rovner interviews Marshall Allen of ProPublica about his new book, “Never Pay the First Bill: And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win.”

Democrats in Congress and the states are devising strategies to expand health coverage — through the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and a “public option.” But progress remains halting, at best. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington may have to agree on how to control prescription drug prices if they wish to finance their coverage initiatives. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN and Shefali Luthra of The 19th join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also, Rovner interviews Michelle Andrews, who reported and wrote last month’s KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode about a very expensive sleep study.

The federal approval of a controversial drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease has reignited the debate over drug prices and the way the Food and Drug Administration makes decisions. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden seeks to gain goodwill overseas as he announces the U.S. will provide 500 million doses of covid vaccine to international health efforts. Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Joanne Kenen of Politico join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also, Rovner interviews Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And to mark the podcast’s 200th episode, the panelists discuss what has surprised them most and least over the past four years.

Lawmakers are working on fleshing out the concept of a “public option,” a government-run or heavily regulated insurance plan that would compete with private insurance. But the details are complicated, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, bioethicists are debating whether the U.S. should be vaccinating low-risk adolescents against covid-19 while high-risk adults in other countries are still waiting. Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico and Rachana Pradhan of KHN join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too.

Democratic leaders in Congress have vowed to pass legislation to address high prescription drug prices this year, but some moderates in their own party appear to be balking. Meanwhile, younger teens are now eligible for a covid-19 vaccine and the Biden administration reinstated anti-discrimination policy for LGBTQ people in health care. Joanne Kenen of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet and Rachel Cohrs of Stat join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more.

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It’s 100 days into Joe Biden’s presidency and a surprisingly large number of health policies have been announced. But health is notably absent from the administration’s $1.8 trillion spending plan for American families, making it unclear how much more will get done this year. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosens its mask-wearing recommendations for those who have been vaccinated, but the new rules are confusing. Joanne Kenen of Politico, Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, Rovner interviews KHN’s Julie Appleby, who reported the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode.

"Code Blue" by Mike Magee; Atlantic Monthly Press (368 pages, $27) ___ Although an opioid-abuse epidemic was raging, doctors who had access to the addictive drugs were brazenly selling them to addicts with no pretense of medical treatment, including one case in which a Memphis physician was doling out thousands of scripts in exchange for cash. One "patient" crossed state lines and got 10 ...

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, has applauded the Federal Drug Administration for approving Epidiolex to treat four forms of epilepsy. The active ingredient in Epidiolex is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in marijuana plants. This is the first time the FDA has approved a cannabis-based drug.

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