KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Optimism About Obamacare; 834 Errors; Can-You-Keep-Your-Doctor Debate

The New York Times: Obamacare Turns a Corner?
This was the week when liberals decided that it was safe to feel optimistic about Obamacare again. ... A worst-case scenario, in which the website remained unusable well into the new year, seems to have been averted, and with it the danger that insurers or Congressional Democrats would begin to bail on Obamacare entirely. And liberals have apparently decided that just getting things moving in the right direction makes all the difference (Ross Douthat, 12/7).

The New Republic: Exclusive: The Obamacare Error Rate Has Fallen Dramatically
These days it seems like everybody following Obamacare is talking about the 834s. Those are the personal data files that sends insurance companies, in order to notify them of new enrollees. The data has been prone to errors and that's a real problem. You can't get new coverage if the insurer doesn't have some basic information about you—your full name, Social Security number, and so on. ... But the 834 problem is fixable and, according to multiple sources in the public and private sectors, it is being fixed (Jonathan Cohn, 12/6).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare In Translation 
President Obama promised that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. But now comes an architect of ObamaCare to explain that this needs some translating. Former White House official (and our sometime contributor) Ezekial Emanuel has taken on the thankless task of defending the unpopular law he helped to write, and on "Fox News Sunday" he told host Chris Wallace what the President really meant (12/8).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Obamacare’s Real Promise: If You Lose Your Health-Care Plan, You Can Get A New One
Almost everyone in the country can lose their health insurance at any time, for all kinds of reasons — and every year, millions do. ... Health insurance isn't such a fraught topic in countries such as Canada and France because people don't live in constant fear of losing their ability to get routine medical care. A decade from now, that will be true in the U.S., too. But it's not true yet, and paradoxically, that's one reason health reform is so difficult. The status quo has left people rightly fearful, and when people are afraid, change is even scarier (Ezra Klein, 12/7).

The New York Times: When Bishops Direct Medical Care
Beyond new state efforts to restrict women’s access to proper reproductive health care, another, if quieter, threat is posed by mergers between secular hospitals and Catholic hospitals operating under religious directives from the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. These directives, which oppose abortions, inevitably collide with a hospital’s duty to provide care to pregnant women in medical distress. This tension lies at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (12/8).

Los Angeles Times: Fiscal Idiocy: What States Refusing Medicaid Will Cost Their Citizens
One ever-popular piece of political theater is for governors to go to Washington to demand a fair return on the money their citizens pay to the federal government. You know the drill: Governor calculates that his or her state receives only 80 or 90 cents back on every dollar the people pay, throws conniption, takes junket to DC, accompanied by TV cameras. When he was governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger made this a big part of his fiscal reform program (Michael Hiltzik, 12/6).

The New York Times: How the Government Gives
The government does its own charitable giving, in the form of tax deductions. When an individual makes a donation to a qualifying organization, the federal government essentially pays a portion of that donation: ... The federal government too often provides the deduction for donations that offer little or no benefit. Consider three examples: Nonprofit hospitals are among the largest recipients of charitable donations. Yet their activities are often indistinguishable from those of for-profit hospitals (Ray D. Madoff, 12/7).

The Atlantic: How Obamacare Lost Its Soul
The president has replaced the moral case for reform with a transactional one. That's a mistake. ... For supporters of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s new push to "sell" the law is a welcome sign that is on the mend, but it also risks devolving into transactionalism—a narrative of “Democrats delivering benefits on one side, and Republicans trying to deny them on the other,” as Politico puts it. To make the case, Obama needs to strike the sustained, emotional moral clarity—consistent claims that go beyond economic benefits—that helped bring him to the Washington in the first place (Michael Zuckerman, 12/6).

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