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KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: Congress is Back! It’s Time to Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work


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Congress Returns with a Full Plate

Welcome back, folks! Congress is back in session after its August recess, and they have a lot on their plate. With the fiscal year ending on September 30th, lawmakers are facing a tight deadline to complete their work. Not only do they need to pass the annual appropriations bills, but they also need to come up with a short-term spending bill to keep the government open. It’s going to be a busy few weeks on Capitol Hill!

Medicare’s New Drug Pricing Program

In other news, Medicare has just announced the first 10 drugs that will be subject to price negotiations under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This is a significant step towards addressing the rising costs of prescription drugs. However, there are still many questions surrounding how the program will work. The details of the negotiation process are still unclear, and both drugmakers and lawmakers are eager to see how it will unfold.

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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, and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Government Shutdown Looms, Health Programs at Risk

Hard-line Republicans are refusing to back even a temporary government spending bill, suggesting a government shutdown looms – with repercussions for health programs. While the Senate and House have come to intra-chamber agreements on subjects like community health center funding or even have passed spending bills, Congress as a whole has been unable to broker an overarching deal.

False Claims and Battles Over Global HIV/AIDS Funding

A coalition of House Republicans is falsely claiming that global HIV/AIDS funding through PEPFAR promotes abortion and is battling efforts to extend the program’s funding. PEPFAR is a bipartisan effort spearheaded by then-President George W. Bush and credited with saving millions of lives.

The Dysfunction of the Current Congress

The PEPFAR fight underscores the dysfunction of the current Congress, which is struggling to fund even a highly regarded, lifesaving program. Another example is the months-long blockade of military promotions by a freshman Republican senator, Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. His objections over an abortion-related Pentagon policy have placed him at odds with his colleagues and stalled the advancement of military personnel.

Implications for Health Programs

The inability of Congress to reach a comprehensive spending deal and the false claims surrounding global HIV/AIDS funding have serious implications for health programs. Without a resolution, funding for critical health initiatives could be at risk, potentially impacting the lives of millions of people who rely on these programs for their well-being.

The Need for Bipartisanship and Cooperation

It is crucial for lawmakers to prioritize the needs of the American people and work together to find common ground. The current political climate, marked by partisan divisions and false claims, is hindering progress and jeopardizing the funding of vital health programs. It is imperative that elected officials put aside their differences and focus on the well-being of the nation.


The ongoing battles over government spending and health program funding highlight the challenges faced by Congress in addressing critical issues. The false claims and partisan divisions only serve to further complicate matters. It is essential for lawmakers to rise above these obstacles and prioritize the health and well-being of the American people.

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Tomas Hulman
Tomas Hulman
Tomas was born in Slovakia and went from being an untradeable computer scientist to first a fuel trader and later an algo trader who created strategies for automated stock trading. Now he is working with two eco-oriented projects and grinding his teeth for a big project in the media industry. You'll be hearing more from him...


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