Congress is kicking the (budget) can down the road. Again.

The host

Julie Rovner KFF Health News @jrovner

Julie Rovner is the chief Washington correspondent and host of KFF Health News’ weekly health policy podcast, “What the Health?” A noted expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically acclaimed reference book Health Policy and Policy from A to Z”, which is now in its third edition.

Congress narrowly avoided shutting down the federal government for the second time in as many months as House Democrats secured the necessary votes for incoming Republican Speaker Mike Johnson to avoid his first legislative disaster of his short tenure. But funding the federal government won’t get any easier when the latest temporary fixes expire in early 2024. House Republicans still don’t seem to have accepted that they can’t make the drastic spending cuts that want while the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats.

Meanwhile, two investigations revealed this week highlighted the difficulty of getting the long-term care older people need. One, from KFF Health News and The New York Times, describes the financial toll on families for people who need help with activities of daily living. The other, from Stat, detailed how some insurance companies are using artificial intelligence algorithms to deny needed rehabilitation care to Medicare patients.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Kors of Stat, Joan Kennen of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico magazine, and Alice Miranda Olstein of Politico.


Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • This week, Congress passed a two-part continuing resolution that would prevent the federal government from shutting down when the current CR expires on Nov. 18 at 12:01 a.m. The new measure extends some current spending levels, including funding for the FDA, through January . 19. The remaining federal agencies, including most of the Department of Health and Human Services, have been extended until February 2.
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said he wants to use the next two months to finish work on individual appropriations bills, none of which have so far passed either the House or Senate . The problem: They would deeply cut many popular federal programs. They are also packed with changes to abortion restrictions and transgender policies, highlighting the divide between the far-right wing of the GOP caucus and its more moderate members.
  • In the wake of abortion-rights successes on the ballot for abortion-rights initiatives, new efforts are taking shape among state lawmakers in Ohio and Michigan, which argue that when Dobbs returned that decision back to the states, meaning state legislatures — not the courts or voters. Most experts agree that approach is unlikely to prevail. Still, he highlights ongoing efforts to change the rules around this polarizing issue.
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R.C.) — who was the only remaining Republican presidential candidate pushing for a national 15-week abortion ban — suspended his campaign last week. He, along with former Vice President Mike Pence, who dropped out of the race in late October, were the strongest anti-abortion candidates. This seems to suggest that the 15-week ban is not attracting voter support, even among Republicans. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, remains willing to play both sides of the abortion debate.
  • Amid growing concern about the use of artificial intelligence in health care, a California class-action lawsuit alleges that UnitedHealth Group used algorithms to deny rehabilitation care to enrollees in its Medicare Advantage program. The lawsuit comes as a result of an investigation by Stat into the insurer’s requirements that case managers comply with AI estimates of how long the company will pay for rehabilitation care, regardless of the patient’s actual medical condition.
  • More than 10 million people have lost Medicaid coverage since states began reviewing eligibility earlier in the year. Advocates for Medicaid patients worry that the Biden administration has not done enough to ensure that people who are still eligible for the program — especially children — are not mistakenly terminated.

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

Julie Rovner: KFF Health News How Texas and Florida lawmakers are undermining Covid vaccination efforts, by Amy Maxman.

Alice Miranda Olstein: “They wanted to get sober. Instead, They Had a Nightmare” from The New York Times by Jack Healy.

Rachel Kors: Stat “UnitedHealth made officials follow algorithm to cut Medicare patients’ rehab care,” by Casey Ross and Bob Herman.

Joan by: ProPublica “Mississippi jailed more than 800 people awaiting psychiatric treatment in one year. Only one prison meets state standards,” by Isabelle Taft, Mississippi Today.

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:

KFF Health News’ “Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Elder Care” by Reed Abelson, The New York Times and Jordan Rau.

JAMA Internal Medicine “Excess Mortality Rates for Republican and Democratic Registered Voters in Florida and Ohio During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” by Jacob Wallace et al.


  • Zach Dyer Audio Producer
  • Editor Stephanie Stapleton

This article was reprinted from, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues and is one of the core operating programs of KFF, the independent source for research, polling and journalism on health policy.

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