KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Gun Violence And The Politics Of Public Health
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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Gun Violence And The Politics Of Public Health

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Three mass shootings in eight days have refocused the nation’s attention on the problem of gun violence — and restarted the long-running debate over guns as a public health issue.

Although Congress is on its summer break, before lawmakers left Washington they passed a two-year budget deal to make it easier to fund health programs — but it also cements funding restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal abortion funding.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Mass shootings — like the weekend recent violence in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and the earlier attack at the Gilroy, Calif., garlic festival — prompt calls from officials for more screening and treatment options for mental illness. However, experts — who generally support more mental health services — say it’s not clear extra services would reduce these episodes.
  • Among measures invoked by Republicans in response to the shootings is implementing red-flag laws, which would allow officials and family members to get authorities to temporarily take guns away from people having a mental health crisis. Seventeen states have such laws, and initial research suggests they help reduce suicides.
  • Before leaving town last week for its August recess, the Senate passed a two-year budget deal. It would solidify policy riders such as the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of government funds for abortions except in limited circumstances, such as to save a mother’s life. The new budget would also remove spending caps that could have caused significant cuts in health programs like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Canadian officials have raised concerns about the Trump administration’s announcement that it might approve a pilot program allowing states to import drugs from Canada, where they are much cheaper than in the U.S. Canadians say they are worried about the U.S. draining their drug supply.
  • The administration’s change in rules about abortion counseling, as outlined in the federal reproductive health program, Title X, has left some health centers that are bowing out with a problem: Contraceptive supplies they bought under Title X can’t be used. They are looking to the federal government for guidance on what they should do with those supplies.

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “2020 Democrats Are Fighting Over Universal Health Care Details. Voters May Not Want That,” by Paige Winfield Cunningham

Mary Agnes Carey: The Washington Post’s “Proponents of Stricter Gun Control Face a Reality Check in the Senate,” by Paul Kane

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Governing’s “America Has a Health-Care Crisis — in Prisons,” by Alan Greenblatt

Margot Sanger-Katz: Balloon Juice blog’s “The Upcoming Strange Politics of the ACA,” by David Anderson

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