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The predicted Republican ‘red wave’ was a no-show in this week’s midterm elections, but the margins in both the US House and Senate are so small the GOP could still wrest control to Democrats as the latest “too close to call” races are settled. Whichever party holds the majority from 2023 will also influence how much Congress tries to finish in its lame session that begins Nov. 14.
Meanwhile, proponents of abortion rights have won big. Voters in three states (Michigan, California, and Vermont) approved ballot measures to enshrine the right to abortion in their state constitutions, while two other states (Montana and Kentucky) frustrated efforts to further restrict abortion.
This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein, Stat’s Rachel Cohrs, and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.
Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:
- If Republicans take control of the House, expect tough oversight hearings on Biden administration policies and decisions. Among those who could be called before Republican-controlled committees is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is expected to be questioned over decisions about handling the pandemic and closing schools and other key parts of the economy.
- The GOP’s focus on legislative issues is murkier. Much of what Republicans can push through Congress will depend on how much room they have in the House and whether they end up taking control of the Senate.
- In the meantime, Congress returns to Washington next week to wrap up this year’s business. Several top Republican senators are retiring and are expected to push for health measures including more public health initiatives, pandemic preparedness and reforms at the FDA.
- This lame session of Congress will also examine government funding and ways to avoid a planned reduction in Medicare reimbursements to health care providers.
- South Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It is the seventh state where voters have rejected conservative Republican leaders who had 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 launch a ballot initiative there as well, but it would likely cost millions of dollars to organize.
- Doctors and consumers are warning of recent drug shortages, including a common antibiotic for children. This highlights a long-term drug shortage problem that is often overlooked.
- A recent Wall Street Journal article focused on the detrimental impact of covid-19 and long covid on productivity in the country. Although patient advocates and public health officials have long sounded this alarm, the issue has received little attention from political leaders. With Republicans likely gaining more power in the next Congress — and their opposition to more funding for covid prevention — it doesn’t seem likely that the long-term economic effects will gain much support in the coming year.
Also this week, Rovner interviews Carolee Lee, a former jewelry mogul, about her efforts to build gender equity in medical research.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should also read:
Julie Rovner: “How much coverage are you worth?” from Columbia Journalism Review by Kyle Pope
Alice Miranda Ollstein: “Study finds staggering number of alcohol-related deaths among young Americans” from PBS NewsHour, by John Yang and Dorothy Hastings
Sarah Karlin-Smith: “The clock is ticking on efforts to make DST permanent” from The Washington Post, by Dan Diamond
Rachel Cohrs: “ESPN Review Shows Favre-Backed Pharma Companies Have Overstated Benefits and Connections,” by Mark Fainaru-Wada
Also mentioned in this week’s episode:
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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and polls, KHN is one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.
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