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Selena Simmons-Duffin

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.

She has worked at NPR for ten years as a show editor and producer, with one stopover at WAMU in 2017 as part of a staff exchange. For four months, she reported local Washington, DC, health stories, including a secretive maternity ward closure and a gesundheit machine.

Before coming to All Things Considered in 2016, Simmons-Duffin spent six years on Morning Edition working shifts at all hours and directing the show. She also drove the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 for the "Borderland" series.

She won a Gracie Award in 2015 for creating a video called "Talking While Female," and a 2014 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for producing a series on why you should love your microbes.

Simmons-Duffin attended Stanford University, where she majored in English. She took time off from college to do HIV/AIDS-related work in East Africa. She started out in radio at Stanford's radio station, KZSU, and went on to study documentary radio at the Salt Institute, before coming to NPR as an intern in 2009.

She lives in Washington, DC, with her spouse and kids.

Good news came out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday: Preliminary data shows reported drug overdoses declined 4.2% in 2018, after rising precipitously for decades.

High drug prices are a hot topic in politics right now. President Trump has made lowering them a cornerstone of his re-election bid and is pushing a variety of ideas to get that done.

The Trump administration has dropped one of the meatiest portions of its plan to reduce drug prices.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it will no longer pursue a rule that would have prohibited the payment of certain rebates on drugs in Medicare Part D and Medicaid plans.

The idea was to target the middlemen, pharmacy benefit managers, whose negotiations with drugmakers and insurers influence the costs consumers pay for drugs.

Updated 6:30 p.m.

The Trump administration has announced an ambitious plan to change treatment for kidney disease in the United States.

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday directing the Department of Health and Human Services to develop policies addressing three goals: reducing the number of patients developing kidney failure, reducing how many Americans get dialysis treatment at dialysis centers and making more kidneys available for transplant.

The federal government's rule designed to support health workers who opt out of providing care that violates their moral or religious beliefs will not go into effect in July as scheduled. The effective date has been delayed by four months, according to court orders.

Louisiana officials announced a deal Wednesday with Asegua Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Gilead Sciences, that would allow the state to provide hepatitis C treatment to its Medicaid and prison populations. They also secured the necessary clearance from the federal government Wednesday for a novel approach to paying for the drugs and expect the program to start July 15.

Editor's note: The day after this story published, Mary Washington Healthcare announced it will suspend its practice of suing patients for unpaid bills, stating: "We are committed to a complete re-evaluation of our entire payment process to ensure that all patients know they have access to care." When asked what they will do about any patient whose wages are currently being garnished, Eric Fletcher, Mary Washington's senior vice president, said in a statement to NPR: "

Updated 4:03 p.m.

President Trump signed an executive order Monday on price transparency in health care that aims to lower rising health care costs by showing prices to patients. The idea is that if people can shop around, market forces may drive down costs.

"Hospitals will be required to publish prices that reflect what people pay for services," said President Trump at a White House event. "You will get great pricing. Prices will come down by numbers that you wouldn't believe. The cost of healthcare will go way, way down."

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill last week that, if federal authorities give it their go-ahead — still a very big if — would allow his state to import prescription drugs from Canada. That makes Florida the third state to pass such a law, joining Vermont and Colorado. More such legislative attempts are in the works.

Carol Burgos is worried her neighbors think she is bringing the neighborhood down.

She lives in a mobile home park in a woodsy part of Columbia County, N.Y, just off a two-lane highway. The homes have neat yards and American flags. On a spring Saturday, some neighbors are out holding yard sales, with knickknacks spread out on folding tables. Others are out doing yardwork.

Burgos' lawn is unruly and overgrown.

"How bad do I feel when these little old ladies are mowing their lawn and I can't because I'm in so much pain?" she says.

Moral and religious objections to providing health care sometimes arise in medicine: A medical assistant might not agree with blood transfusions. A nurse might not want to assist in sex reassignment surgery.

When the first HIV drug, AZT, came to market in 1987, it cost $10,000 a year.

That price makes Peter Staley laugh today. "It sounds quaint and cheap now, but $10,000 a year at that time was the highest price ever set for any drug in history," he says.

If you've ever had a little one at home with a fever, you might have noticed two options for Tylenol at the store.

There's one for infants and one for children. They contain the same amount of medicine — 160 milligrams of acetaminophen per 5 milliliters of liquid — but the infant version costs three times more.

What gives? It turns out, there's a backstory.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Trump administration wants to redefine the word sex, at least in terms of the Affordable Care Act and who gets protected from discrimination. With us now to explain, NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin, who is following this. Thanks for being here, Selena.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So explain this. We're talking specifically about transgender people - right? - and what kind of health care they can receive.

The toddler looking up at Dr. Melanie Seifman in her Washington, D.C., exam room seems a little dazed.

It could be because she just woke up from a nap at daycare. It could be that she remembers the shots she got last time, and she knows what's coming.

The little girl is catching up on some vaccines she's behind on: missing doses of the DTaP and polio vaccines. She's over two years old — both of those shots are supposed to happen at a baby's six-month check up.

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