Alison Kodjak | KUER 90.1

Alison Kodjak

Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak is a health policy correspondent on NPR's Science Desk.

Her work focuses on the business and politics of health care and how those forces flow through to the general public. Her stories about drug prices, limits on insurance and changes in Medicare and Medicaid appear on NPR's shows and in the Shots blog.

She joined NPR in September 2015 after a nearly two-decade career in print journalism, where she won several awards—including three George Polk Awards—as an economics, finance, and investigative reporter.

She spent two years at the Center for Public Integrity, leading projects in financial, telecom, and political reporting. Her first project at the Center, "After the Meltdown," was honored with the 2014 Polk Award for business reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award.

Her work as both reporter and editor on the foreclosure crisis in Florida, on Warren Buffet's predatory mobile home businesses, and on the telecom industry were honored by several journalism organizations. She was part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the 2015 Polk Award for revealing offshore banking practices.

Prior to joining the Center, Alison spent more than a decade at Bloomberg News, where she wrote about the convergence of politics, government, and economics. She interviewed chairmen of the Federal Reserve and traveled the world with two U.S. Treasury secretaries.

And as part of Bloomberg's investigative team she wrote about the bankruptcy of General Motors Corp. and the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. She was part of a team at Bloomberg that successfully sued the Federal Reserve to release records of the 2008 bank bailouts, an effort that was honored with the 2009 George Polk Award. Her work on the international food price crisis in 2008 won her the Overseas Press Club's Malcolm Forbes Award.

Fitzgerald Kodjak and co-author Stanley Reed are authors of In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race that Took It Down, published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

She's a graduate of Georgetown University and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

She raises children and chickens in suburban Maryland.

President Donald Trump, fulfilling a campaign promise to start to repeal Obamacare on Day 1, signed an order directing federal agencies to waive enforcement of large swaths of the law.

The one-page order allows the head of the Department of Health and Human Services or any other agency with authority under the law, not to enforce regulations that impose a financial burden on a state, company or individual.

Georgia Republican Tom Price, who is President-elect Trump's choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services, is suddenly drowning in questions over the investments he has made while serving in the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., goes before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in his first grilling since he was nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. This isn't an official confirmation hearing. That comes Jan. 24, before the Senate Finance Committee. But with outspoken senators such as Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the HELP committee, Price is certain to face tough questions.

Here are five things to look out for:

Obamacare

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Affordable Care Act brought the rate of uninsured Americans to a record low 9 percent in 2015. It's the major achievement of the controversial health care law and one the Obama administration likes to tout whenever it can.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell did just that in an interview with NPR on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority of people disapprove of Republican lawmakers' plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a ready replacement for the health care law, according to a poll released Friday.

And judging by the letter-writing and lobbying in the first week of the new congressional session, many health care and business groups agree.

Lawmakers returned to Washington and wasted no time getting to work on the repeal of Obamacare.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced a resolution just hours after the new Congress convened Tuesday that will serve as the vehicle for repealing much of the president's signature health care law.

Congress is back in session on Tuesday, and leaders of both houses say their first order of business will be to repeal Obamacare.

If they do that, it will be a slap in the face to President Obama just three weeks before he leaves the White House. The Affordable Care is the outgoing president's signature achievement, marked by an elaborate signing ceremony in March 2010 at the White House, with lofty speeches from the vice president and Obama himself.

To get a glimpse of where Medicaid may be headed after Donald Trump moves into the White House, it may be wise to look to Indiana.

That's where Seema Verma, Trump's pick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, comes from. And that's where she put her stamp on the state's health care program for the poor.

The pharmaceutical company Mylan says a generic version of its EpiPen anti-allergy device will be in pharmacies starting next week.

The company is introducing the generic at a price of $300 for a two-pack, half the cost of its brand-name cousin.

The Obama administration is trying to protect Planned Parenthood's federal funding before the president turns over the reins of government to Republicans who have historically been hostile to the family planning group.

Republicans in Congress say they'll vote to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act early next year — even though they don't yet have a plan to replace it.

But they also insist that they don't want to harm any of the millions of people who got their health insurance under the law.

The number of people who have trouble paying their medical bills has plummeted in the past five years as more people have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and gotten jobs as the economy has improved.

A report from the National Center for Health Statistics released Wednesday shows that the number of people whose families are struggling to pay medical bills fell by 22 percent, or 13 million people, in the past five years.

Georgia Rep. Tom Price has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a leading advocate of repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law.

President-elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan agree that repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with some other health insurance system is a top priority.

But they disagree on whether overhauling Medicare should be part of that plan. Medicare is the government-run health system for people age 65 and older and the disabled.

Trump said little about Medicare during his campaign, other than to promise that he wouldn't cut it.

Ryan, on the other hand, has Medicare in his sights.

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are vowing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature health care overhaul of President Obama.

Trump has offered a few ideas of where he'd like to see a health care overhaul go, such as a greater reliance on health savings accounts, but he hasn't provided a detailed proposal.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump has promised over and over in recent months that he will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, when he reaches the White House.

"Obamacare is a disaster. You know it. We all know it," Trump said at a debate last month. "We have to repeal it and replace it with something absolutely much less expensive."

The Justice Department is investigating the pricing practices of several generic drug manufacturers because the list prices of many older medications have risen in lockstep in recent years.

That investigation could lead to an antitrust lawsuit alleging price-fixing by the end of this year, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Bloomberg cited anonymous sources familiar with the probe.

When it comes to health care, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump comes down to whether to keep, or trash, the Affordable Care Act.

Trump says he wants to repeal and replace the health care law that is responsible for insuring about 20 million people, while Clinton has vowed to retain it and even expand its reach.

Here are the candidates' plans:


HILLARY CLINTON

  • Keep and build on Obamacare
  • Offer a tax credit of up to $5,000 to offset out-of-pocket costs over 5 percent of income

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has her work cut out for her.

She has to convince millions of people who get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges or who have no coverage at all that they should go online and shop for a good deal.

The EpiPen, the anti-allergy device that has been under investigation because of huge price increases, is soon going to have some competition.

Kaleo Pharmaceuticals, a small privately held drugmaker, says it plans to bring the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector back onto the market in 2017.

Both the Auvi-Q and EpiPen devices inject a dose of epinephrine into the thigh of a person experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

The cost of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is expected to rise an average of 22 percent in 2017, according to information released by the Obama administration Monday afternoon.

Still, federal subsidies will also rise, meaning that few people are likely to have to pay the full cost after the rate increases to get insurance coverage.

At the Marshfield Clinic dental center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., hygienist Karen Eslinger is getting her room ready. It's all quite routine — covering the chair's headrest with plastic, opening instruments, wiping down trays.

But then she starts getting creative.

When Jolie Ritzo was looking for day care for her son Cannon in Falmouth, Maine, she checked out as many centers as she could.

She was looking for a place with the right feel.

"Most importantly, the people who are providing the care are loving and kind, nurturing and interested in developing these little beings," she says.

There was one center in town that had a great reputation, but it was so pricey, Ritzo says, "It would break the bank."

Three doctors who have led a task force that evaluates preventive medical services say the group's recommendations shouldn't be tied by law to insurance coverage.

The former chairmen of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say the link between medical recommendations and insurance coverage leads to financial incentives that can corrupt the process and distort people's health care decisions.

Drugmaker Mylan N.V. announced Friday that it had reached a $465 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and other government agencies to resolve questions over rebates required by the Medicaid program.

After nearly seven months of bickering and finger-pointing, Congress on Wednesday agreed to allocate $1.1 billion to help fight the spread and effects of the Zika virus.

The deal is part of a broader agreement to continue to fund the government after the fiscal year ends on Friday and the current budget expires.

The drug company that makes the EpiPen says it isn't nearly as profitable as many people assume it is.

At least that's the message Mylan NV CEO Heather Bresch will try to deliver to members of Congress today.

Bresch, who is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is expected to tell lawmakers that the company earns $100 profit on each two-pack of EpiPen auto-injectors, even though they carry a $600 price tag.

High deductible health plans are the new normal.

Just over half of employees this year have a health insurance policy with a deductible of at least $1,000, according to a survey of employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It's the continuation of a multiyear trend of companies passing more of the costs of employee health care back onto workers.

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