KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law Seeks To Remedy Broken Insurance Market; Overhaul Was Sunk By Its Complexity

Commentators look at some of the underlying issues of the health law which is being considered by the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post: What Makes Health Care Different
As best as I can tell, the recent arguments at the Supreme Court did not touch on a critical part of the discussion about government's role in health care: the broken market for private insurance. And I think I know why. A key assumption underlying the arguments, questions and answers was that all uninsured people are uninsured by choice. ... It was as if the court forgot that the private insurance market does not function as a normal market. If you are not employed and you want to purchase insurance in the private market, you cannot unilaterally decide to do so. An insurer has to accept you as a customer. And quite often, they don't (Donna Dubinsky, 4/6).

The New York Times: Romney's Health Care Plan
Mr. Romney and others on the right abhor the idea that the federal government will force a "one size fits all" solution on the country, instead of allowing experimentation. But just how long should this period of experimentation, actually more like a period of throwing everything at the wall, last? Especially when we know from the experience of Western Europe and Canada that universal coverage is possible, and sustainable, if the central government takes control (Andrew Rosenthal, 4/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Complexity Is Bad For Your Health
The Supreme Court has long had the role of declaring what the law is. That's becoming a harder and harder task thanks to the White House and Congress concocting laws so complex that no one knows their meaning before, during or after they're passed. In an era when people expect transparency and abhor complexity, three days of skeptical Supreme Court hearings on the president's health law showcased a complex law collapsing under its own weight. Information is supposed to flow freely, but consumers of health care operate in the dark, including without any understanding of how the law is supposed to work (L. Gordon Crovitz, 4/8).

Politico: Health Care Reform Supreme Court Case: Is This Conservative Judicial Activism?
Obama alleged that the court would be guilty of "judicial activism" if it struck down "Obamacare." He specifically called out "conservative commentators" who have made the same charge in other cases. Conservatives, however, have criticized "judicial activism" where judges resorted to novel legal theories to invalidate acts passed mostly by state legislatures (Frank Donatelli, 4/6)?

Bloomberg: Facts Are First Casualty Of Health-Care Fight
In the Supreme Court's historic argument over President Barack Obama's health-care law, the Republicans claimed the high ground on principle, Democrats on the politics. Both positions are tenuous…. No matter how the court rules, Team Obama will remind voters of the Republican inconsistency -- they will tag it hypocrisy -- in the fall campaign. Their task would be easier if they had mustered public support (Albert R. Hunt, 4/8).

The Washington Post: Obama Levels Straight Shots At Supreme Court And Ryan Budget
Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive. … So imagine the shock when President Obama decided last week to speak plainly about what a Supreme Court decision throwing out the health-care law would mean, and then landed straight shots against the Mitt Romney-supported Paul Ryan budget as "a Trojan horse," "an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country," and "thinly veiled social Darwinism" (E.J. Dionne, 4/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Providential Design
In his parade of Republican horribles, President Obama poured special scorn this week on the idea of handing Medicaid to the states with a fixed annual federal payment. He says it wouldn't save money without hurting "poor children" and "middle-class families who have children with autism and Down's Syndrome." Someone needs to tell Mr. Obama about the results of Medicaid reform in Rhode Island (4/6).

Boston Globe: Taking Back 'Obamacare'
Will the turnaround on "Obamacare" pay off this campaign season? We could look at previous reclamation projects for some clues. The idea of turning a hurtful word into a positive or neutral term might be most familiar to us from the realm of identity politics--for instance, how "queer" has been reclaimed by the gay community. But there's a long legacy of this verbal repositioning in party politics, too (Ben Zimmer, 4/8).

Modern Healthcare: Time For A Restraining Order
While there's clearly no end in sight for speculation over the ultimate fate of the healthcare reform law, here's hoping for some judicious restraint in a couple of areas as the legal debate lingers. First, how about a restraining order on any further comparisons of broccoli to health insurance? We get the point intended, but also contend, along with many economists, that it's a flawed, ridiculously simplified argument (David May, 4/7).

Modern Healthcare: Healthcare Matchup
While an insurance card doesn't clear emergency rooms overnight or miraculously manage chronic diseases, it does begin to change the way we experience healthcare. Health reform focuses on wellness and prevention, which is a shift in how care is delivered. More individuals and families will be connected to primary care. Hospitals can help patients beyond discharge by ensuring needed prescriptions are taken and necessary follow-up appointments are scheduled and attended. Ultimately, reform will help all Americans access the services they need (Dr. Bruce Siegel, 4/7).

JAMA: Battle Lines Surrounding Health Care Take Shape In Presidential Race
The long and short of it is that under the Republican House budget, anyone who turned 55 years or older in 2012 would continue to experience Medicare as we know it today, a program that receives overwhelmingly positive ratings by its beneficiaries and typically higher ratings than any other form of health insurance. However, those of us foolish enough to have been born on or after January 1, 1958, would get a decidedly watered-down version of the program that would start later and offer less financial protection against the historical rises in health care costs (Andrew Bindman, 4/6).

iWatch: Why The Insurance Industry Needs Obamacare To Stay In Business
If there is a group of people more anxious about how the Supreme Court will rule on the health care reform law than President Obama and the millions of Americans who are already benefiting from it, it is health insurance executives (Wendell Potter, 4/9).

The Baltimore Sun: A Health Care Reform Backup Plan
President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) could be struck down by a sharply divided court when it rules in June. If that happens, insurance will continue to be priced beyond the means of many. It is therefore prudent to look at possible alternatives for these Americans. Fortunately, a proven model exists today in Howard County: the Healthy Howard Health Plan (Ken Ulman and Peter Beilenson, 4/8).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.