KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: The labor pains of ‘Medicare for All’

Labor unions are divided over whether to endorse a Democratic candidate for president in 2020 — and, if so, whom to choose. Some unions are firmly behind the "Medicare for All" plans being pushed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But the influential Culinary Workers Union in Nevada declined to endorse any candidate, with members worried about what might replace the generous benefits they won by bargaining away wage increases.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled that the Trump administration violated Medicaid law when it approved work requirements for beneficiaries in Arkansas. The ruling puts similar requirements in doubt in several other states.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn of the Los Angeles Times and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:

  • Health care remains a top issue for voters, but candidates, eager to set themselves apart from the pack, are failing to point out the major policy differences they have with President Donald Trump. For example, at the Las Vegas debate Wednesday, no one mentioned the abortion case coming to the Supreme Court in March or the appeals court case that could invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act.
  • The Trump administration has approved Medicaid work requirements in more than a half-dozen states, with at least eight more pending. All of those state plan approvals are put in doubt by the appeals court opinion that such requirements violate the Medicaid statute.
  • Enrollment in Covered California, the state's ACA exchange, grew by almost half a million from 2019 to 2020, the state just announced. California did many things other states did not, including extending premium subsidies higher up the income scale, reinstating the penalty for not having coverage that was zeroed out by Congress, and spending millions of dollars on outreach.
  • COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that originated in China, is complicating public health efforts way beyond that nation. U.S. firms are worried about shortages of drugs and drug ingredients that are made in China, and misinformation is spreading even more rapidly than the illness.

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

Julie Rovner: CNN.com's "Nation's Largest Teachers Unions Call to End Active Shooter Drills Over Fears They're Traumatizing Students," by Leah Asmelash

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Washington Post's "Trust and Consequences," by Hannah Dreier

Rebecca Adams: The New York Times' "The Health System We'd Have if Economists Ran Things," by Austin Frakt

Jennifer Haberkorn: Kaiser Health News' "Ink Rx? Welcome To The Camouflaged World Of Paramedical Tattoos," by Cara Anthony


To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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