Alison Kodjak

The children's lawyer was incensed. Her two tiny clients — one of them blind — had been in a shelter for three months, separated from their mother.

The family had traveled from Mexico to the United States, reaching Nogales, Arizona, on March 1, 2018. Officials at the border found that the mother, Nadia Pulido, had "credible" reasons for seeking asylum from an ex-partner who, she says, beat her and stalked her after their relationship ended.

Consumers, lawmakers and industry players all seem to agree that prescription drugs prices are too high. What they can't always agree on is whom to blame.

On Tuesday, though, fingers are expected to point toward pharmacy benefit managers, the industry's mysterious middlemen.

The Senate Finance Committee will hear from executives from the biggest pharmacy benefit managers, led by CVS Caremark and Cigna's Express Scripts.

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A new drug to treat postpartum depression is likely to reach the U.S. market in June, with a $34,000 price tag.

The Trump administration is weighing whether to require hospitals to publicly reveal the prices they charge insurance companies for medical procedures and services — prices that are currently negotiated in private and kept confidential.

The Department of Health and Human Services says its aim is to boost competition and cut costs by letting consumers see how prices vary from place to place. But health economists say such "transparency" might not actually bring down costs for patients.

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About a quarter of Americans surveyed say they've had trouble paying for their prescription drugs, and a majority welcome government action to help cut the cost of medications.

A survey released Friday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation finds that many people have skipped or rationed their prescription medications or have substituted cheaper over-the-counter drugs.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jenna Neikirk was nearing the end of her first pregnancy when her blood pressure shot up to dangerous levels.

"I started feeling splotchy and hot, just kind of uncomfortable, so I took my blood pressure at work and it was 160 over 120," she says. Neikirk's a physical therapist in Atlanta and knew that level was alarmingly high.

She left work and walked over to her obstetrician's office, which was in the same medical complex.

The Trump administration says it plans to change how Medicare pays for some expensive drugs for cancer and arthritis in a move to bring the costs more in line with the prices paid in European countries.

"For decades, other countries have rigged the system so that American patients are charged much more," President Trump said Thursday in a speech at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Medicare. "American patients pay more, so other countries can pay less."

Rural Americans are preoccupied with the problems of opioid and drug addiction in their communities, citing it as a worry on par with concerns about local jobs and the economy, according to a new poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Sometimes IV bags are hard for hospitals to come by. Other times it's injectable folic acid to treat anemias. Right now, the tissue-numbing agent lidocaine is in short supply.

Shortages of commonplace generic drugs have plagued hospitals in recent years. And with short supplies and fewer suppliers for key drugs, there have been price increases.

Eight months pregnant, the drug sales representative wore a wire for the FBI around her bulging belly as she recorded conversations with colleagues at a conference in Chicago. Her code name? Pampers.

Legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs is headed to the president's desk.

The House on Tuesday passed a "right-to-try" bill that was approved by the Senate in 2017.

"People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to find a cure," said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, on the House floor Tuesday.

The bill, which President Trump is expected to sign, has patient advocates divided.

President Trump presented a broad-brush outline of how his administration hopes to stem the decades-long increase in prescription drug prices and spending, in a speech Friday in the Rose Garden of the White House.

The administration also released a 39-page document describing a variety of proposals it is either considering or studying in an effort to lower costs to individuals, corporations, the government and the economy as a whole.

The big budget deal reached this week in the House doesn't include a long-sought-after provision to stabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. But the $1.3 billion plan, set to fund the government through September, has lots of new money for medical research, addiction treatment and mental health care.

When Roger Severino tells his story, discrimination is at its heart.

"I did experience discrimination as a child. And that leaves a lasting impression," he tells me.

Severino directs the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When I meet with him at his office in the shadow of the Capitol, he talks about his childhood as the son of Colombian immigrants growing up in Los Angeles.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

Health insurance giant Cigna is buying Express Scripts, the company that administers prescription drug insurance plans for millions of Americans, in a deal worth $67 billion, including $15 billion in Express Scripts' debt.

The Trump administration wants to allow insurance companies to offer more policies that have limited health benefits and that can reject customers if they have pre-existing medical conditions.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the plans, which don't meet the legal requirements for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, will allow consumers who can't afford insurance now to find cheaper plans.

It was Julie Liles' 17-year-old daughter, Emily, who suggested that they attend a sex education program together.

Julie was eager to go. She was just 14 when she gave birth to Emily.

"So always in the back of my mind was a worry that she would get hurt," says Julie, her voice cracking. "I worried in the back of my mind that she would find herself in the same situation."

A former pharmaceutical industry official who says drug prices are too high will now be in charge of buying more medications than anyone in the world.

Alex Azar, former president of the U.S. arm of Eli Lilly & Co., was confirmed Wednesday as the secretary of health and human services.

In that role, he'll oversee the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates prescription drugs including those produced by his former employer. He'll also oversee Medicare and Medicaid, which together spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on prescription medications.

Updated at 11:29 a.m. ET

The Trump administration is encouraging states to require "able-bodied" Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer in order to keep their health insurance coverage.

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued new guidelines for states that want some adults to work in exchange for the health insurance coverage.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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When U.S. officials feared an outbreak of the Zika virus last year, the Department of Health and Human Services and state officials kicked into high gear.

They tested mosquitoes neighborhood by neighborhood in Miami and other hot Gulf Coast communities where the virus was likely to flourish. They launched outreach campaigns to encourage people to use bug spray. And they pushed the development of a vaccine.

Devin Kelley, the man we now know killed more than two dozen people at a Texas church on Sunday, escaped a mental health facility before the Air Force could try him on charges that he beat his wife and baby stepson back in 2012.

And President Trump, like many people before him, is pointing to mental health — not guns — as the cause of the church massacre.

Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET

A proposal in the Senate to help stabilize Affordable Care Act marketplaces would ensure that subsidies paid to insurance companies benefit consumers rather than padding the companies' profits.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

Less than a week after President Trump said he is cutting off subsidies to health insurance companies, lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had a deal to restore the money and take other actions that could stabilize insurance markets for next year.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday in the face of multiple investigations into his use of private charter and military jets to travel around the country at taxpayer expense. Later, the White House placed new requirements on officials' air travel plans.

A statement released by the White House Friday afternoon said that Price had "offered his resignation earlier today and the president accepted."

The proposal the Senate is considering that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would result in millions losing health insurance and a $133 billion reduction in the deficit by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Graham-Cassidy legislation.

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