KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Continues Call For Health Law Repeal; Census Releases Uninsured Data

The Washington Post: New census data reveal big differences among states in the rate of uninsured people under age 65. Massachusetts has the lowest rate, 7.8 percent, and Texas the highest, 26.8 percent.  "The statistics are for 2007 and show health insurance coverage by state and for each of the country's roughly 3,140 counties. The numbers do not include the impact on millions of people who lost their jobs and health insurance after the recession began in December 2007."

"Under the new [health] law, virtually all Americans will be required to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty tax. Administration officials estimate that the changes will lead to coverage for 32 million more people, starting in 2014. The law is aimed mainly at people who cannot obtain or afford coverage through a workplace, because their employer does not offer any or because it is too expensive - or because they are unemployed or work for themselves" (Sun, 7/28).

The New York Times: In Texas, where there "are more uninsured residents … 6.1 million and counting - than there are people in 33 states," policy makers are moving forward "with a complex set of changes even as the governor, attorney general and ranking legislators rage against it." The same duality exists in many of the 21 states challenging health reform but still bound to try to implement it. "States share in the cost of Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, and the new health law will vastly expand eligibility by offering coverage to childless adults. State agency leaders said politics had not interfered to date with that task, or with new requirements to create a health insurance exchange and oversee strict regulations on health insurers" (Sack, 7/27).

Roll Call: Senate Republicans are continuing their team-up to repeal the health law. On Tuesday, several GOP lawmakers introduced a plan to scrap the Independent Payment Advisory Board - a key feature of the health law. "The board is charged with helping to control health care costs, and GOP critics say it will lead to the rationing of care. It's unlikely to go anywhere, given that the Democratic majority controls the legislative calendar and President Barack Obama would be inclined to veto the bill." Signing on to the bill were Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl and others.

ABC News: Republican Senate candidate in Washington Dino Rossi said he too will support repeal of the health law. "'The cost - the $500 billion tax increase alone cost the Boeing Co. in my state $150 million. But if you replicate that across the state of Washington, there's tens of thousands of jobs that'll be lost or won't be created because of [his opponent, Democratic Sen.] Patty Murray's 60th and deciding vote. We shouldn't be trying to kill jobs in our state right now'" (Klein, 7/27).

In the meantime, doctors are "teaming up", forming alliances that could change the quality and costs of treatment, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Spurred in part by the law, many independent providers across the country are racing to mold themselves into the kind of coordinated teams held up as models for improving care. … Healthcare experts have long argued that such a unified approach to medical care offers the best hope for improving quality and saving money. While a few institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente have thrived doing this, the entrenched, competing interests of providers were widely seen as a barrier to nationwide change."

But such agreements have sparked criticism in the past from some who see similar moves - like one toward managed care organizations in the 1990s - as restrictive of patient choice and access to care. But the new law's intent is otherwise, directing "Medicare to reward alliances of health care providers, known as Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, if they reduce the cost of caring for patients like these while improving quality" (Levey, 7/28).

And in a WebMD exclusive, President Obama explains the new health insurance web site. "The Obama administration is known for its use of the Internet and social media to communicate with the American public. It's not surprising, then, that President Obama himself starred in an online video explaining an issue that's confusing to many people: the new health care reform bill. In the video, released July 28, Obama shows people how to use a new web site,, created to help the public understand provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act (7/28).

Related, earlier KHN story: What You Need To Know About The Government's New Health Insurance Website (Galewitz, 7/1)


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