Alison Kodjak

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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.

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The leaders of seven drug industry giants were forced to defend their industry's prices and business practices on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, as lawmakers criticized them for failing to put patients before profits.

"Prescription drugs did not become outrageously expensive by accident," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "Drug prices are astronomically high because that's where pharmaceutical companies and their investors want them."

When it comes to making changes in health care, CVS Health isn't settling for tinkering around the edges. The company is looking to strike at the heart of how health care is delivered in the U.S.

In November, the drugstore chain completed a $70 billion acquisition of health insurance giant Aetna that CVS has said will change the company and in the process alter the way consumers experience health care.

Brittney Crystal was just over 25 weeks pregnant when her water broke.

It was her second pregnancy — the first had been rough, and the baby came early.

To try to avoid a second premature birth, Dr. Joy-Sarah Vink, an obstetrician and co-director of the Preterm Birth Prevention Center at Columbia University Medical Center, arranged for Crystal to be transported by ambulance from her local Connecticut hospital to New York City, where Vink could direct her care.

The Trump administration is proposing major changes in how prescription drugs are priced and paid for by Medicare.

The effort is designed to cut costs for senior citizens at the pharmacy counter and by its example could spur changes in the broader market for prescription drugs.

"Medicare-for-all," once widely considered a fringe proposal for providing health care in the U.S., is getting more popular. Several Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting behind the idea.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., endorsed the approach Monday in a CNN town hall-style event, saying her aim would be to eliminate all private insurance.

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In her first speech as speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi made it clear that she knows that health care is key to why voters sent Democrats to Congress.

"In the past two years the American people have spoken," Pelosi told members of Congress and their families who were gathered Thursday in the House chamber for the opening day of the session.

The skyrocketing cost of many prescription drugs in the U.S. can be blamed primarily on price increases, not expensive new therapies or improvements in existing medications as drug companies frequently claim, a new study shows.

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Editor's note: This story was updated with enrollment figures made available on Dec. 19.

About 8.5 million people enrolled in health plans for 2019 through the federal HealthCare.gov website by the Dec. 15 deadline.

That's about 367,000 fewer people than signed up during the 6 week open enrollment season last year, a decline of about 4 percent, according to new numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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 couch is dark brown corduroy with lumpy cushions. There are a few telltale smears of food, maybe yogurt or a banana, and some crumbs here and there. It's a well-loved piece of furniture.

Margaret Siebers plops herself down in the center and reaches out to baby daughter Frances, who climbs onto her mother's lap to breastfeed.

"This is where I spent several months," says Siebers, with a shrug. Her 4-year-old, Violet, runs around nearby. "I could come downstairs and sit on the couch."

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