Democrats have officially launched their debate over “Medicare-for-all,” with lots of ideas on how to expand health insurance coverage (and lower costs) for Americans. Chances of any bill becoming law in the next two years are extremely slim, with Republicans still in control of the Senate and White House. But the debate is important in the run-up to the 2020 presidential primaries for Democrats.


Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to give states the ability to add work requirements to their expanded Medicaid programs — Arizona is the latest. And it is reportedly considering ways to allow states more flexibility in exchange for limited Medicaid funding.

This week’s panelists for KHN’s “What the Health?” are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post and Alice Ollstein of Politico.

A note for interested listeners: On Jan. 31, the podcast will tape before a live audience at the Kaiser Family Foundation in downtown Washington, D.C. If you would like to attend, you can register here.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Democratic lawmakers overwhelmingly support efforts to get the entire population covered by insurance. And while many of them say they support “Medicare-for-all,” they often have different views on what that system entails.
  • The full “Medicare-for-all” system being promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and some others would jettison the private insurance market, and many centrist lawmakers and the health care industry are likely to fight it.
  • Arkansas is the first state to put into use the work requirements that the Trump administration has approved for the Medicaid program. So far, 18,000 people — many of whom are working — have been kicked out of Medicaid coverage because they have not properly reported their work or other activities that allow them to maintain the federal-state insurance.
  • The administration is reportedly considering offering states the option to take their Medicaid money in a block grant, a proposal advanced by Republican members of Congress during the debate to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But states have been hesitant so far to move in this direction.
  • The administration’s rules for insurers operating on the health law’s marketplaces in 2020 will continue to allow them to load many of the cost increases they seek onto silver plans. The cost of those plans are used to determine subsidy levels, so many customers discovered that their subsidies grew and that they could buy non-silver plans for less money out-of-pocket.
  • A new Gallup poll finds that the number of people who are uninsured is growing, reaching the highest point since 2014, just before the ACA’s marketplaces opened. This could likely be a talking point in the 2020 campaign.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:


Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Suicides Among Veterinarians Become a Growing Problem,” by David Leffler

Stephanie Armour: Politico’s “’I’m Trying Not to Die Right Now’: Why Opioid-Addicted Patients Are Still Searching for Help,” by Brianna Ehley and Rachel Roubein

Paige Winfield Cunningham: The Washington Post’s “Anonymous ‘Ghost Ship’ Is Among Groups Flooding Drug Pricing Debate,” by Christopher Rowland and Jeff Stein

Alice Ollstein: The Washington Post’s “They Went to Mexico for Surgery. They Came Back With a Deadly Superbug,” by Lena H. Sun

Related Topics

Medicaid Multimedia States The Health Law Uninsured