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House Democrats are moving ahead with another round of COVID-19 relief, including additional funding for state Medicaid programs, an open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace plans, and money to pay premiums for newly unemployed Americans to continue on their employer health coverage. Republicans, however, say the Democrats’ bill goes too far.
Meanwhile, the outbreak of the virus in the White House complex — including a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence ― has complicated the Trump administration’s efforts to press for a broader opening of the economy even while the illness continues to spread.
This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.
Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:
- The House Democrats’ newest COVID relief bill would double what the federal government has already spent on the crisis. Some congressional Republicans are getting nervous about the spending, but pressure from Americans out of work and state and local leaders is expected to help push another stimulus package along.
- An unusual provision in the Democrats’ bill would have the federal government pick up the costs of employer-sponsored insurance for workers who lost their jobs because of the COVID pandemic. Such a move has been favored by private insurance companies, who worry that a large migration of unemployed people to Medicaid or the ACA marketplace plans might undermine the workplace insurance market.
- Businesses thinking about reopening don’t have good guidelines on what they can do to keep their workers and customers safe. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t been officially released yet, and advice from some trade groups may not be reliable or based on good science.
- The sparks this week between President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s top infectious disease authority, underscore the tension about reopening the economy. The president is pressing for life to get back to normal, but public health officials are worried that many places are opening too soon or without needed precautions.
- Despite long-standing opposition to the ACA, several prominent Republicans in recent weeks, including Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Kevin Brady, both of Texas, are telling constituents who have lost their jobs since the coronavirus outbreak that they can qualify for ACA marketplace plans.
- The ACA’s reach appears poised for a big expansion next year if unemployment remains high. Many people out of work could qualify for Medicaid coverage in states that have expanded their programs under the ACA and others may look to buy plans on the marketplaces. Guaranteeing those options may play into some fall political campaigns.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:
Julie Rovner: The Viral Art Project
Rebecca Adams: CQ Roll Call’s “Dental Offices Hardest Hit in Health Care Industry Layoffs,” by Mary Ellen McIntire and Michael Macagnone
Joanne Kenen: The New Yorker’s “The Engineers Taking on the Ventilator Shortage,” by James Somers
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