Au Revoir, Public Health Emergency

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The public health emergency in place since the start of the covid-19 pandemic will end on May 11, the Biden administration announced this week. The end of the so-called PHE will bring about a series of policy changes that will affect patients, healthcare professionals and states. But Republicans in Congress, along with some Democrats, have been scrambling for months to end the “emergency” designation.

Meanwhile, despite a less than stellar performance by Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections and widespread public support for preserving abortion access, anti-abortion groups are pushing for even tougher restrictions on the procedure. arguing that Republicans did poorly because they weren’t strident enough on abortion issues.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Axios’ Victoria Knight, The Washington Post’s Rachel Roubein, and The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The Biden administration announced this week that the covid public health emergency will end in May, ending many flexibilities the government has given to health care workers during the pandemic to ease patient care challenges.
  • Some of the biggest changes of the covid era, like the expansion of telehealth and Medicare coverage for the antiviral drug Paxlovid, have already been expanded by Congress. Lawmakers also set a separate timetable for the end of the Medicaid coverage requirement. Meanwhile, the White House is dismissing reports that an end to the public health emergency will also mean an end to free vaccines, tests and treatments.
  • A new KFF survey shows widespread public confusion about medical abortion, with many respondents saying they are unsure if the abortion pill is legal in their state and how to access it. Proponents say medical abortion, which accounts for about half of abortions nationwide, is the future of the procedure, and state laws surrounding its use change frequently.
  • On abortion policy, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution urging candidates to “go on the attack” in 2024 and push for tougher abortion laws. Opponents of abortion were unhappy that Republican congressional leaders failed to pass a federal gestation limit on abortion last year, and the party is signaling a desire to appeal to its conservative base in a presidential election year. .
  • This week, the federal government announced it will audit Medicare Advantage plans for overbilling. But according to a KHN scoop, the government will limit its recoveries to recent years, allowing many plans to keep the money it overpaid them. Medicare Advantage is set to enroll most seniors this year.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Hannah Wesolowski of the National Alliance on Mental Illness about how the rollout of the new 988 suicide prevention hotline is going.

Also, for “extra credit,” the speakers suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: “Republicans Break With Another Historic Ally: The Doctors” by Axios, by Caitlin Owens and Victoria Knight

Margot Sanger-Katz: “Most New York Times abortion bans include exceptions. In practice, a few are granted”, by Amy Schoenfeld Walker

Rachel Roubein: “I’ve written about expensive drugs for years” by The Washington Post. Back then my baby needed it,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson

Victory Knight: “Emailing your doctor may carry a fee” from the New York Times, by Benjamin Ryan

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:

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