Good morning ... Situational awareness: The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that HHS Secretary Alex Azar is a contender to eventually replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general. But Azar has "no interest" in making that move, according to a person close to him.
The American health care system is hard to use. It's expensive. It's disjointed. It's hard to get straight answers about your care, and about your bills.
Axios' awesome video team dives into these frustrations through the example of childbirth — the single most common reason people are hospitalized in the U.S.
It's not just childbirth. We wrote back in August about how hard it was for a hospital system to get to the bottom of its own prices for knee replacements — another incredibly common procedure.
The bottom line: It doesn't matter if it's a common procedure or a rare one, a frenzied ER visit or a routine process done every day. The one constant is that it's almost impossible to know in advance what your bill will be — except that it's safe to assume it'll be high.
For all the time we spend talking about narrow networks in Affordable Care Act plans, they’re not really a thing outside the individual market, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Drew Altman writes in today’s column. In the group market, where 152 million Americans get their coverage, they’re quite rare.
By the numbers:
The bottom line: Narrow networks still deserve attention — as long as it’s understood that they’re not a problem that most people have.
Devastation in Florida Panhandle. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hospitals and nursing homes in Florida and Georgia have been ravaged by Hurricane Michael, and some are now evacuating their patients, the New York Times reports.
Details, via NYT:
"Dr. Lynn Seto was walking outside the hospital in her scrubs Thursday, and broke down in tears when asked about the state of the place," the Times reports. "'It’s devastating,' she said. 'We’re doing everything we can.'"
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
There are 44 House seats held by Republicans but rated by the Cook Political Report as toss-ups or at least somewhat likely to flip to Democratic control in the midterms. My colleague Caitlin Owens went down the list to see how Democrats in those make-or-break districts are talking about "Medicare for All."
They're for it, or at least open to it, she reports.
Between the lines: There's still no clear agreement within the party about what "Medicare for All" means, so there's a lot of variation in how Democrats talk about it. But most of them talk about it positively.
“Affordable Care Act premiums are going down” is a headline no one's ever seen before, so it’s no surprise the Trump administration is trying to take credit for the change.
Driving the news: The administration announced yesterday that premiums for a "benchmark" plan will drop by an average of 1.5% next year in the federally run ACA marketplaces — the first time that’s happened since it launched.
What they're saying: Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said premiums are lower because the Trump administration has approved several state reinsurance programs — and opened the door to cheaper options like short-term plans and association health plans.
Reality check: Reinsurance has almost certainly held premiums down. But short-term plans, like the nullification of the individual mandate, aren't contributing to lower ACA premiums. State regulators have said their premiums would be lower without those policy changes.
Photo: Courtney Perry/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A growing number of children haven't received any vaccinations by the time they turn 2, the Washington Post reports.
By the numbers: The number of unvaccinated children is still small, but public health experts are still concerned by the fact that it's growing.