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A federal judge in Texas seemed sympathetic to the argument by GOP state officials that the Affordable Care Act soon will no longer be constitutional, since Congress eliminated the penalty for not having insurance. The case was filed by 18 state attorneys general and two governors.

Sixteen Democratic attorneys general are defending the health law because the plaintiff in the case — the Trump administration — agrees in part with the Republican officials. The administration argues that while the elimination of the tax penalty might not render the entire law moot, it should result in striking down the part of the law that protects people with preexisting conditions.

The case could eventually wind up at the Supreme Court, a fact not lost on Senate Democrats questioning nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings this week.  Kavanaugh was also grilled on how he might vote on such an ACA case and on his stance on abortion — but he revealed little. If he wins confirmation, he may have a number of abortion-related cases to consider before long.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The case being argued in federal court in Texas is putting pressure on GOP candidates in the midterm elections because Democrats are arguing that Republicans’ arguments will destroy the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions.
  • Ten Republican senators say a bill they are pushing will help people with preexisting health problems if the federal court in Texas strikes down the ACA. But while the bill requires insurers to sell coverage to these people, it does not require the companies to cover treatment for those medical conditions.
  • A bill sent to California Gov. Jerry Brown would require state colleges to stock drugs for medical abortions at their health centers to make them more accessible to students. The effort points up how even after these drugs became available, their use has been widely curtailed by abortion opponents.
  • The Trump administration finally made grant awards to family planning groups that provide services under the federal family planning program. But the grants were for only seven months rather than the usual three years. Some reproductive health advocates argue that short time frame was designed to give the administration time to finalize regulations aimed at evicting Planned Parenthood from the program.

Rovner also interviews Chad Terhune, who wrote the latest “Bill of the Month” feature for Kaiser Health News and NPR. It’s about a Texas high school teacher with very good insurance who still got a six-figure hospital bill after treatment for a heart attack. You can read the story here.

If you have a medical bill you would like NPR and KHN to investigate, you can submit it here.

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

Julie Rovner: The New York Times’ “The Last Company You Would Expect Is Reinventing Health Benefits,” by Reed Abelson

Margot Sanger-Katz: MedPage Today’s “’Death Certificate Project’ Terrifies California Doctors,” by Cheryl Clark

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

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