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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October proposes big cuts to popular programs, including Medicaid and the National Institutes of Health. Although those cuts are unlikely to be enacted by Congress, both Republicans and Democrats are likely to use the budget blueprint as a campaign issue.
Meanwhile, several House committees this week relaunched work on legislation to address “surprise” medical bills — unexpected charges from out-of-network providers. And Congress is still trying to come to a bipartisan agreement on how to address drug prices.
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), a former Health and Human Services secretary and a former member of the Kaiser Family Foundation board, was the special guest for this week’s podcast, taped before a live audience at the KFF headquarters in Washington, D.C. Also joining host Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News were Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call and Joanne Kenen of Politico. Also joining host Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News were Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call and Joanne Kenen of Politico.
Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:
- One surprise in the president’s budget is a proposal to move tobacco regulation out from under the Food and Drug Administration’s purview. That comes despite a law Congress passed several years ago that specifically named the FDA as the regulator for tobacco.
- Last year, it seemed clear that Congress and the White House were determined to find a way to protect consumers from surprise medical bills. But heavy lobbying on the issue and deep fissures in pinpointing the best remedy have slowed that effort. Shalala said she thinks Congress will produce a bill this year that will be balanced so that insurers and medical providers have to compromise.
- Shalala said that in the 21 town meetings she has held in South Florida, no one has asked about efforts to end surprise bills. Most of the health questions focus on high drug prices and out-of-pocket costs. High out-of-pocket costs have been driven by the large number of people shifted into high-deductible insurance plans.
- Shalala also said she doesn’t expect a plan to import drugs from Canada, endorsed by the Trump administration and some states, to go forward. Drugmakers sell Canada enough medicine to cover the population there, and not consumers in Florida, she added.
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