KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Funding for the Next Pandemic


Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on Acast. You can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.


President Joe Biden released his budget proposal for 2023 this week, and it calls for a nearly 27% increase in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. That includes $28 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement a preparedness program for future pandemics and $40 billion for HHS to invest in making vaccines and other medicines.

Also, the FDA and the CDC authorized a second booster shot for most people 50 and older. But federal officials offered little advice to consumers about who might need that shot and when.

This week’s panelists are Mary Agnes Carey of KHN, Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post, Jennifer Haberkorn of the Los Angeles Times, and Rachana Pradhan of KHN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Biden’s advocacy for funding preparations for a future pandemic reinforces his sense of urgency in bolstering the public health infrastructure, but whether Congress will take that track is unknown. Already, some lawmakers are balking at the administration’s request for more money to help fund additional covid-19 testing and vaccine efforts.
  • A bipartisan group of senators has been meeting in the past several days hoping to find a compromise to restore funding for testing and vaccinations. Republicans have complained that earlier appropriations for covid have been spent too recklessly and that there isn’t enough transparency about where it has gone. They would like some of the funds that haven’t been spent to be clawed back. There is no indication yet that the group of senators has a plan for moving forward, but the upcoming spring recess for Easter and Passover may provide a deadline that helps focus the debate.
  • The administration originally sought more than $20 billion for testing and vaccines. Congress appeared ready to spend about $15 billion before hitting the impasse. Some reports suggest that the Senate negotiators are talking about $10 billion, which may provide funding for only several months.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also announced this week that a new analysis shows the growth in health spending in the U.S. has slowed.
  • Millions of Americans are expected to lose Medicaid coverage once the covid emergency ends and states will be able to disenroll people who no longer meet eligibility requirements. Advocates warn that some of those people will not move to other coverage options, such as insurance offered on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces.
  • One priority of the ACA was to help drive down health costs, and the law established an innovation center to fund projects looking for ways to do that. Experts at the time suggested that value-based care could make a difference, and the center has made that a guiding principle in its research. But there is little evidence so far that such efforts are producing meaningful results.

Also this week, Julie Rovner interviews KHN’s Julie Appleby, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” installment about a very expensive air ambulance ride. If you have an outrageous medical bill you’d like to share with us, you can do that here.

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

Mary Agnes Carey: The New Yorker’s “A Freelancer’s Forty-Three Years in the American Health-Care System,” by David Owen

Amy Goldstein: Stat’s “NIH’s Identity Crisis: The Pandemic and The Search for a New Leader Leave the Agency at a Crossroads,” by Lev Facher

Jennifer Haberkorn: The New York Times’ “F.D.A. Rushed a Drug for Preterm Births. Did It Put Speed Over Science?” by Christina Jewett

Rachana Pradhan: The Washington Post’s “‘Is This What a Good Mother Looks Like?’” by William Wan

Also discussed on this week’s podcast:

The Wall Street Journal’s “You Likely Don’t Need a Fourth Covid Shot,” by Philip Krause and Luciana Borio


To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to KHN’s What the Health? on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or wherever you listen to podcasts.