KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Kansas Makes a Statement

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Voters in Kansas told the rest of the country this week that they don’t want their state to ban abortion. In a nearly 60%-40% split, voters turned back an effort by anti-abortion activists to amend the state constitution to remove its right to abortion, which would have allowed the legislature to ban the procedure.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Congress is in its pre-recess push to pass legislation. A bill to provide health benefits to veterans injured by breathing in toxic substances from military burn pits finally made it to President Joe Biden’s desk. But talks continue on the Democrats’ health care-climate-tax bill that would, among other things, allow Medicare to negotiate some prescription drug prices and extend expanded subsidies for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Tami Luhby of CNN, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Rachel Cohrs of Stat.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • At least four other states — California, Kentucky, Montana, and Vermont — will have abortion questions on their ballots in November. Michigan is likely to have one, too, but the petitions required are still being certified.
  • The Department of Justice has sued Idaho, arguing that its nearly-total abortion ban — set to take effect later in August — conflicts with federal law guaranteeing patients access to emergency medical care. If the case were to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, it could endanger the emergency care law, which has not faced that sort of legal challenge before.
  • Biden signed an executive order this week that among other things could allow Medicaid to cover the travel expenses of women seeking out-of-state abortion care if their state restricts it. But the White House did not provide many details about how such a program would work or be paid for. The so-called Hyde Amendment, named for abortion opponent Rep. Henry Hyde, who died in 2007, forbids federal funding of most abortions. Supporters of the president’s move suggested that restriction applies only to medical care and not transportation, but any effort by Medicaid to set up such a transportation program would likely be litigated.
  • New data released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services finds that the number of uninsured Americans has fallen to an all-time low of 8%. That estimate comes as the Senate is considering funding to continue enhanced premium subsidies for people who buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. If that legislation falters, the number of people without insurance is expected to rise sharply, as premiums will become unaffordable for many.
  • Biden’s rebound of covid-19 symptoms reminds the country that the standards on when a patient has recovered are not firm and raises questions about how patients should handle reentry after battling the disease.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Bram Sable-Smith, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about a single-car accident that resulted in three wildly different ambulance bills. If you have an enormous or outrageous medical bill you’d like to send us, you can do that here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: KHN’s “They Lost Medicaid When Paperwork Was Sent to an Empty Field, Signaling the Mess to Come,” by Brett Kelman

Rachel Cohrs: The Washington Post’s “Thousands of Lives Depend on a Transplant Network in Need of ‘Vast Restructuring,’” by Joseph Menn and Lenny Bernstein

Tami Luhby: KHN’s “Hospices Have Become Big Business for Private Equity Firms, Raising Concerns About End-of-Life Care,” by Markian Hawryluk

Sandhya Raman: KHN’s “Nursing Homes Are Suing the Friends and Family of Residents to Collect Debts,” by Noam N. Levey

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And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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