KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: Congress Kicks the (Budget) Can Down the Road. Again.

by | Nov 16, 2023 | Health

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Congress narrowly avoided a federal government shutdown for the second time in as many months, as House Democrats provided the needed votes for new House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson to avoid his first legislative catastrophe of his brief tenure. But funding the federal government won’t get any easier when the latest temporary patches expire in early 2024. It seems House Republicans have not yet accepted that they cannot accomplish the steep spending cuts they want as long as the Senate and the White House are controlled by Democrats.

Meanwhile, a pair of investigations unveiled this week underscored the difficulty of obtaining needed long-term care for seniors. One, from KFF Health News and The New York Times, chronicles the financial toll on families for people who need help for activities of daily living. The other, from Stat, details how some insurance companies are using artificial intelligence algorithms to deny needed rehabilitation care for Medicare patients.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico Magazine, and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

Congress passed a two-part continuing resolution this week that will prevent the federal government from shutting down when the current CR expires Nov. 18 at 12:01 a.m. The new measure extends some current spending levels, including funding for the FDA, through Jan. 19. The rest of federal agencies, including most of the Department of Health and Human Services, are extended to Feb. 2.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has said he wants to use the next two months to finish work on individual appropriations bills, none of which have passed both the House and Senate so far. The problem: They would deeply cut many popular federal programs. They also are full of changes to abortion restrictions and transgender policies, highlighting the split between the GOP caucus’ far-right wing and its more moderate members.

In the wake of abortion rights successes in passing abortion rights ballot initiatives, new efforts are taking shape in Ohio and Michigan among state lawmakers who are arguing that when Dobbs turned this decision back to states, it meant to the state legislatures — not to the courts or voters. Most experts agree the approach is unlikely to prevail. Still, it highlights continuing efforts to change the rules surrounding this polar …

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