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Health and other federal programs are at risk of shutting down, at least temporarily, as Congress races toward the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year without having passed any of its 12 annual appropriations bills. A small band of conservative House Republicans are refusing to approve spending bills unless domestic spending is cut beyond levels agreed to in May.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump roils the GOP presidential primary field by vowing to please both sides in the divisive abortion debate.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Rachel Cohrs of Stat News, and Tami Luhby of CNN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • The odds of a government shutdown over spending levels are rising. While entitlement programs like Medicare would be largely spared, past shutdowns have shown that closing the federal government hobbles things Americans rely on, like food safety inspections and air travel.
  • In Congress, the discord isn’t limited to spending bills. A House bill to increase price transparency in health care melted down before a vote this week, demonstrating again how hard it is to take on the hospital industry. Legislation on how pharmacy benefit managers operate is also in disarray, though its projected government savings means it could resurface as part of a spending deal before the end of the year.
  • On the Senate side, legislation intended to strengthen primary care is teetering under Bernie Sanders’ stewardship — in large part over questions about how to pay for it. Also, this week Democrats broke Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s abortion-related blockade of military promotions (kind of), going around him procedurally to confirm the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • And some Republicans are breaking with abortion opponents and mobilizing in support of legislation to renew the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — including the former president who spearheaded the program, George W. Bush. Meanwhile, polling shows President Joe Biden is struggling to claim credit for the new Medicare drug negotiation program.
  • And speaking of past presidents, former President Donald Trump gave NBC an interview over the weekend in which he offered a muddled stance on abortion. Vowing to settle the long, inflamed debate over the procedure — among other things — Trump’s comments were strikingly general election-focused for someone who has yet to win his party’s nomination.

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

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Inside the Gold Rush to Sell Cheaper Imitations of Ozempic,” by Daniel Gilbert.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico’s “The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is on the Rise. The White House Is at a Loss Over What to Do About It,” by Adam Cancryn.

Rachel Cohrs: KFF Health News’ “Save Billions or Stick With Humira? Drug Brokers Steer Americans to the Costly Choice,” by Arthur Allen.

Tami Luhby: CNN’s “Supply and Insurance Issues Snarl Fall Covid-19 Vaccine Campaign for Some,” by Brenda Goodman.

Also mentioned in this week’s episode:


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