KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Who will pay for COVID-19 care?

In the absence of clear leadership from the federal government, states and private companies are pursuing their own plans to help Americans cope with the coronavirus pandemic. But while there are many examples of public and private officials working cooperatively, underlying political battles are also taking place, particularly when it comes to how to distribute funding already provided by Congress and funding that may be provided in the coming weeks and months.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:

  • The HHS inspector general's hospital survey released this week showing that equipment shortages have not been resolved hit a sore spot for the Trump administration. The president criticized the inspector general and suggested that the results were politically motivated, but the hospital officials' comments to HHS indicate that the federal response is a step behind as hospitals battle thousands of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
  • Federal and state officials are not yet able to give Americans good guidance on what the future looks like. There are too many unanswered questions about the virus, its transmission and testing options.
  • Some of the programs implemented to help consumers during the crisis — things like reduced prices for insulin and insurers' guarantees of coverage for testing and treatment — may be too popular to ditch after the epidemic ends. That will leave health care providers, drugmakers, insurers and others looking for new profit options.
  • Although Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has pulled out of the race to be the Democratic presidential nominee, his platform still highlights many of the problems in the health care system, such as affordability and access to care, that have gained greater attention with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Federal officials are looking for an equitable way to divvy up the $100 billion earmarked for hospitals in the relief bill signed by President Donald Trump last month. Hospitals in the pandemic’s hot spots think they should be rewarded first, but others, which may not have been hit as hard, note that they have also given up moneymaking elective procedures to prepare for the crisis and are in need of aid.
  • A federal court in Texas on Monday will consider new arguments on the state's decision to declare abortion an elective procedure that must be prohibited during the coronavirus crisis. Reproductive rights advocates hope to get an exemption for nonsurgical abortions and for women who are close to the state's time limit on abortions.

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post's "Flushing Out the True Cause of the Global Toilet Paper Shortage Amid Coronavirus Pandemic," by Marc Fisher

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico's "How Public Health Failed Nursing Homes," by Joanne Kenen, Rachel Roubein and Susannah Luthi

Paige Winfield-Cunningham: The Washington Post's "The Dark Side of Ventilators: Those Hooked Up for Long Periods Face Difficult Recoveries," by Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ariana Eunjung Cha

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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