KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CBO Report Stirs Commentary On Health Law: The ‘Town Goes Nuts;’ Disgust With Left’s ‘Giddy Celebration;’ The Debate’s ‘Willful Stupidity’

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's New Theory Of Employment
The Congressional Budget Office report estimating that ObamaCare will cause the economy to lose the equivalent of 2.5 million workers is remarkable on its own. But the reaction from the left -- giddy celebration -- is another order of magnitude. U.S. politics used to have enough of a center that politicians could agree that fewer Americans working and others working less as a result of qualifying for a new taxpayer-funded benefit wasn't desirable. But liberals are now actively glorifying another political incentive not to contribute to U.S. economic life (2/5).

The New York Times' Economix: A Report's Real Message: It Wasn't About Health Care
Only in Washington could the following occur: the Congressional Budget Office releases a dense, technical report wherein it tweaks its estimates of how labor supply will be affected by the health care act over the next decade … and the whole town goes nuts (Jared Bernstein, 2/5).

Los Angeles Times: 'Job-Lock' And The Republican Dilemma Over Obamacare
A day or so of careful reading and cogitation by the media has begun to turn the tide on what had been the Congressional Budget Office's most widely misunderstood finding about the Affordable Care Act. It is now recognized that, no, the CBO didn't say that Obamacare would lead to job losses, but instead that it would allow many workers to voluntarily leave their jobs or retire without giving up health coverage (Michael Hiltzik, 2/5).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Not A Job Killer. But Is It Still A Campaign Issue?
In my column Wednesday, I argued that this fall's congressional election campaign won't focus solely on Obamacare, even though some Republican candidates say they think that's the way to win. But wait, I hear you ask: Doesn't the latest forecast from the Congressional Budget Office -- the one that says Obamacare could prompt many people to leave the workforce -- guarantee that the campaign will be all about Obamacare? Maybe. But that could turn out to be a mistake for the GOP (Doyle McManus, 2/5).

The Washington Post: Willful Stupidity In The Obamacare Debate
One of the best arguments for health-insurance reform is that our traditional employer-based system often locked people into jobs they wanted to leave but couldn't because they feared they wouldn't be able to get affordable coverage elsewhere. This worry was pronounced for people with preexisting conditions, but it was not limited to them. Consider families with young children in which one parent would like to get out of the formal labor market for a while to take care of the kids. In the old system, the choices of such couples were constrained if only one of the two received employer-provided family coverage (E.J. Dionne Jr., 2/5).

Politico: Democrats Hit Media For ACA CBO Coverage
Another day, another media fight over Obamacare. On Tuesday when the CBO released its 181-page report on the Affordable Care Act, the one statistic that got the most headline attention was this: "The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024." The headlines and attack ads seem to write themselves. Here was a bona fide, nonpartisan government organization saying the Affordable Care Act will mean 2.5 million fewer full-time workers by 2024. And indeed many headlines zeroed in on "jobs lost" or how Obamacare will "cost 2.5 million workers," as the Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out. But as our colleagues David Nather and Jason Millman note, "there’s a lot more fine print about what those numbers really mean, and whether the jobs were 'lost' " (Hadas Gold, 2/5).

Politico: The Party Of Less Work
The Democrats once styled themselves the party of workers. Now, they are the party of people who would have been workers, if it hadn't been for Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis of the economic effects of the health care law on Tuesday that estimates that it will reduce the number of workers, in effect, by 2.5 million in 2024. ... It turns out that discouraging work is just another one of the wonders of Obamacare (Rich Lowry, 2/5).

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Jobs Plan -- Turn On, Sign Up, Drop Out
The argument that government subsidies from redistributed wealth is a disincentive to work is hardly new. Conservatives have made that argument that for decades, and it has been a recent component of the debate over whether to keep extending long-term unemployment benefits that originated as an "emergency" measure five years ago in the midst of the Great Recession's massive job losses. It is, however, novel to see the Barack Obama White House embrace that effect as a feature of its central social-engineering program, the Affordable Care Act (Edward Morrissey, 2/6).

CNN: Obamacare Doesn't Kill Jobs
On Tuesday, the CBO released its update to the budget and economic outlook. Many in the media got it wrong. This isn't the first time that's happened. In early 2011, after winning a decisive victory in the House of Representatives, the newly Republican Congress brought H.R.2 -- a legislation that would repeal Obamacare -- up for a vote. It was called "Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act." It was named under the notion that the Affordable Care Act would result in the loss of millions of jobs. The claim was based on a CBO report on the Budget and Economic Outlook published in summer 2010. But the words "job killing" never appeared in the report (Aaron Carroll, 2/5).

And on other health law issues -

The New York Times: A Missing Argument On Contraceptives
One of the most anticipated showdowns of the Supreme Court's current term will take place March 25, when the justices are scheduled to hear two cases brought by secular, for-profit corporations whose owners want an exemption, based on their religious beliefs, from the requirement that employers' health plans cover the full range of contraceptive services without a co-payment. ... Oddly, the Justice Department has relegated to a footnote what may be the strongest single argument against allowing the two companies to deny their workers contraceptive coverage that they would otherwise be entitled to under the health care law. That would be the Constitution's establishment clause enforcing the separation of church and state and barring government from favoring one religion over another or nonbelievers. But that is exactly what would happen if the restoration act were to be read as a congressional order requiring federal courts to grant private for-profit employers an exemption that would effectively allow them to impose their beliefs on employees to deny them a valuable government benefit (2/5).

The Washington Post: From Obamacare To The IRS Scandal, Republicans Are Ignoring The Facts
Sen. Marco Rubio was a day late and $8 billion short. As part of his political comeback since his lenient position on immigration antagonized the conservative base, the Florida Republican introduced the "Obamacare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act." The idea, a back-door way to repeal the health-care law, was to get rid of the "risk corridors" and reinsurance that protect health insurers from big losses. The idea caught on: House Republican leaders floated the idea of linking it to this month's debt-limit talks (which means they would again threaten a U.S. debt default if Obamacare isn't dismantled), and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made Rubio the featured witness at a hearing on the matter Wednesday (Dana Milbank, 2/5). 

The New England Journal of Medicine: A Legal Victory for Insurance Exchanges
Health care reform won a big victory in court on January 15, when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected a challenge to the new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Had this challenge succeeded, it could have crippled the ACA by denying its generous tax subsidies to the more than 12.5 million Americans expected to use this financial assistance to buy their health insurance through a federally run exchange. ... This is really a political fight, not a legal one. It belongs in Congress, not the courts (Abbe R. Gluck, 2/5).

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