HealthConnections

Tuesdays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

The brainchild of University of Tennessee associate professor Dr. Carole Myers, HealthConnections will bring the often-abstract world of health care, coverage and policy to a human level. What is access? How do marketplaces work? What's the future of health insurance? Dr. Myers and WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth will sort through these issues and more, all to give you a toolbox for understanding what you hear on the news, or to separate fact from fiction in the health care debate.

Talking about gun violence in the U.S. is difficult. Personal feelings run high, and the environment for conversation degrades quickly.

President Trump and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander are two key players in the immediate future of health coverage in this country. Decisions about the individual marketplaces, open enrollment, cost-sharing payments to insurers are being made. But Trump and Alexander are pointing in different directions, emphasizing strong disagreement about the best way forward.

Polk County is the very southeast corner of Tennessee. Its population is just shy of 17,000. It’s known for its whitewater rafting and was once the epicenter of Tennessee’s copper industry. And, at this moment, it has no hospital. The Copper Basin Medical Center closed this month, not only leaving Polk Countians without immediate medical care, but becoming the tenth rural hospital in the state to close since 2010. Today, we look at the challenges rural hospitals face.

Circle September 30 on your calendar. That's the end of the current federal fiscal year. With it may come significant changes for a children's insurance program, less money for community health centers, and a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

There's a lot to look out for this week as the Friday deadline draws near. In this edition of HealthConnections, UT's Dr. Carole Myers talks with WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth about the significance of September 30.

In testimony last week before the U.S. Senate's Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and Governor Bill Haslam urged Congress to keep paying cost-sharing payments called CSRs. The Trump Administration has hinted it will halt those payments, a move observers have said could be dangerous for already-precarious markets, consumers and insurers.

Let's save health care!

Okay, how?

That's where the country is right now. Polls show Americans generally agree health options, coverage and care could stand a good spruce-up (or even a major renovation). But how, and by how much, are open questions that, for now, have no clear answers either among the public or among elected officials.

Fifty-two years ago this summer, President Lyndon Johnson brought into being a program that would re-shape health care options for the poor and disabled. Depending on the observer's politics, Medicaid is either hailed as a step forward for low-income Americans or castigated as a handout program for the lazy. In this edition of HealthConnections, the realities of Medicaid in Tennessee. 

Last week, Republican lawmakers who had hoped to repeal, in whole or in part, the Affordable Care Act were dealt a setback. None of the four options debated in the U.S. Senate were approved. That means the ACA remains the law of the land.

University of Tennessee nursing professor Carole Myers says now is the time to modify the ACA. The law has provided health coverage to millions, Myers says, but there's definitely room for improvement.

Regardless of political persuasion, age, gender or other factors, one thing Americans seem to readily agree on is that medical care is too darn expensive. What explains the high cost of health care in this country, versus other industrialized nations?

On this edition of HealthConnections, University of Tennessee College of Nursing assistant professor Carole Myers explains three major elements that inflate medical costs in the U.S.: misapplication of supply and demand; an over-reliance on expensive, unnecessary tests; and a fragmented health insurance system.

In the second installment of HealthConnections, public health policy expert Dr. Carole Myers tells WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth about the U.S. Senate's vision for the future of health coverage: The Better Care Reconciliation Act.

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