KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': The Struggle Over Who Gets the Last Word

The Host

Julie Rovner
KFF Health News


Read Julie’s stories.

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.

The Supreme Court in March will hear oral arguments in two very different cases that boil down to the same question: How much power do “experts” in health and science deserve? At stake is the future accessibility of the abortion pill mifepristone, and the ability of government officials to advise social media companies about misinformation.

Meanwhile, abortion opponents are preparing action plans in case Donald Trump retakes the White House. While it’s unlikely Congress will have enough votes to pass a national abortion ban, a president can take steps to make abortion far less available, even in states where it remains legal.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University and Politico Magazine, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet.


Joanne Kenen
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico


Read Joanne’s articles.

Sarah Karlin-Smith
Pink Sheet


Read Sarah’s stories.

Sandhya Raman
CQ Roll Call


Read Sandhya’s stories.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Abortion opponents are preparing for the possibility of a second Trump presidency. Among ways the former GOP president could influence policy without Congress is by installing an activist secretary of Health and Human Services, possibly allowing a political appointee to overrule decisions made by FDA employees.
  • While President Joe Biden is embracing abortion rights, Donald Trump is highlighting two conflicting truths: that he appointed the Supreme Court justices who helped overturn the constitutional right to an abortion and that embracing abortion restrictions could drive away voters.
  • The federal government is making its initial offers on 10 expensive pharmaceuticals targeted for Medicare price negotiations. But the process is private, so it is unknown what those offers are.
  • Two pharmaceuticals that have been in the headlines — the controversial Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm and the insulin Levemir — will soon be pulled from the market. The decisions to discontinue them play into an ongoing debate in drug development: When is innovation worth the price?
  • “This Week in Health Misinformation” features an article by KFF Health News’ Amy Maxmen about how what once were fringe views questioning science are now becoming more mainstream.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Samantha Liss, who reported and wrote the latest KFF Health News-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature, about a husband and wife billed for preventive care that should have been fully covered. If you have an outrageous or confounding medical bill you’d like to share with us, you can do that here.

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

Julie Rovner: ProPublica’s “Amid Recall Crisis, Philips Agrees to Stop Selling Sleep Apnea Machines in the United States,” by Debbie Cenziper, ProPublica, and Michael D. Sallah, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Joanne Kenen: The New York Times’ “Elmo Asked an Innocuous Question,” by Callie Holtermann.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Texas Tribune’s “Texas Attorney General Requests Transgender Youths’ Patient Records From Georgia Clinic,” by Madaleine Rubin.

Sandhya Raman: The AP’s “Community Health Centers Serve 1 in 11 Americans. They’re a Safety Net Under Stress,” by Devi Shastri.

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:


Francis Ying
Audio producer

Emmarie Huetteman

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


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