Under The Influence, Tarbell's Weekly Newsletter

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This Week In Tarbell

While many first-term Democrats entered the House of Representatives promising health care reform, there are still members among them accepting large donations from representatives of the health care industry. This week, I published an analysis of the different ways that the class of Freshmen Democrats accepted money from health care influences — with data available for you to explore.

Click Here To Read My Reporting — “All Freshmen Democrats Took Money From Health Care Influencers — Some In Surprising Amounts” — On Tarbell.org


Just because you or your loved one left the hospital, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Veteran health care reporter Trudy Lieberman returns this week with an analysis of the challenges to finding effective, affordable aftercare when a patient is discharged with remaining medical conditions.

Click Here To Read Trudy Lieberman’s Analysis — “Finding The Right Follow-Up Care After Hospitalization” — On Tarbell.org


Notable Reporting and Solutions

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s requests ahead of her previously scheduled visit to China do not seem that odd, once you consider her connections to the country. Her family owns a deeply powerful American shipping company in China, the New York Times notes.

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Mother Jones takes a thorough look at how one phone call from President Trump to a Libyan warlord and purported war criminal devolved into a lobbying blitz, perhaps upending years of diplomatic relation-building with post-civil war Libya.

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John Boehner stood strongly against legalization of marijuana during his tenure as House Speaker, but The New York Times looks at how the Republican chilled out on weed (which probably has more to do with his $20 million payout than any joints he might be toking).

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The country has struggled to regulate the use of toxic PFAS chemicals, not only due to the powerful special interests in the military and industry, but due to the influence of Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who both chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and receives the most money from the chemical industry, Truthout reports.

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By the end of Day 1 in a three day hearing over the potential monopoly in the CVS-Aetna merger, a judge marveled at CVS’s power as a pharmaceutical benefits manager. The Columbus Dispatch discussion of the proposed $70 million merger, and how officials have not yet assuaged fears the deal would undermine competition.

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As the Federal Trade Commission launches an antitrust investigation into Silicon Valley’s giants, the AP considers how Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon might be framed as monopolies — and how Big Tech might respond to the claims.

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In response to the bipartisan bill introduced last month to increase transparency in drug pricing, Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins University professor, poses a question to the health industry special interests: “Do they stand with patients or with providers who are price gouging them?”

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Access to health care is rarely straightforward for anyone: Shannon Sartin works in health care technology for U.S. Digital Services, but not even her expertise in the field could prevent her from being dismissed by physicians. She wrote about her struggle to get a diagnosis on Medium.

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Spotlight on Local Reporting

State legislators in New York and Massachusetts are taking on sky-high drug prices, not only by looking at regulations on Big Pharma but the massive pharmaceutical benefits managers (PBMs) and how their business practices destroy transparency in pricing. (This article is on subscription-based Stat+, but you can view with a free 30-day trial. You can also find previous Tarbell reporting on PBMs here.)

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Law firms released a report this week showing that the Catholic Church has spent more than $5.3 million lobbying in Pennsylvania (alone) since 2011, mostly attacking legislation that would limit the ability of survivors of clergy sexual abuse to pursue criminal and civil charges.

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A New Mexico In Depth reporter divulges the difficulties of reporting on campaign finance and influence in her state.

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen is the Engagement Editor at Tarbell.org and a freelance journalist based in Southeast Asia.