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'What The Health?' Taxes, Medicare And The Year-End Mess

Weeks ago, the tax bill under consideration in Congress became a health bill, too. But now it could also trigger major cuts to the Medicare program.

This week's "What the Health?" guests are:

Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News Joanne Kenen, Politico Paige Winfield Cunningham, The Washington Post

They discuss how a little-known law prohibiting federal deficits could force big cuts to Medicare and many other defense and domestic programs if the tax bill passes as currently configured in the House and Senate.

Among the podcast's takeaways:

A possible delay in negotiating a year-end spending bill puts the fate of the Children's Health Insurance Program in doubt. States are starting to run out of money for the program, whose federal authorization expired Oct. 1. A Senate committee heard from Alex Azar, a former drug company executive and President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Much of the discussion was about what he might do to contain drug prices. The National Academy of Medicine issued its own recommendations about how to make drugs more affordable, including the idea of letting government programs negotiate with drugmakers and possibly limit which drugs the government would pay for.

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

Julie Rovner: ProPublica's "A Hospital Charged $1,877 to Pierce a 5-Year-Old's Ears. This Is Why Health Care Costs So Much," by Marshall Allen.

Joanne Kenen: The Atlantic's "No Family Is Safe From This Epidemic," by James Winnefeld.

Paige Winfield Cunningham: The Washington Post's "597 days. And still waiting," by Terrence McCoy.

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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