Alison Kodjak

Consumers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act markets may be pleasantly surprised this fall as average premiums are forecast to rise much less than in recent years.

The price of a 2019 policy sold on the ACA exchanges will increase less than 4 percent, according to an analysis of preliminary filings from insurers in all 50 states by ACASignups.net, a website and blog run by analyst Charles Gaba that tracks ACA enrollment and insurer participation.

And those insurers are expanding their offerings.

A Texas man has a heart attack – and good medical insurance – and still finds himself on the hook for $109,000 in medical bills.

Another man in Florida owed $3,400 for a CT scan, after his insurance company pays its part.

People who don't get insurance through their jobs will now be able to buy short-term policies that may be cheaper than Affordable Care Act coverage. These plans won't have to cover as many medical services and are exempt from covering people with pre-existing conditions.

The departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury announced new rules Wednesday that make it easier for consumers to replace ACA insurance with these short-term policies.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Eight months pregnant, the drug sales representative wore a wire for the FBI around her bulging belly as she recorded conversations with colleagues at a conference in Chicago. Her code name? Pampers.

Over the last six years, enough opioids were shipped to the state of Missouri to give every resident 260 pills.

The finding comes from a report released Thursday by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. It's the latest in a series of investigations by the senator into the role of drugmakers, distributors and other industry players in fueling the opioid epidemic.

A federal judge has blocked work requirements for Medicaid patients in Kentucky, just days before new rules mandated by Gov. Matt Bevin's administration were set to go into effect.

In Friday's ruling, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg called the Trump administration's approval of the program, Kentucky HEALTH, "arbitrary and capricious."

Rachel Osborn knows kids who slept in the immigrant detention centers in Texas that have dominated recent headlines.

"We have kids who will say that was the worst part of their journey," Osborn says. "They were traveling for weeks and the hardest part was being in this freezing cold room where, you know, they were fed a cold sandwich and had a thin blanket to shiver under."

And they had no parent or caregiver to comfort them and make them feel safe.

The Trump administration's decision to abandon the Affordable Care Act in an ongoing court challenge could affect some of the most popular pillars of the law — further intensifying the fight over health care in the middle of an election year.

Legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs is headed to the president's desk.

The House on Tuesday passed a "right-to-try" bill that was approved by the Senate in 2017.

"People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to find a cure," said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, on the House floor Tuesday.

The bill, which President Trump is expected to sign, has patient advocates divided.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Updated 11:16 EDT: This story now includes information about the Food and Drug Administration's release of a list of complaints against brand-name drugmakers for hindering access to samples for generic testing.

When Celgene Corp. first started marketing the drug Revlimid to treat multiple myeloma in 2006, the price was $6,195 for 21 capsules, a month's supply.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has this pen. It's not all that remarkable looking, but he held it up multiple times Monday at a briefing with reporters.

"This pen," he said, "has a lot of power."

And he said he is prepared to use it.

Azar was making the point that in the area of drug prices, the head of HHS — which runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs and buys about $130 billion in prescription drugs each year — can make a lot of changes in the pharmaceutical market. And he doesn't need congressional approval to do it.

President Trump presented a broad-brush outline of how his administration hopes to stem the decades-long increase in prescription drug prices and spending, in a speech Friday in the Rose Garden of the White House.

The administration also released a 39-page document describing a variety of proposals it is either considering or studying in an effort to lower costs to individuals, corporations, the government and the economy as a whole.

A few months ago, I wrote a check for $12,000 but couldn't figure out exactly why.

The payment was to secure a place for my mother at Sligo Creek Center, in Takoma Park, Md. It's a nursing home and rehab center owned by Genesis Healthcare.

My mother was about to be discharged from Holy Cross Hospital, in nearby Silver Spring, after a fall. Medicare wouldn't pay for her rehabilitation care.

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