KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: One more open enrollment



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An estimated 9 million Americans eligible for free or discounted premium health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will have a second chance to sign up for 2021 coverage as the Biden government resumed registration with Healthcare.gov and states who run their own marketplaces have followed suit.

Meanwhile, Biden officials have taken the first steps to revoke the Trump administration’s permission to require many adults on Medicaid to work for their health insurance or do community service in exchange. The Supreme Court is due to hear a case on labor requirements in late March.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from Kaiser Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein from Politico, Kimberly Leonard from Business Insider, and Rachel Cohrs from Stat.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Biden administration said it would promote the special enrollment deadline, a marked change from the Trump administration that dramatically cut public relations funding. However, navigator groups whose staff help individuals find and sign up say they haven’t heard if the federal government is offering to pay them to help people during this three month sign up period.
  • The House appears poised to pass bill next week to fund President Joe Biden’s relief efforts and major changes to the ACA. The Senate staff work with the House to coordinate the legislation of both chambers as much as possible. With little or no Republican support and razor-thin majorities in both the House and Senate, Democrats must find common ground among their assemblies to get the bill through.
  • Congress has a set deadline for the bill as many current programs, such as extended unemployment benefits, expire on March 14th.
  • CVS announced this week that its insurance subsidiary Aetna will be participating in the ACA marketplaces this fall, yet another sign that these exchanges are gaining acceptance.
  • The Biden government’s efforts to roll back Medicaid’s work demands appear to be an effort to stave off arguments in the Supreme Court. Democrats fear that even if administrative measures halt the program now, a Supreme Court ruling saying the efforts are legal could open the door for future Republican administrations to restore labor demands.
  • The federal government is pushing for more covid vaccine shots in the arms across the country and reported last week that 1.7 million doses had been distributed. However, it is a race against the emerging threat of Covid virus variants that are even more contagious than the original coronavirus.
  • One of the hurdles in the vaccination effort is the reluctance of certain groups to get the shot. It has been reported that 30% of military personnel refused to accept the vaccine and some high profile athletes in the NBA did not want to advertise it in public announcements. Groups opposed to vaccines in general post misinformation online that may also be cause for concern.
  • The recent controversy over New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s policy of counting nursing home residents’ deaths with Covid-19 has consumed Albany and led to judicial investigations. It also raises questions about whether politics – Cuomo, a Democrat, and President Donald Trump who regularly argue over covid politics – influence public health decisions.

This week, too, Rovner interviewed medical student Inam Sakinah, president of the new group Future Doctors in Politics.

For added recognition, panellists also recommend their favorite health stories of the week that they think you should also read:

Julie Rovner: Stat’s “Hospids’ Covid-19 Heroics Have You Ready for Power in New Washington” by Rachel Cohrs

Rachel Cohrs: KHNs “As drug prices continue to rise, state lawmakers propose tough new laws to contain them,” by Harris Meyer; and Stat’s “States still can’t import drugs from Canada. Now many are trying to import Canadian prices, ”says Lev Facher

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “How Covid-19 Could Make Americans Healthier” by Joanne Kenen

Kimberly Leonard: The New Republic “The darker story outside the lens of Framing Britney Spears, ”Posted by Sara Luterman


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