KHN’s “What the Health?”: The Return of the Public Option


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The “public option” is back – in Washington, DC as well as in the states. President Joe Biden, as a candidate, supported the idea of ​​a government-run or highly regulated insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies. So far, however, it has been more of a concept than a plan. Two health care leaders in Congress say they will try to put a plan together as public options in various forms work through legislatures in Colorado and Nevada.

Meanwhile, bioethicists are debating whether the US should vaccinate low-risk teens against Covid-19, while high-risk adults in other countries remain at risk.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from KHN, Margot Sanger-Katz from the New York Times, Alice Miranda Ollstein from Politico and Rachana Pradhan from KHN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) And Rep. Frank Pallone (DN.J.), who each chair major health committees on Capitol Hill, have asked for ideas on the public option. The idea has been endorsed by many Democrats since it was banned from the Affordable Care Act, and some lawmakers have proposed bills to set up such a program. The sound bits are nice, but creating such a program would be extremely complicated. The Murray and Pallone initiative is an attempt to launch a detailed study of what a public option would need and where the political fault lines lie.
  • Government efforts to establish public options are generally seen as much less effective than a national program.
  • Five Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s confirmation as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While not exactly considered a glamor post, the agency is one of the most influential roles in government. By controlling the spending and management of Medicare and Medicaid, and the ACA’s insurance markets, the agency controls about a quarter of all federal spending.
  • Early reports on Biden’s initial budget suggest that while he won’t put dollars into plans to lower Medicare eligibility or establish a government-run public insurance option in the ACA marketplaces, he will acknowledge that those options are targets that he would like Congress to pursue.
  • Biden is also expected to signal that federal funding laws are no longer to include the Hyde addition, a longstanding federal policy that, in most cases, denies state funding for abortions. Many Democrats have complained that the provision prevents low-income women who have Medicaid insurance or federal employees who are covered by their job from obtaining an abortion when they need it. Republicans have argued that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund abortion if they are morally opposed.
  • New federal data shows that more than 50% of adults have been vaccinated against Covid. However, the success of the US vaccination campaign raises questions about what Americans should be doing to help other countries. Some argue that vaccine supplies here should be given to countries struggling before many lower risk people in that country – including children – get their shots.
  • New reports raise suspicions that Covid came from natural animal-to-human transmission in China, suggesting that it may be tied to a viral research laboratory in Wuhan, China. This could have implications for future research protocols and US-China relationships on health studies and other issues.

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

Julie Rovner: The New York Times Covid killed his father. Then came $ 1 million in medical bills ”by Sarah Kliff

Alice Miranda Ollstein: HuffPosts “Can America Fill the Void in the COVID Vaccine Race?” by Jonathan Cohn

Margot Sanger-Katz: KHN’s “Companies promote the vaccination of employees, but do not adhere to mandates” by Anna Almendrala

Rachana Pradhan: Michael R. Gordon, Warren P. Strobel, and Drew Hinshaw

To hear all of our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces extensive journalism on health issues. Alongside Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three most important operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a foundation that provides health information to the nation.

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