Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Drug Prices And Unicorns

A trio of court actions provide news for this week’s “What the Health?’” panel.

A federal appeals court this week handed hospitals a setback in their effort to stop the Trump administration from cutting funding for a program that provides deep discounts on drugs. Physicians sued health insurer Anthem for its policy of retroactively declaring some emergency department claims not to be an emergency. And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the city of Philadelphia’s controversial tax on sweetened beverages.

Also this week, an interview with Jeff Goldsmith, health care futurist and consultant.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Erin Mershon of Stat News.

Among the takeaways:

  • The fight over the “340B” hospital drug discount program largely pits pharmaceutical makers, who are required by law to give discounts to health facilities that serve low-income patients, against the hospitals and clinics that get the discounts. The court ruled that the hospitals’ challenge to the proposed cuts was premature, and hospitals have vowed to refile their lawsuit. But the fight has spawned a huge advertising effort aimed at policymakers in Washington, including bus stop posters from the program’s supporters featuring a unicorn.
  • Anthem has been heavily criticized for its policy of not paying emergency room bills if the patients should have known that they didn’t need emergency care. But it appears that the insurer has quietly pulled back from implementing the policy much of the time. That still didn’t stop emergency room doctors from suing Anthem this week in Georgia, however.
  • Could the Trump administration’s recent action to pull down some health care material from agency websites suggest that officials plan to make changes in some sexual discrimination regulations?
  • FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stunned a Washington audience this week when he said officials are looking into whether beverages manufactured from plants, such as almonds and soy, can be labeled milk under FDA guidelines that say milk must come from animals that lactate. But perhaps that cow is already out of the barn.

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

Julie Rovner: The Atlantic’s “Illegal Abortion Will Mean Abortion By Mail,” by Olga Khazan

Joanne Kenen: Politico’s “Trump Promised Them Better, Cheaper Health Care. It’s Not Happening,” by Adam Cancryn

Erin Mershon: NPR and the Center for Public Integrity’s “Investigation: Patients’ Drug Options Under Medicaid Heavily Influenced By Drugmakers,” by Liz Essley Whyte, Joe Yerardi and Alison Kodjak

Margot Sanger-Katz: NPR and ProPublica’s “Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates,” by Marshall Allen

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