Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Congress And Health Care. Again.

[UPDATED at 3 p.m. ET]

Almost exactly a year after the GOP-led Senate killed a bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, the Republican House this week passed bills that would tinker around the edges of the health law. While none of the bills is expected to pass the Senate, House Republicans hope their action can help blunt Democratic attacks over health care in the midterm elections this fall.

Meanwhile, officials in Washington continue to react to recent court decisions regarding work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries and payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The House Republican health bills would extend the reach of “health savings accounts,” which are tax-preferred vehicles for self-funding medical expenses, and repeal or delay two unpopular taxes imposed to help pay for the benefits included in the Affordable Care Act. Those taxes on health insurers and medical device makers have been delayed by Congress in the past.
  • The administration’s startling about-face to continue the risk-adjustment payments to insurance companies is easing concerns about those firms participating in the ACA’s marketplaces next year. The program, which does not use federal funds, is designed to take payments from insurers who have fewer high-cost members than expected and give it to plans that see heavier costs than expected.
  • Federal Medicaid officials have reopened public comments on a plan to implement work requirements for adults who gained coverage under Kentucky’s expansion program. Officials say that effort may satisfy the concerns expressed by a judge who threw out the work requirements earlier.
  • The Trump administration announced that it will study some limited uses of drug imports to lower prescription costs. It is part of a promise by the president to help keep drug prices in check.

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

Julie Rovner: FiveThirtyEight.com’s “How Catholic Bishops Are Shaping Health Care In Rural America,” by Anna Maria Barry-Jester and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Anna Edney: Kaiser Health News’ “Dèjá Voodoo: Pharma’s Promises To Curb Drug Prices Have Been Heard Before,” by Jay Hancock and Sarah Jane Tribble

Alice Ollstein: The New York Times’ “A Vote Expanded Medicaid in Maine. The Governor Is Ignoring It,” by Abby Goodnough

Kimberly Leonard: The Associated Press’ “Health Care Industry Branches Into Fresh Meals, Rides to Gym,” by Tom Murphy

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[Correction: This story was updated at 3 p.m. ET on July 26 to correct information about the tax on health insurers. That tax is in effect for 2018.]

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