KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': More Medicaid messiness

The host

Julie Rovner KFF Health News@jrovner

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 Politics and Policy A to Z," now in its third edition.

Federal officials have instructed at least 30 states to reinstate Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program coverage for half a million people, including children, after an errant computer program wrongly determined they were no longer eligible. It's just the latest hiccup in the yearlong effort to redetermine the eligibility of beneficiaries now that the program's pandemic-era expansion has expired.

Meanwhile, the federal government is on the verge of a shutdown, as a small band of House Republicans resists even a short-term spending measure to keep the lights on starting Oct. 1. Most of the largest federal health programs, including Medicare, have other sources of funding and would not be dramatically impacted — at least at first. But nearly half of all employees at the Department of Health and Human Services would be furloughed, compromising how just about everything runs there.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of Pink Sheet.


  • Sarah Karlin-Smith Pink Sheet@SarahKarlin
  • Sandhya Raman CQ Roll Call@SandhyaWrites
  • Rachel Roubein The Washington Post@rachel_roubein

Among the takeaways from this week's episode:

  • Officials in North Carolina announced the state will expand its Medicaid program starting on Dec. 1, granting thousands of low-income residents access to health coverage. With North Carolina's change, just 10 states remain that have not expanded the program — yet, considering those states have resisted even as the federal government has offered pandemic-era and other incentives, it is unlikely more will follow for the foreseeable future.
  • The federal government revealed that nearly half a million individuals — including children — in at least 30 states were wrongly stripped of their health coverage under the Medicaid unwinding. The announcement emphasizes the tight-lipped approach state and federal officials have taken to discussing the in-progress effort, though some Democrats in Congress have not been so hesitant to criticize.
  • The White House is pointing to the possible effects of a government shutdown on health programs, including problems enrolling new patients in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health and conducting food safety inspections at the FDA.
  • Americans are grappling with an uptick in covid cases, as the Biden administration announced a new round of free test kits available by mail. But trouble accessing the updated vaccine and questions about masking are illuminating the challenges of responding in the absence of a more organized government effort.
  • And the Biden administration is angling to address health costs at the executive level. The White House took its first step last week toward banning medical debt from credit scores, as the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit to target private equity's involvement in health care.
  • Plus, the White House announced the creation of its first Office of Gun Violence Prevention, headed by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KFF Health News' Samantha Liss, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR "Bill of the Month," about a hospital bill that followed a deceased patient's family for more than a year. If you have an outrageous or infuriating medical bill you'd like to send us, you can do that here.

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

Julie Rovner: JAMA Internal Medicine's "Comparison of Hospital Online Price and Telephone Price for Shoppable Services," by Merina Thomas, James Flaherty, Jiefei Wang, et al.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Los Angeles Times' "California Workers Who Cut Countertops Are Dying of an Incurable Disease," by Emily Alpert Reyes and Cindy Carcamo.

Rachel Roubein: KFF Health News' "A Decades-Long Drop in Teen Births Is Slowing, and Advocates Worry a Reversal Is Coming," by Catherine Sweeney.

Sandhya Raman: NPR's "1 in 4 Inmate Deaths Happen in the Same Federal Prison. Why?" by Meg Anderson.

Also mentioned in this week's episode:

  • KFF Health News' "Diagnosis: Debt," by Noam N. Levey and KFF Health News, NPR, and CBS staff.
  • The New York Times' "In Hospitals, Viruses Are Everywhere. Masks Are Not," by Apoorva Mandavilli.


Francis Ying Audio producer Emmarie Huetteman Editor

This article was reprinted from khn.org, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF – the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.

Posted in: Healthcare News

Tags: Children, Children's Health, Coronavirus, covid-19, Food, Food Safety, Health and Human Services, Health Care, Health Insurance, Hospital, Medicaid, Medicare, Medicine, OCT, Pandemic, Pregnancy, Public Health, Vaccine

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