KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Let’s Talk About the Weather

KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: Let’s Talk About the Weather

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.

2023 will likely be remembered as the summer Arizona sizzled, Vermont got swamped, and nearly the entire Eastern Seaboard, along with huge swaths of the Midwest, choked on wildfire smoke from Canada. Still, none of that has been enough to prompt policymakers in Washington to act on climate issues.

Meanwhile, at a public court hearing, a group of women in Texas took the stand to share wrenching stories about their inability to get care for pregnancy complications, even though they should have been exempt from restrictions under the state’s strict abortion ban.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Shefali Luthra of The 19th, and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.


Rachel Cohrs
Stat News


Read Rachel’s stories

Shefali Luthra
The 19th


Read Shefali’s stories

Alice Miranda Ollstein


Read Alice’s stories

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

Tensions over abortion access between the medical and legal communities are coming to the fore in the courts, as doctors beg for clarification about bans on the procedure — and conservative state officials argue that the law is clear enough. The risk of being hauled into court and forced to defend even medically justified care could be enough to discourage a doctor from providing abortion care.

Conservative states are targeting a Biden administration effort to update federal privacy protections, which would make it more difficult for law enforcement to obtain information about individuals who travel outside a state where abortion is restricted for the procedure. Patient privacy is also under scrutiny in Nebraska, where a case involving a terminated pregnancy is further illuminating how willing tech companies like Meta are to share user data with authorities.

And religious freedom laws are being cited in arguments challenging abortion bans, with plaintiffs alleging the restrictions infringe on their religious rights. The argument appears to have legs, as early challenges are being permitted to move forward in the courts.

On Capitol Hill, key Senate Democrats are holding up the confirmation process of President Joe Biden’s nominee as director of the National Institutes of Health to press for stronger drug pricing reforms and an end to the revolving-door practice of government officials going to work for private industry.

And shortages of key cancer drugs are intensifying concerns about drug supplies and drawing attention in Congress. But Republicans are skeptical about increasing the FDA’s authority — and supply-chain issues just aren’t that politically compelling.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Meena Seshamani, director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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

Julie Rovner: Los Angeles Times’ “Opinion: Crushing Medical Debt Is Turning Americans Against Their Doctors,” by KFF Health News’ Noam N. Levey.

Rachel Cohrs: The New York Times’ “They Lost Their Legs. Doctors and Health Care Giants Profited,” by Katie Thomas, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Robert Gebeloff.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Atlantic’s “What Happened When Oregon Decriminalized Hard Drugs,” by Jim Hinch.

Shefali Luthra: KFF Health News’ “Medical Exiles: Families Flee States Amid Crackdown on Transgender Care,” by Bram Sable-Smith, Daniel Chang, Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez, and Sandy West.

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

Stat’s “From Rapid Cooling Body Bags to ‘Prescriptions’ for AC, Doctors Prepare for a Future of Extreme Heat,” by Karen Pennar.

Politico’s “The Sleeper Legal Strategy That Could Topple Abortion Bans,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein.


Francis Ying
Audio producer

Emmarie Huetteman

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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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