“What the Health?” by KHN: shoot against gun control

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The House has passed a package of bills to limit the availability of assault weapons to minors and other measures to curb gun violence, but Senate talks have yet to yield findings on what has been a legislative stalemate for years.

Meanwhile, as inflation continues to be a major issue for voters, the Federal Trade Commission is scrutinizing the practices of pharmacy and hospital benefit managers in an effort to preserve price competition in the bloated US healthcare system.

This week’s speakers are Julie Rovner of KHN, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico.

Among the takeaways of this week’s episode:

  • Senators are meeting to try to find compromise measures on gun safety that can get at least 10 Republican votes needed to cancel a filibuster. The question around town is whether Democrats are willing to settle for something that has been narrow enough to win the GOP votes. If not, this could become another example of the implosion of arms security negotiations.
  • Efforts by the Biden administration to bring infant formula from other countries appear to help provide supplies to desperate families. Some analysis of the data suggests that the country is emerging from a peak of shortage. But that didn’t dampen frustration over the FDA’s delay in addressing shortages and contamination issues at a major U.S. formula manufacturing facility in Michigan that was forced to close. That plant reopened this week, but it will still take several weeks for the formula produced there to start hitting the store shelves.
  • Democratic lawmakers, who fear the Supreme Court is doomed to overturn his Roe vs Wade decision that guaranteed the right to abortion, ask the Biden administration to intervene to minimize the impact. But even if executive orders were issued by the president, their effects would be limited. This is because a court move to overturn egg it would leave abortion rules primarily to the states.
  • Opponents of abortion are already talking about their next goal, suggesting they would like to see a national ban on abortion. But this creates a messaging problem as they have argued for years that abortion should be a matter of state.
  • Employers are starting to feel pressure on this issue, and a number of large companies have said they will offer employee benefits to help them get out-of-state abortions if their state bans the procedure. For many workers, however, abortion is a private decision; they may not want to let their employers know that they are considering one. Corporate initiatives can also play out for consumers seeking to learn more about the politics of the companies they deal with.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it will look into pharmacy benefit managers, the facilitators who negotiate drug prices for health plans. Critics have argued that consolidation between health plans and PBMs can help drive prices up. The commission also sued to block several hospital mergers recently, arguing they could hurt competition and raise prices.
  • Congress remains at a standstill on a bill to fund federal efforts to prepare for another wave of the Covid pandemic. Democrats have raised concerns that the country will have adequate vaccine and testing resources in the fall if new variants cause an increase in cases, but Republicans said other federal funds could be tapped.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Cori Bird of the American Academy of Actuaries about the latest report from the Medicare board of directors and why politicians must act before the program runs out of money.

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

Julie Rovner: “Misinformation Clouds America’s Most Popular Emergency Contraception” by KHN, by Sarah Varney

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politician “How Many Covid Deaths Are Acceptable? Some Biden Officials Tried Guess”, by Rachael Levy

Anna Edney: “Florida may be a critical entry point for abortion, but the battle of the state has just begun” by Shefali Luthra’s 19th

Giovanna Kenen: The Trace “In 2019, Congress promised millions to study gun violence. The results are almost there,” by Chip Brownlee

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:

“Even if the eggs are spilled, Congress must act to protect the unborn” by The Washington Post, by Robert B. George and Josh Craddock

Health Affairs “The Association Between COVID-19 Mortality and the County-Level Partisan Divide in the United States”, by Neil Jay Sehgal, Dahai Yue, Elle Pope, Ren Hao Wang, and Dylan H. Roby

“Societies Urged to Review Abortion Coverage with Roe in Balance” by Bloomberg Law, by Sara Hansard

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