Stories by Caitlin Owens

Drug ovedose deaths hit record in 2017

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last year saw a 10% rise in overdose deaths, totaling more than 72,000 people. The increase came largely from a spike in fentanyl and other synthetic opioid overdoses, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control.

Between the lines: The opioid epidemic has evolved from being primarily driven by prescription drugs and heroin into being driven by synthetics. However, trends vary across the country, with overdose rates dropping in some states and rising in others, per the New York Times.

Surprise: One area where Congress is functioning

The Capitol dome opening up and revealing a stack of money
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Congress — which is arguably more gridlocked than ever — is actually doing a pretty decent job so far at the task that's eluded it for years: passing spending bills.

Why it matters: It might seem like a low bar, but it's better than waiting until the last minute, like Congress usually does. And passing individual spending bills, at least in theory, gives much more scrutiny to the process of deciding how federal dollars get spent than passing one giant funding bill hours before the government shuts down, as Congress is prone to do.

Surprise hospitals bills are everywhere

Nurses writing on papers near hospital beds
Members of clinical staff complete paperwork at a hospital. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

A new Kaiser Family Foundation brief finds that, among people with employer-based coverage, almost one in five patients admitted to the hospital end up getting a bill from an out-of-network provider.

Why it matters: Patients have to pay more out of their own pockets for out-of-network care.