Jul 17, 2023 - Podcasts

Why life is about to get more expensive for millions of Americans

Life is about to get pricier for millions of families, with a triple whammy of pandemic-era safety net programs coming to an end around the same time this fall.

Guests: Axios' Caitlin Owens, Alison Snyder and Dan Primack.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Margaret Talev, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:


MARGARET TALEV: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Monday, July 17th. I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. Today on the show: Why your sex chromosomes and hormones impact your risk for some diseases — and impact how well your medications work. Plus, antitrust regulators set their sights on private equity.

But first: Inflation has cooled. So why is life about to get more expensive for millions of Americans? That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Pandemic-era safety net programs to disappear in the fall

MARGRET: Several pandemic-era safety net programs are all set to come to an end around the same time, this fall. And that's going to mean a major economic squeeze for millions of families who will be paying more suddenly for child care, student loans, health care, and even food. Axios’ Caitlin Owens is here to explain.

So, Caitlin, what are these programs that are ending?

CAITLIN OWNENS: So one that everyone's been talking about, obviously, is the student loan pause. And this was in the news recently, if you remember, because the Supreme Court blocked President Biden's plan to forgive student loans for millions of Americans. And so, you know, people who may have otherwise seen some loan forgiveness can't use that as a crutch now. So, there's also pandemic era funding that goes toward child care providers. There were stabilization grants that were passed as part of COVID aid packages. And those must be used by the end of September. So then there will be no more federal money for that. You know, there's been some estimates that that is going to put child care providers in a bind where some will close and some will raise tuition and, one estimate has said that 3 million kids could lose access to child care.

I mean, at some point some people might decide that either they can't find childcare and can't work or, you know, that it's just not worth it because they can't afford it.. Then there's SNAP policies that are going back into place, specifically work requirements. The reimplementation of those mean that about half a million people are at risk of losing their food stamps. And then Medicaid…states are in the process of seeing if their medicaid beneficiaries are all eligible for the program still. Which is a big deal because during covid there were policies that prevented states from removing people from their Medicaid rolls and so while a lot of those people are no longer eligible for the program so far the data we're seeing is that a lot of the people that are being removed are actually eligible for the program. It's just a paperwork issue.

MARGRET: You mentioned the court action that threw out the Biden administration's plan for loan forgiveness. Then we saw the administration come back at the end of last week, right? And say, um, that they were doing some kind of an executive action fix. What is the gap between who that impacts and the court case?

CAITLIN: Well, so the big picture here is that the administration on all of these areas has done things to try to make this transition smoother or to just enhance, you know, the programs involved. So with student loans,the president said he was doing this one year on ramp where basically there won't be penalties for missed payments. But also he finalized, kind of a wonky thing, but an income driven repayment plan rule where basically, this plan caps how much people pay as a percentage of their income. And he's lowering that. So, know, it's pretty clear that there are people who are going to experience some hardships when these programs expire. But also I guess there's not a ton of disagreement either. They were never meant to be permanent programs. This is not anyone's vision of a permanent safety net structure.

MARGRET: Caitlin Owens is a senior policy reporter for Axios. Thanks, Caitlin.

CAITLIN: Thank you Margaret

Antitrust regulators set their sights on private equity

MARGRET: U.S. antitrust regulators are zeroing in on private equity, after mostly ignoring the industry for decades. Axios’ Dan Primack has been following this story and is here to catch us up quick.

DAN PRIMACK: Private equity every year buys thousands of companies in the U.S., investing hundreds of billions of dollars. But those deals almost never get scrutinized, let alone blocked, by U.S. antitrust regulators, the people whose job it is to maintain corporate competition and prevent the creation of market monopolies.

But all of that might be about to change. The deal in question involves a publicly traded cybersecurity company called ForgeRock, which last year agreed to be bought by private equity firm Thoma Bravo. And the problem, or possible problem, is that Toma Bravo already owns another company, called Ping Identity, which is in the same general space as ForgeRock.They even share some customers, based on their websites.

Now, Toma Bravo hasn't said that it plans to merge ForgeRock with Ping Identity, but it also hasn't said it doesn't plan to merge them. And I asked. Lots of people have asked. They just won't answer the question. And that's why the U. S. Justice Department has taken notice, with Politico reporting it's nearing a decision on whether to challenge the deal in court.

The big picture here is that private equity doesn't usually get antitrust scrutiny because it operates its portfolio companies as independent, separate businesses. And it also tends to stay away from buying direct competitors, but private equity is watching this one because it could mean there's about to be new antitrust attention. It's not accustomed to, and that could change how those hundreds of billions of dollars are invested next.

MARGRET: That’s Axios’ Dan Primack.

In a moment, investigating the XY factor in disease.

How sex chromosomes and hormones impact disease risk

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev.

Just a few weeks ago, the FDA approved a new Alzheimer's drug, but the clinical trial showed it may be less effective for women than for men. Certain diseases do affect men and women differently, but that's rarely reflected in the dosage and design of drugs.

Now doctors and scientists are beginning to look more closely at how sex chromosomes and hormones affect people's risk for certain diseases. And Axios Alison Snyder is here with more. Hi, Alison.

ALISON SNYDER: Hi, Margaret.

MARGARET: Nearly two thirds of people who are 65 and older in the U.S., and who have Alzheimer's are women. What are you hearing about why certain diseases affect men and women differently?

ALISON: Yeah, study after study has described these differences. They've been sort of long known, but doctors and scientists don't know why it's happening. And so they're beginning to really study these molecular underpinnings of these differences. And they've sort of narrowed in on several genes that are involved in the X chromosome and sex hormones as well. So these change over the course of your lifetime. They're sort of overlaid on top of the genes that your chromosomes are expressing.

MARGARET: I can see a lot of the problems, the downsides to medicine working differently on men than on women, is there any potential upside to this discovery?

ALISON: Yeah, it's really interesting. A lot of the scientists that I interviewed actually focus in on that and the idea is like yes, there's risk that comes with your chromosomes and your hormones, but there's also resilience. So depending on which sex chromosomes and sex hormones you have there is an opportunity to not only identify when something doesn't work, but potentially when something might work better for one sex versus the other. And here, again, when we're talking about sex, we're talking about biological factors, sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and sometimes those don't align with people's gender.

MARGARET: So there is actually the possibility to develop treatments that are targeted for sex chromosome differences?

ALISON: Yes, that's the bigger or broader hope is to be able to understand what's going on molecularly and harness that and use that to create drugs and medicines and treatments that, you know, could be tailored to males or females. It's sort of an element of this new era of personalized medicine.

MARGARET: Beyond Alzheimer's, what kind of illnesses or chronic diseases or genetic diseases are doctors looking at for the potential to develop these differentiated treatments?

ALISON: So a big one that people talk about and study is multiple sclerosis, and one thing I didn't, wasn't aware of when I reported the story is that 80% of people in the U.S. who have an autoimmune disease are female. So, I mean, that's a huge focus for some of these researchers. And then somewhat separately from this is COVID. So across the board around the globe, men are more likely to develop severe COVID. But there's emerging evidence that maybe long COVID is more common among women, so maybe that's also an opportunity for some of these more tailored medicines.

MARGARET: So Alison, as a consumer, I want to know when can I get these differentiated medicines? If there is something I need medicine for and women's and men's bodies work differently, will it be six months, a year, five years?

ALISON: The researchers that I spoke with really sort of emphasize that this has been understudied and sort of under-recognized for a long time and they're just sort of beginning to unpack some of these differences. So, early days.

MARGARET: Alison Snyder writes the Axios Science Newsletter. Thanks, Allison.

ALISON: Thank you

Lottery prizes get bigger and harder to win

MARGARET: One last headline before we go… you may have noticed lottery prizes keep getting bigger and bigger but… they’re also getting harder to win.

Saturday’s $875 million-dollar Powerball jackpot was the third largest ever but there was no jackpot winner. So heading into tonight’s drawing, that pot’s swelled to an estimated $900 million.

Now, the last time someone won Powerball was April 19th. There have been 37 straight drawings since without a jackpot winner.

What’s going on here? Well, back in 2015 Powerball increased the number of white balls to the mix — and that made the jackpot harder to win. Two years later, in 2017, Mega Millions also changed its rules and odds.

As a result, the chances of winning are lower — but wow the prizes are bigger. And the odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 292.2 million. And for Mega Millions, it’s 1 in 303 million.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening, stay safe, and Niala’s back here with you tomorrow morning.

Go deeper