Good morning, health care enthusiasts. Turns out hospitals and smartphone carriers can surprise people with five-figure bills!
The number of people with pre-existing medical conditions varies substantially between metropolitan areas, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data. That means even within a single state, different locations would see different results under legislation that erodes the Affordable Care Act's protections, my colleague Caitlin Owens reports.
Why it matters: The more people who have a pre-existing condition, the more likely health care is to resonate as an issue in the midterm elections in that state or district.
The issue makes for absolutely brutal ads, and Democrats know it. They believe one of their most potent lines of attack against Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, is arguing he could be the deciding vote against these protections.
The Senate's opioids bill is inching closer to coming together, advancing the congressional effort to address the epidemic that is rapidly changing from being a prescription problem to an illegal drug problem.
Driving the news: Opioid prescriptions decreased 16% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, according to a new Food and Drug Administration analysis obtained by Caitlin.
By the numbers:
Between the lines: The Senate bill will likely address all sides of the epidemic but still primarily be focused on the problems of overprescribing and prescription opioid misuse.
The other side: Reducing opioid prescriptions isn't always a good thing, and addressing the opioid epidemic has backfired for some patients who need chronic pain treatment, Politico reports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is out with its latest health insurance coverage data this morning, and the nation's uninsured rate isn't really changing a whole lot.
By the numbers: As of March 2018, 8.8% of all Americans, or about 28.3 million people, had no health insurance.
The big picture: The federal and state exchanges established by the ACA are treading water when it comes to enrollment, and no new states have expanded Medicaid. (Notably, Maine Gov. Paul LePage is still resisting his state's voter-approved Medicaid expansion.)
The bottom line: Don't expect the uninsured rate to fluctuate a lot until more states expand Medicaid or the ACA exchanges get more federal support.
Looking ahead: The U.S. Census Bureau will unveil its 2017 health insurance numbers on Sept. 12.
Earlier this month, Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak was asked during the company's earnings call about the Trump administration's tariffs, and how they would affect sales of Medtronic's medical devices, which range from pacemakers to spinal imaging systems.
Ishrak gave an answer that speaks to the inelastic demand of health care, and the ability of large companies to gloss over tariffs by raising prices:
"In the end, you have got to remember that the inherent demand for our technologies is something that no country can walk away from."
Go deeper: Medtronic runs on a funky fiscal year and recently filed its new proxy statement.
If you got alarmed by all those headlines last week warning that "There’s No Safe Level of Alcohol," Aaron Carroll has come to the rescue. The noted health care researcher writes in the New York Times that the study in question — published in the Lancet — is easy to misinterpret.
Reality check, per Axios' David Nather: Sure, any amount of alcohol increases your risk of health problems. But Carroll puts the actual risk in context...
The bottom line: This is why context is super important in any reporting on studies about health risks — and why you should never jump to conclusions based on headlines.