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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: The midterm shake-up

The predicted Republican “red wave” was a no-show in this week’s midterm elections, but the margins in both the U.S. House and Senate are so slim that the GOP could still wrest control from the Democrats if the last few “too close to to call “races are over. Whichever party has the majority starting in 2023 will also affect how much Congress tries to pass during its lame-duck session that begins Nov. 14.

Meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights won big. Voters in three states (Michigan, California, and Vermont) approved ballot measures to make abortion rights part of their state constitutions, while two other states (Montana and Kentucky) defeated efforts to further restrict abortion.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein, Stat’s Rachel Cohrs, and the Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • If Republicans take control of the House, expect some tough oversight hearings on the Biden administration’s policies and decisions. Among those who may be called before Republican-controlled committees are Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is expected to be grilled for decisions about handling the pandemic and closing schools and other key elements of the economy.
  • The GOP’s focus on legislative matters is darker. Much of what Republicans can push through Congress will depend on what margin they have in the House and whether they end up taking control of the Senate.
  • Meanwhile, Congress returns to Washington next week to wrap up business for this year. Several top Republican senators are retiring, and they are expected to push health measures, including more public health initiatives, pandemic preparedness and reforms at the FDA.
  • That lame-duck congressional session will also consider funding for the government and ways to avoid a scheduled reduction in Medicare reimbursements to health care providers.
  • Voters in South Dakota on Tuesday approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It is the seventh state where voters overruled conservative Republican leaders who opposed an expansion.
  • Officials in several populous states, including Texas, Florida and Georgia, continue to block an expansion. Some health care advocates in Florida have floated the idea of ​​trying to get a ballot initiative there as well, but that would likely cost millions of dollars to organize.
  • Doctors and consumers are warning about recent medication shortages, including a common children’s antibiotic. This points to a long-term problem with drug shortages that is often overlooked.
  • A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on the damaging impact of covid-19 and long covid on productivity in the country. Although patient advocates and public health officials have long raised this alarm, the issue has not received much attention from political leaders. With Republicans likely to gain more power in the next Congress — and their opposition to more funding for covid prevention — the long-term economic effects don’t seem likely to gain much traction in the coming year.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Carolee Lee, a former jewelry magnate, about her efforts to boost gender equality in medical research.

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

Julie Rovner: Columbia Journalism Review’s “How Much Coverage Are You Worth?” by Kyle Pope

Alice Miranda Ollstein: PBS NewsHour’s “Study reveals high number of alcohol-related deaths among young Americans,” by John Yang and Dorothy Hastings

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Washington Post’s “Clock Runs Out on Efforts to Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent,” by Dan Diamond

Rachel Cohrs: ESPN’s “Review Shows Favre-Backed Drug Companies Overstated Benefits, Connections,” by Mark Fainaru-Wada

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

Kaiser Health NewsThis article is reprinted from with permission of 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 not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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