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KHN’s “What the Health?”: Front and Center for Abortion Policy

KHN’s “What the Health?”: Front and Center for Abortion Policy

  • October 8, 2021

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Abortion, an issue that has been simmering beneath the surface of late, has been the focus of battles in the Supreme Court, Congress, and the States as the fate of legalized abortion in the United States is at stake.

Meanwhile, Congress flirted with the disaster as it seemed unlikely to meet deadlines for approving a number of budget laws, including an extension of the federal government’s lending agency. But lawmakers found ways to extend the programs long enough for negotiations to continue through the fall.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner from KHN, Joanne Kenen from Politico and Johns Hopkins, Yasmeen Abutaleb from The Washington Post, and Sarah Karlin-Smith from Pink Sheet.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • As Democratic lawmakers seek to cut the cost of the President’s $ 3.5 trillion Health Promotion Plan and other domestic programs, they wrestle to reduce the number of programs they fund, but give them full support Grant or maintain a wider range of initiatives to fund them for fewer years or at a lower level. Proponents of the latter suggest that it is important to start the programs and when they have a constituency it will be difficult for Congress to cut the programs in the future.
  • Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who was at the center of the negotiations for refusing to support the package when it stayed at $ 3.5 trillion, called for new initiatives to be means tested with it The benefits don’t go to higher-income Americans. Past experience suggests that the popularity of the programs may decline as more bureaucracy manages to monitor the benefits and sometimes creates problems in getting voters to accept the need.
  • As negotiations drag on, it seems less likely that Democrats will agree on a plan to curb prescription drug prices. Leaders have failed to agree on how to tackle the problem, and drug makers have stepped up their advertising campaign to oppose any action that could jeopardize their profits.
  • Some people could thwart the negotiations if they pursue their plans to seek a provision in the legislative package that makes the so-called Hyde Amendment permanent. The Hyde Amendment, which is commonly added to annual health spending laws, prevents most federal funds from being spent on abortions. Progressive Democrats strongly oppose the Hyde Amendment and would like to remove it from the Department of Health and Human Services annual spending bill.
  • Pfizer announced Thursday that it is filing for Food and Drug Administration approval for a Covid vaccine for children ages 5-11. The agency has already scheduled a meeting of the advisory committee and a decision could be made around Halloween. However, a decision on vaccines for children under 5 seems unlikely before the end of the year.
  • The recent controversy over whether the US should allow so-called vaccine boosters has drawn attention to the lack of good national data on the effects of Covid. Much of the case for these additional shots was based on studies from Israel and the UK, as U.S. health officials have not collected the same level of data on Covid cases and outcomes. This partly reflects the decentralization of the US healthcare system.
  • The Biden government announced this week that it is reversing a federal Title X rule that has refused funding to organizations that advise people on abortion or refer them to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood left the program after the Trump administration implemented this rule.
  • Abortion becomes a major issue in the Supreme Court during this tenure. The judges had already agreed to try a case against a Mississippi law that restricts most abortions after 15 weeks, but cases involving a controversial Texas law that denies abortions after six weeks are also appearing soon before that Supreme Court.
  • Opponents of abortion hope the court will overturn the landmark Roe versus Wade Decision to legalize the procedure. But that could also prepare the court for major backlash and complaints about its politicization.
  • Biden has another important health opening in his administration: the director of the National Institutes of Health. He doesn’t seem to be as difficult to fill as the head of the FDA, for whom the White House has not yet proposed a candidate.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed Aneri Pattani from KHN, who reported on the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” about two similar jaw surgeries with two very different price tags. If you have an outrageous medical bill you’d like to send us, please do so here.

Panellists also recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week, which they think you should read as well, for added recognition:

Julie Rowner: The New York Times’ “A ‘Historic Event’: First WHO Approved Malaria Vaccine” by Apoorva Mandavilli

Joanne Kenen: Vox.coms “Why Merck’s Covid-19 pill molnupiravir could be so important“By Umair Irfan

Yasmeen Abutaleb: The “Wall Street Journal”Why it’s so hard to find a therapist to get insurance“By Andrea Petersen

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Washington PostSeventy years ago, Henrietta Lacks’ cells were taken without her consent. Now her family wants justiceBy Emily Davies

To hear all of our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? At Spotify, Apple Podcasts, stapler, Pocket casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health topics. Along with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three main operational programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit foundation that provides the country with information on health issues.


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