Biden’s budget hits all the bases End-shutdown

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President Joe Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2024 includes new policies and funding increases for many of the Democratic Party’s key constituencies, including advocates for people with disabilities and reproductive rights. He also proposes ways to shore up the shrinking Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, without cutting benefits, essentially daring Republicans to match him on the politically potent issue.

Meanwhile, five women in Texas who were denied abortions when their pregnancies threatened their lives or the viability of the fetuses they were carrying are suing the state. They charge that the language of Texas’ abortion ban makes it impossible for doctors to provide necessary care without fear of huge fines or prison sentences.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, The 19th’s Shefali Luthra, Axios’ Victoria Knight and The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Biden’s budget manages to walk the line between preserving Medicare and keeping the Medicare trust fund solvent while promoting progressive policies. Republicans have yet to propose a budget, but it seems likely that any Republican plan will rely heavily on cuts to Medicaid and the subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act. The Democrats will fight both.
  • Although the president’s budget includes something of a Democratic “wish list” of social policy priorities, the proposals are less radical than those made last year. Rather, many, such as extending Medicare’s $35 monthly cost limit for insulin to private insurers, build on achievements already made. That puts a new focus on the things the president has accomplished.
  • Walgreens, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, is caught up in the abortion war. In January, the chain said it would apply for FDA certification to sell the abortion pill mifepristone in states where abortion is legal. Yet last week, under threats from Republican attorneys general in states where abortion is still legal, the network wavered on whether or not to sell the pill there, sparking backlash from both abortion rights advocates abortion as opponents.
  • The five women who sued Texas after being denied abortions amid dangerous pregnancy complications are not calling for the state’s ban to be lifted. Rather, they are seeking clarification about who qualifies for exceptions to the ban, so that doctors and hospitals can provide needed care without fear of prosecution.
  • Although anti-abortion groups have insisted for decades that abortionists should not be prosecuted, bills introduced in various state legislatures would do exactly that. In South Carolina, those who have abortions may even be subject to the death penalty. So far, none of these bills have passed, but the wave of measures could herald a major policy shift.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Harris Meyer, who reported on and wrote the two most recent KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” articles. Both were about families facing unexpected bills after childbirth. If you have an outrageous or exorbitant medical bill that you want to share with us, you can do so here.

Also, for “extra credit,” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read too:

Julia Rovner: “Girls in Texas could get birth control at federal clinics, until a Christian father objected,” from KHN, by Sarah Varney

Shefali Lutra: the 19″Using language to treat childhood obesity carries its own risks for children’s health, experts sayby Jennifer Gerson

Victory Knight: “After People With Medicaid Die, Some States Aggressively Seek Reimbursement Of Their Estate” from KHN, by Tony Leys

Margot Sanger-Katz: of ProPublica”How Obamacare Enabled a Multi-Million-Dollar Theft From Christian Health Care”, by J. David McSwane and Ryan Gabrielson

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:

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