Many drugmakers have announced price increases with the start of the new year. The new Congress wants to do something about that. And even though both Republicans and Democrats want to address the politically potent issue of drug prices, it is unclear what they might be able to agree on.
Battle lines are forming between the House and Senate on the matter of abortion. The House is led by abortion-rights supporters and, since the election, the Senate has become slightly more against abortion.
And even though the majority of the Department of Health and Human Services remains unaffected by the partial government shutdown, the lapse of funding for other agencies is having spillover effects on health programs.
This week's panelists for KHN's "What the Health?" are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Alice Ollstein of Politico.
Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:
The biggest conflict among Republicans and Democrats on the drug issue centers on the GOP's reluctance to give the government a role in directly negotiating prices. Adding to the pressure is the clear indication that the issue will be front and center in the 2020 campaign. Some states, such as California, are looking to find ways to bring down drug costs on their own. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has proposed that the state have direct negotiations with drugmakers. Such efforts could mean cutting off consumers' access to some drugs, if manufacturers don't agree to a price the state likes, and that is a painful choice for officials and patients. When House committee assignments were released this week, women were appointed to lead many of the key panels that have a hand in health policy, including the chairman and top Republican on the Appropriations Committee and two Energy and Commerce subcommittees. The House Democratic Caucus now has more liberal members and fewer conservatives, so the party's efforts to roll back restrictions on abortion are likely to be more robust. That could also trigger some big battles with Republicans through the legislative session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is putting a bill on the Senate floor that would make permanent the Hyde Amendment -- which bars federal funding of abortions in nearly all circumstances. But it seems unlikely that bill could be passed by the Senate, where it needs 60 votes, and even some Republicans are believed to oppose it.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:
Julie Rovner: Bloomberg News' "This JPMorgan Health Conference Is So Packed Attendees Are Meeting in the Bathroom," by Kristen V Brown
Joanne Kenen: The New York Times' "The Strange Marketplace for Diabetes Test Strips," by Ted Alcorn
Margot Sanger-Katz: Kaiser Health News' "Patients Turn To GoFundMe When Money And Hope Run Out," by Mark Zdechlik
Alice Ollstein: The Washington Post's "Federal Officials Launch Audit of D.C. Government's Opioid Grant Spending," by Peter Jamison