The medical and economic needs laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic are forcing some immediate changes to the U.S. health system. Congress, in its latest relief bill, provided $100 billion in funding for the hospital industry alone. Meanwhile, the federal government has quickly removed previous barriers to telehealth and other sometimes controversial practices.
But big fights are still brewing, including whether the federal government will reopen the Affordable Care Act marketplaces it runs and whether states can use emergency powers to ban abortions as "elective medical procedures."
This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.
Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:
- The ACA was passed on the heels of the Great Recession. The coronavirus outbreak has produced the first big economic downturn since then, and the law's provisions to expand Medicaid and to provide an insurance option to those without jobs could provide a critical safety net during this crisis.
- About a dozen states running their own ACA insurance marketplaces have opened up enrollment again to let people who did not enroll in the fall but are feeling the pinch from the coronavirus pandemic to reconsider. President Donald Trump said this week that he is mulling a similar move, but the messages from the administration on such action have been confusing.
- People who had insurance through work and have lost their jobs don't need a special enrollment period to sign up for an Obamacare plan. They are eligible because their job situation changed. However, the administration has not been publicizing that message.
- Hospitals are eager to receive the $100 billion appropriated by Congress in response to the influx of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But the administration has not yet said how that money will be apportioned.
- A handful of states have prohibited abortions during the coronavirus emergency because, officials say, they are seeking to preserve protective gear for hospital staff treating COVID-19 patients. But it's not clear that the abortion procedures - especially medication abortions — are interfering with efforts to safeguard protective clothing or masks needed by hospitals. And women who do not get abortions will consume far more medical care by remaining pregnant and giving birth.
Also, this week, Rovner interviews KHN's Liz Szabo, who reported the latest KHN-NPR "Bill of the Month" installment about a patient who underwent a very expensive genetic test. If you have an outrageous medical bill you would like to share with us, you can do that here.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:
Julie Rovner: The New York Times' "A Ventilator Stockpile With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work," by David E. Sanger, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Nicholas Kulish
Joanne Kenen: The New Yorker's "The Life and Death of Juan Sanabria, One of New York City's First Cornavirus Victims," by Jonathan Blitzer
Margot Sanger-Katz: Bloomberg News' "Hospitals Tell Doctors They'll Be Fired If They Speak Out About Lack of Gear," by Olivia Carville, Emma Court and Kristen V. Brown
Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Washington Post's "Trump Ban on Fetal Tissue Research Blocks Coronavirus Treatment Effort," by Amy Goldstein
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This 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.