Connect with us

Kaiser Health News

Adult Children Discuss the Trials of Caring for Their Aging Parents



Reed Abelson, The New York Times and Jordan Rau, KFF
Tue, 14 Nov 2023 10:35:00 +0000

It is emotionally and physically draining.”

Natasha Lazartes

39, Brooklyn, New YorkTherapist

I am 39 years old. I had to care for my father, who passed from cancer in 2019; my mother, who passed in November 2021 from cancer; and since my mother's passing, I have inherited the care of my grandmother. She is 97, diagnosed with moderate dementia, and considered high risk to be left home alone. We had been applying for long-term care to a home health aide since early November 2021. She finally got a home health aide in January 2022, but it's been a nightmare. They are so desperate to hire workers that they will take anyone. She was left without an aide on many random days with a late-notice telephone call or text message from the aide needing the day off and the agencies not able to find a replacement in time. I have changed agencies multiple times. My husband has been a great the entire time. We rely on security cameras we installed in our apartment to see how she is doing while we are at work. How is it on a daily basis? It is emotionally and physically draining. The health care system for the elderly is neglected, broken, and inadequate to meet any demands, even the basic needs.


When I signed the lease, I felt like I was breaking my promise.”

Robert Ingenito

44, Mamaroneck, New YorkPublic information officer

My father, who is now 93, had me late in life, at age 49. My mother died from cancer when I was 19. Literally on her deathbed, she said to me, “Don't put your father in a nursing home.” Now, at 44, I'm married, I have a 6-year-old daughter, and for the past five years my dad has lived with us. I work about 20 hours a week, which allowed me to do something other than being his caregiver. If I had to put a price tag on the quality of care I provided to my dad, it would probably be the equivalent of a high-end assisted living facility. But it was becoming really hard for myself, my wife, and our daughter. His level of care was getting to the point of something I just could not sustain. He couldn't be left alone. I wasn't getting any sleep. Recently, I made the extremely difficult decision to move him into an assisted living facility. Fortunately, he has the financial resources to do that. For most people, that's not even an option. I have been happy with the level of care that he's getting, but when I signed the lease, I felt like I was breaking my promise. I tried my best to follow my mom's wishes. But there's only so much I could do, and I had to do it.

“I was a rebellious teen and she never gave up on me, so how am I going to give up on her?”


Karina Ortega

43, DallasCaregiver

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in March 2020, but even before then, I knew something was wrong. One day, she went to visit a friend and was going to donate some clothes to her. Seven hours later, we still hadn't heard from her. She got lost. Eventually she found a supermarket that was familiar to her and got home. I'm no longer working at all. This has all taken a toll on my life. I do have a younger brother and an older sister, but my sister has a daughter in college and my brother has a 7-year-old. I'm the only one with no children and have always been the one who would take care of my parents. If Mom gets worse and I can't care for her? That's something I struggle with. Putting her in a home? In our culture, that's looked down upon. I was a rebellious teen, and she never gave up on me, so how am I going to give up on her? I just can't see it in me to leave my mom because she needs me.

“She passed in October. The state says we still owe close to $20,000 for the year Medicaid paid for her nursing home.”

Gay Glenn


61, Topeka, KansasActor

It was costing us $8,000 out-of-pocket to have people into my mom's house to her, and that was only eight hours a day. I'm watching her savings just dwindle. And then she fell. And then she fell again overnight. At the hospital, they found she had a cracked sacrum. She was in rehab for the maximum number of days that Medicare will cover and couldn't return home. Because she owned a house, had two rentals, savings, and two cars, she had to pay long-term care costs out of her pocket. I think my mom had about $18,000 in the bank. She had five life insurance policies in her children's names. We cashed out the policies. In one year, she had to pay $65,000 for her care at the nursing home and spend down an additional $37,000 to be able to be eligible for Medicaid. We just sold her house. She passed in October. The state says we still owe close to $20,000 for the year Medicaid paid for her nursing home. I moved here in February of 2019. I certainly didn't expect to be here going on five years. It was awful — personally all the time and energy and money to do this for her — and it was great. I was able to protect her and make sure everything was OK for her. I said at the memorial service that my mom was there when I took my first breath, and I was there when she took her last. If that's not the circle of life, I don't know what is.

“I'm going to take on some extra work to cover the costs.”

Bryan Ness

62, Angwin, CaliforniaBiology professor

We had it all planned. My mom was going to live with us. She has some cognitive issues from the stroke. All of her long-term memory is just fine. Her short-term memory is just nonexistent. We looked at what it would cost for home care. Even if we limited it to just eight hours a day, it's more expensive than the assisted living place that's 10 minutes from our house. It's a wonderful little place. It's $4,500 a month. That's still a lot. She's run out of her own money. There's no more than the $1,500 she gets from Social Security. We talked to the place and got it down to $4,000. I got really good responses from GoFundMe. A lot of my former students and friends put in some chunks. I hate begging for money. My wife and I are at least at the age where we don't have kids we're supporting anymore. But we're concerned we are going to our own retirement savings. My wife is already 65. We need to keep our retirement plan going, too. They told us: Don't ruin your own retirement over this. Well, agreed, but we've got to take care of my mom, too. We have a relative who's giving $500 a month. I'm going to take on some extra work to cover the costs. I felt my career could wind down over the next few years, and now I've got an $1,800 bill added to my finances from now until whenever.


“I wish I had known that no one was going to help me.”

Stacey Wheeler

60, Greenville, South CarolinaRetiree

My mom was in independent living. I had someone coming in the morning to get her up. Nobody is getting paid enough to say: “Now, come on, you really want to get dressed. Let's pick out some earrings.” I should have tried 20 people in hopes of finding one who did that. No one is going to waste time with an old person who doesn't want to do what they don't want to do. It's hard to care about grumpy people when you're barely putting food on the table. My mom got sick and then needed to be in a wheelchair in assisted living. When she sold her condo, she had about $2,500 a month in retirement and she had about $120,000 in the bank. That starts going fast when you hit $7,000 or $8,000 a month. Everyone's so worried about being sued by people that every time something happened, they wanted her to go to the ER. I wish I had known that no one was going to help me. I would have kept her in independent living and gone through hiring people until I found one. My husband and I were both retired, fortunately. We couldn't leave town. We tried twice and had to come back. Ironically, the last place she was in, because she was going to run out of money, was the best place. The room wasn't as big, but the staff were the best there. Mom died in August 2022.

“They had to send her home with us and we had to keep her chemically sedated.”


Jeanette Landin

55, Brattleboro, VermontAssociate professor

There were wildfires where my mother lived out in California that were getting very close and were causing her health problems. Between that and a series of in-home falls and her inability to drive herself to different places, she finally called in November of 2017 and said, “I think I need to come live with you.” We found a house that would be adequate for both my family and her needs. Her dementia started to get worse. We looked at adult day care and found a local place. It was tremendously expensive to do that. But they were good until they got to a point where they contacted me and said she's not directions, she's refusing to do appropriate hygiene. This was early 2022, and we had to pull her out of that service. In early April, she started getting violent and would threaten my husband that she was going to kill him by chopping his head off. And then she would tell me she was going to kill my daughters. One night I had her taken to the hospital and they found she had been in kidney failure. She was still very violent. They looked at placement in a nursing home. Because of the fact she was violent, she couldn't be placed anywhere. They had to send her home with us, and we had to keep her chemically sedated. From the time she came home till the time she died, it was seven days. We kept our daughters from coming upstairs. We didn't want them hearing and seeing what was happening because it's not something I would wish anybody to ever go through. It was awful.

By: Reed Abelson, The New York Times and Jordan Rau, KFF Health News
Title: Adult Children Discuss the Trials of Caring for Their Aging Parents
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/dying-broke-adult-children-discuss-trials-caregiving-aging-parents/
Published Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2023 10:35:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…


Kaiser Health News

Misleading Ads Play Key Role in Schemes to Gin Up Unauthorized ACA Sign-Ups, Lawsuit Alleges



Julie Appleby, KFF Health
Fri, 19 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

The government is giving away money! So say ads on a variety of social platforms. Consumers, the ads claim, can qualify for $1,400 or even $6,400 a month to use on groceries, rent, medical expenses, and other bills. Some mention no-cost health insurance coverage.

But that's not the whole story.

And here's the spoiler — no one is getting monthly checks to with these everyday expenses.


Such ads are now under scrutiny for the role they may play in helping rogue insurance agents and companies sign up tens of thousands of consumers for Affordable Care Act coverage — or switch them from their existing ACA plans — without their express permission.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal ACA marketplace, also known as Obamacare, has reported at least 90,000 complaints about unauthorized enrollment or plan-switching in the first quarter of the year.

Those numbers have also caught the attention of House Republicans, who on June 28 requested investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Fraud — from unauthorized switches by brokers, as reported by KFF Health News in recent months and noted in the congressional requests — might be part of the problem, House members wrote. They cited an analysis from a conservative group that estimated that millions of people — or their brokers — reported incorrect financial information to qualify for large ACA tax credits.


Whether advertising efforts will be part of any such investigation is unknown.

Details on how an alleged scheme used misleading ads are included in a Florida lawsuit filed in April. The suit claims that several marketing and insurance sales firms used misleading ads as part of a collaborative effort to gin up questionable, commission-earning business. The firms named in the case say the allegations are meritless.

“Telling someone they are going to get $6,400 a month in a cash card for rent or groceries or whatever else, that is a lie, that's fraud, even if you put in a small boilerplate on the bottom trying to say something different,” said Jason Kellogg, one of two attorneys who filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Here's how it worked, according to the suit and interviews with the attorneys who filed it: When consumers responded to the ads by phone, they were not connected with a government program. Instead, they were linked directly to insurance call centers, which paid the -generating firms placing the ads to transfer the calls.


At best, consumers who respond to the ads might find out they qualify for ACA tax credits, which vary in size, to help offset the premiums for zero-cost or low-cost coverage. Those payments, though, are sent directly to insurers. At worst, according to allegations in the lawsuit, consumers wind up with coverage they didn't select and that might not meet their needs, or their existing coverage is switched to a new plan, which might have a different network of doctors and hospitals or higher deductibles and copays. The suit alleges much of this was accomplished without consumers' “proper knowledge and consent.”

Depending on how it's done, creating ads and gathering names to sell to insurance sales firms is not illegal, but deceptive ads are.

The Federal Trade Commission defines a deceptive ad as one that “contains a misrepresentation or omission that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances to their detriment.”

Even that isn't always clear-cut.


“I get into talks with attorneys all the time,” said Bonnie Burns, a consultant with the nonprofit California Health Advocates. “Is this language I'm seeing that I think is fraudulent — does it actually meet that test? It's frustrating and maddening as hell.”

After looking at several ads that have appeared recently on social media — but not specifically the ones included in the — one marketing expert had no doubt.

“This clearly crosses the line to deception,” said Charles R. Taylor, a professor of marketing at Villanova University. “It is a form of bait and switch, by leading people to think they are going to get cash payments.”

In the U.S., oversight of advertising historically falls to the FTC.


“Investigating deceptive lead generation and marketing practices is a big part of what we do around consumer protection,” said Elizabeth Scott, an FTC attorney who has worked on several recent cases, including a $195 million judgment against Florida-based Simple Health Plans, which the FTC alleged used misleading advertising and sales tactics to sell consumers low-quality coverage when they thought they were buying comprehensive health insurance.

But states also have regulatory authority. They issue licenses to insurance agents and oversee insurance carriers. Most of this crop of ACA ads, however, are from lead-generating companies, which, under some states' rules, fall into a gray area.

An FTC spokesperson would not comment on whether the agency was looking at any such advertising issues currently.

CMS does not have regulatory authority over marketing entities doing advertising but is working with other federal agencies that do, said Ellen Montz, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at CMS. It does, however, have authority over agents and brokers, who can be barred from using the federal ACA marketplace if they are found to have broken rules, including using “ generated from advertisements that an agent or broker knows is misleading or coercive,” Montz said.


So far, the Florida lawsuit filed in April remains the most public challenge to the ACA-related advertisements.

The case was filed by Kellogg, along with attorney Jason Doss of Georgia. It alleges that several marketing firms, insurance brokerages, and privately held ACA enrollment websites knowingly relied on misleading advertisements — and told their call center staffers to be vague about the subsidies they promised.

“It's not about selling people health insurance. It's about tricking people into enrolling in health insurance,” Doss said.

Consumers often didn't know they were being signed up for coverage, the lawsuit alleges, and some were switched multiple times. While unscrupulous agents or call centers then gained the monthly commissions, consumers faced a range of financial and other problems, including losing access to their doctors or treatments, the suit claims.


Named as defendants are TrueCoverage and Enhance Health, which operate insurance call centers in Florida and other states; Speridian Technologies, a New Mexico-based limited liability company that owns and controls TrueCoverage; and Number One Prospecting, doing business as Minerva Marketing, which is also a lead-generating company. The lawsuit also names two people: Brandon Bowsky, founder and CEO of Minerva; and Matthew Herman, CEO of Enhance Health.

TrueCoverage spokesperson Catherine Riedel told KFF Health News the firm approves all ads from lead-generating marketing firms and “has not knowingly approved any misleading content.” Furthermore, “in our research, we haven't found anyone who got enrolled connected to misleading content.”

Olga Vieira, an attorney representing Enhance Health, said in a statement to KFF Health News: “This lawsuit is without legal merit and we will vigorously defend against these baseless claims.” Attorneys representing the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment.

The suit was filed on behalf of agents who lost business when their clients were switched and consumers like Texas Angelina Wells, who responded to an advertisement she saw on Facebook in November that touted $6,400 cash cards.


“Wells never received the cash card she was promised,” the lawsuit says, “and she did not recall enrolling into the health plan at all.”

From November to January, call center agents switched Wells at least three times, to three insurance carriers, without her consent, the lawsuit says.

Doss said agents, armed with only a person's name, date of birth, and state of residence, can make switches through private-sector direct enrollment websites that integrate with the federal healthcare.gov marketplace.

While dozens of these enrollment sites operate with CMS approval, the lawsuit focuses mainly on two: Benefitalign, which was developed by the parent company of the defendant TrueCoverage, and Jet Health , which was purchased by the other call center defendant, Enhance Health, in mid-2023.


Having access to proprietary enrollment platforms the call centers to sign up “the maximum number of consumers in the shortest amount of time without outside scrutiny,” according to the lawsuit. TrueCoverage spokesperson Riedel said all transactions on private enrollment sites “are audited and logged” by the federal marketplace, so “it is not true” that such transactions lack scrutiny. Enhance Health didn't provide specific comments on this topic.

The lawsuit says Enhance launched in 2021, not long after receiving a $150 million capital infusion from Bain Capital Insurance, a private investment firm. Initially, it planned to market and sell Medicare Advantage policies, but it switched to ACA policies after rules went into effect in 2022 allowing low-income people to enroll in coverage year-round.

“The biggest problem is that these agencies are trying to do a high-volume ACA business model that targets poor people,” Doss said, based on assertions made in the lawsuit. “In order to get those people to enroll, they have to entice them using false advertisements.

By: Julie Appleby, KFF Health News
Title: Misleading Ads Play Key Role in Schemes to Gin Up Unauthorized ACA Sign-Ups, Lawsuit Alleges
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/aca-fraud-misleading-ads-unauthorized-signups-switches-obamacare/
Published Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Kaiser Health News

A California Medical Group Treats Only Homeless Patients — And Makes Money Doing It



Angela Hart
Fri, 19 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES — They distribute GPS devices so they can track their homeless patients. They stock their street kits with glass pipes used to smoke meth, crack, or fentanyl. They keep company credit cards on hand in case a patient needs emergency food or water, or an Uber ride to the doctor.

These , nurses, and social workers are fanning out on the streets of Los Angeles to provide and social services to homeless people — foot soldiers of a new business model taking root in communities around California.

Their strategy: Build trust with homeless people to deliver medicine wherever they are — and make money doing it.


“The biggest population of homeless people in this country is here in Southern California,” said Sachin Jain, a former Obama administration health official who is CEO of SCAN Group, which runs a Medicare Advantage insurance plan covering about 300,000 people in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico.

“The fastest-growing segment of people experiencing homelessness is actually older adults,” he said. “I said, ‘We've got to do something about this.'”

Jain's organization three years ago created Healthcare in Action, a medical group that sends practitioners onto California's streets solely to care for homeless people. It has grown rapidly, building operations in 17 communities, , Hollywood, and San Bernardino County.

Since its launch, Healthcare in Action has cared for about 6,700 homeless patients and managed roughly 77,000 diagnoses, from schizophrenia to diabetes. It has placed about 300 people into permanent or temporary housing.


Street medicine in most of the country is practiced as a charitable endeavor, aimed at serving a challenging patient population failed by traditional medicine, its proponents say. Living transient, chaotic lives, homeless people suffer disproportionately from mental illness, addiction, and chronic disease and often don't have health insurance — or don't use it if they do.

That makes designing a business around caring for them a risk, insurance executives and health economists say.

“It's really innovative and entrepreneurial to take all this energy and grit to try and improve things for a population that is too often ignored,” said Mark Duggan, a professor of economics at Stanford University who specializes in homelessness and policy. “Financial incentives matter massively in health care. It's everything.”

An estimated 181,000 people were homeless in California in 2023 — about 30% of the nation's total. The number living outside, more than two-thirds of California's total, increased 6.9% over the previous year.


The state's leaders, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, have struggled to make inroads against the mounting public health and political crisis — despite marshaling unprecedented taxpayer resources.

“We have a huge problem on our hands, and we have a lot of health plans and municipalities saying, ‘We need you,'” Jain said.

On the Streets

On a cloudy April morning in Long Beach, Daniel Speller navigated his mobile medical van among the tents and tarps that crowded residential streets, searching for a of homeless patients. A physician assistant for Healthcare in Action, Speller said he was particularly worried about the badly infected wounds they developed on their limbs after they used the street drug xylazine, an animal tranquilizer often mixed with fentanyl.


“These wounds are everywhere. It's really bad,” Speller said. If infections progress, they can require toe, foot, or arm amputations.

“Man, this one is still so deep,” Speller said as he peeled denim pants from the swollen leg of Robert Smith, 66.

After cleaning and wrapping Smith's leg, Speller asked him if he needed anything else. “I lost my food stamps,” Smith replied.

Within the hour, Speller's team of social workers and nurses had summoned an Uber to take Smith to a state office, where he received a new CalFresh card.


Speller then turned his medical van onto a side street lined with more tents and cars-turned-shelters. Nick Destry Anderson, 46, was sleeping on the sidewalk and badly in need of wound care.

“I was so scared. I thought I was going to lose my leg before I met them,” Anderson said, grimacing as Speller sprayed his leg with antibiotic mist. “These people saved my life.”


Anderson reported feeling lightheaded, so Speller asked another team member to use the company credit card to get him a cheeseburger and a Sprite.

Many homeless people languish on the streets, so entrenched in mental health crises or addiction that they don't much care about seeing a doctor or taking their medication. Chronic diseases worsen. Wounds grow infected. People overdose or die from treatable conditions.

Part of street medicine is bandaging infected sores, administering antipsychotic injections, and treating chronic diseases. Street providers often hand out drug paraphernalia such as clean needles and glass pipes to reduce sharing and prevent infections. Perhaps more importantly, these workers build trust.

Getting homeless patients established with primary care doctors and nurses — who visit them on the streets, in parks, or wherever they happen to be — can prevent frequent and expensive emergency room trips and hospitalizations, potentially saving money for insurers and taxpayers, Jain argues. Even though shelter and housing are scarce, Healthcare in Action's goal is to get patients healthy enough to live stable, independent lives, he said.


But that's easier said than done. In West Hollywood that week in April, Healthcare in Action clinical coordinator Isabelle Peng found Lisa Vernon, a homeless woman, slumped over in her wheelchair at a busy bus stop. Vernon is a regular at nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Peng and her colleague David Wong said.

When Peng and Wong attempted to examine her swollen leg, Vernon shouted at them and declined aid. “Antibiotics aren't going to save my life!” Vernon yelled as a mouse scurried for the potato chip shrapnel at her feet.

They moved on to their next patient, a man they were tracking with a GPS device they sometimes affix to homeless people's belongings. Use of the devices is voluntary. They work better than cellphones because they less often get taken by law enforcement during encampment sweeps or stolen by thieves.

“Our patients really move around a lot, so this helps us go find them when we have to get them medication or do follow-up care,” Wong said. “We have already developed rapport with these patients, and they want us to see them.”


Growing Revenue

Street medicine teams are in demand, largely because of growing public frustration with homelessness. The city of West Hollywood, for instance, awarded Healthcare in Action a three-year contract that pays $47,000 a month. The nonprofit can also bill Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, which covers low-income people, for its services.


Mari Cantwell, a health care consultant who served as California's Medicaid director from 2015 until early 2020, said Medicaid reimbursements alone aren't enough to fund street medicine providers. To remain viable, she said, they need to take creative financial steps, like Healthcare in Action has.

“Medicaid is never going to pay high margins, so you have to think about how to sustain things,” she said.

Healthcare in Action brought in about $2 million in revenue in its first year, $6 million in 2022, and $15.4 million in 2023, according to Michael Plumb, SCAN Group's chief financial officer.

Healthcare in Action and SCAN's Medicare Advantage insurance plan generate revenue by serving homeless patients in multiple ways:

  • Both are tapping into billions of dollars in Medicaid money that states and the federal government are spending to treat homeless people in the field and to provide new social services like housing and food assistance.For instance, Healthcare in Action has received $3.8 million from Newsom's $12 billion Medicaid initiative called CalAIM, which allows it to hire social workers, doctors, and providers for street medicine teams, according to the state.It also contracts with health insurers, including L.A. Care and Molina Healthcare in Southern California, to identify housing for homeless patients, negotiate with landlords, and provide financial help such as covering security deposits.
  • Healthcare in Action collects charitable donations from some hospitals and insurers, including CalOptima in Orange County and its own Medicare Advantage plan, SCAN Health Plan.
  • Healthcare in Action partners with cities and hospitals to provide treatment and services. In 2022, it kicked off a contract with Cedars-Sinai to care for patients milling outside the hospital.
  • It also enrolls eligible homeless patients into SCAN Health Plan because many low-income, older people qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare coverage. The plan had revenue of $4.9 billion in 2023, up from $3.5 billion in 2021.

“There's been an incredible market fit, unfortunately,” Jain said. “You can't walk or down a street in Los Angeles, rich or poor, and not into this problem.”

Jim Withers, who coined the term “street medicine” decades ago and cares for homeless people in Pittsburgh, welcomed the entry of more providers given the enormous need. But he cautioned against a model with financial motives.

“I do worry about the corporatization of street medicine and capitalism invading what we've been building, largely as a social justice mission outside of the traditional health care system,” he said. “But nobody owns the streets, and we have to figure out how to play nice together.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

By: Angela Hart
Title: A California Medical Group Treats Only Homeless Patients — And Makes Money Doing It
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org//article/california-homeless-medical-care-healthcare-in-action/
Published Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Kaiser Health News

KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: At GOP Convention, Health Policy Is Mostly MIA



Thu, 18 Jul 2024 18:50:00 +0000

The Host

Julie Rovner


Read Julie's stories.


Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent and host of KFF Health News' weekly health policy news podcast, “What the Health?” A noted expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically praised reference book “Health Care and Policy A to Z,” now in its third edition.

The Republican National Convention highlighted a number of policy issues this week, but health care was not among them. That was not much of a surprise, as it is not a top priority for former or most GOP voters. The nomination of Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio adds an outspoken opponent to the Republican ticket, though he brings no particular background or expertise in health care.

Meanwhile, abortion opponents are busy to block ballot questions from reaching voters in November. Legal battles over potential proposals continue in several states, including Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins schools of public health and nursing and Politico Magazine.



Alice Miranda Ollstein


Read Alice's stories.

Joanne Kenen
Johns Hopkins University and Politico



Read Joanne's articles.

Sarah Karlin-Smith
Pink Sheet



Read Sarah's stories.

Among the takeaways from this week's episode:

  • Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio has cast few votes on health policy since joining Congress last year. He has taken a doctrinaire approach to abortion restrictions, though, including expressing for prohibiting abortion-related interstate travel and invoking the Comstock Act to block use of the mail for abortion medications. He also speaks openly about his mother's struggles with addiction, framing it as a health rather than criminal issue in a way that resonates with many Americans.
  • Although Republicans have largely abandoned calls to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it would be easy for former President Donald Trump to undermine the program in a second term; expanded subsidies for coverage are due to expire next year, and there's always the option to cut spending on marketing the program, as Trump did during his first term.
  • Trump's recent comments to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about childhood vaccinations echoed tropes linked to the anti-vaccination movement — particularly the false claim that while one vaccine may be safe, it is perhaps dangerous to receive several at once. The federal vaccination schedule has been rigorously evaluated and found to be safe and effective.
  • Covid is surging once again, with among those testing positive this week. The virus is proving a year-round concern and has peaked regularly in summertime; covid spreads best indoors, and lately millions of Americans have taken refuge inside from extremely high temperatures. Meanwhile, the virology community is concerned that the nation isn't testing enough animals or humans to understand the risk posed by bird flu.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News' Renuka Rayasam, who wrote the June installment of KFF Health News-NPR's “Bill of the Month,” about a patient who walked into what he thought was an urgent care center and walked out with an emergency room bill. If you have an exorbitant or baffling medical bill, you can send it to us here.

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

Julie Rovner: Time magazine's “‘We're Living in a Nightmare:' Inside the Health Crisis of a Texas Bitcoin Town,” by Andrew R Chow.


Joanne Kenen: The Washington Post's “A Mom Struggles To Feed Her Kids After GOP States Reject Federal Funds,” by Annie Gowen.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: ProPublica's “Texas Sends Millions to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. It's Meant To Help Needy Families, but No One Knows if It Works,” by Cassandra Jaramillo, Jeremy Kohler, and Sophie Chou, ProPublica, and Jessica Kegu, CBS News.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The New York Times' “Promised Cures, Tainted Cells: How Cord Blood Banks Mislead Patients,” by Sarah Kliff and Azeen Ghorayshi.

Also mentioned on this week's podcast:


The Wall Street Journal's “Mail-Order Drugs Were Supposed To Keep Costs Down. It's Doing the Opposite,” by Jared S. Hopkins.


Francis Ying
Audio producer

Emmarie Huetteman

To hear all our click here.


And subscribe to KFF Health News' “What the Health?” on SpotifyApple PodcastsPocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Title: KFF Health News' ‘What the Health?': At GOP Convention, Health Policy Is Mostly MIA
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/podcast/what-the-health-356-republican-convention-health-policy-july-18-2024/
Published Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2024 18:50:00 +0000

Continue Reading

News from the South