KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Calif. Insurers Ignore Commissioner On Premiums; Rick Perry Says ‘Broken’ Medicaid Can’t Handle Expansion; Doctor Says NRA Let Him Down

Los Angeles Times: Insurers Eager To Maintain Authority Over Healthcare Premiums
While most of us face uncertainty with the rollout of healthcare reform, some insurance companies in California have been feeling their oats lately. Here's how they're responding to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones' warnings that their latest rate increases are unreasonable: Stuff it, Dave. That essentially was the response of Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross after Jones flayed their proposed premium hikes — up to 20% for Blue Shield customers and up to 18% for Anthem. The companies moved to implement the increases anyway, although Anthem thought better of it after it started charging the higher rates, and reduced them a bit. Anthem further said it would start passing on to customers a fee related to the federal Affordable Care Act this year, which Jones considered unlawful since the government fee doesn't go into effect until next year (Michael Hiltzik, 3/26). 

USA Today: Medicaid Expansion Fight Harms You: Our View
Now, in too many states, the Medicaid portion is in serious jeopardy. Thanks to last June's Supreme Court ruling that made the expansion optional for states, a group of Republican governors and legislators has opened a new front in their ideological war against ObamaCare — at the expense of their poorest residents, their state's hospitals and their own state budgets (3/26). 

USA Today: Rick Perry: Don't Expand Medicaid
Of all the bad ideas related to ObamaCare, depending upon Medicaid to do the heavy lifting to "insure" Americans is about the worst of the bunch. Medicaid was not built to handle the economic stresses of dealing with the number of people it already has in the program. If you don't believe me, ask President Obama himself, who in 2009 called Medicaid a "broken system that doesn't work." This broken system is already putting extreme pressure on state budgets, and that will only increase over time (Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 3/26).

Bloomberg: When The Affordable Care Act Becomes Unaffordable
The New York Times reports that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is encouraging Republican-led states to follow Arkansas's lead and use Medicaid expansion dollars to buy private insurance for people with low incomes. This is going to make a lot of people happy. But it's not good for taxpayers or for the project of making medical costs sustainable (Josh Barro, 3/26).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Obamacare Details Still To Be Worked Out
Mitt Romney promised during his presidential campaign to repeal the health law on his first day in office. Big mistake, he says now. "I think Obamacare attractiveness … was something we underestimated, particularly among lower incomes," Romney said in an interview March 3 on "Fox News Sunday," adding, "Obamacare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance." Leaving aside the reference to people as "lower incomes," this is like Romney's saying he underestimated how attractive food is to someone who's starving (Marsha Mercer, 3/27).

The New York Times' Room For Debate: Re-Engineering Health Care
Consumers tend to dislike the idea of rationing, but would it be better than the alternatives? If "re-engineering" means consolidation and vertical integration, is that a good thing for patients? For the industry? (3/26).

Journal of the American Medical Association: The NRA Let Me Down
The National Rifle Association let me down. What it taught me as a teen was to use guns "safely and responsibly." I believe that the NRA is not teaching that now nor following the tenets of safety or responsible gun use in its public policy stance. Instead, it uses fear and condemnation to avoid even the most sensible, obvious changes needed in our gun laws. ... We in medicine can only sigh. Trauma centers continue to be filled with gun violence, and we in psychiatry see those injured in drug abuse-related violence or families of our patients who die by suicide (Dr. Paul Kettl, 3/27).

New Orleans Times Picayune: Health Secretary Conveniently Forgot To Mention Helping His Old Employer Get State Work
The way the specs were written, Bruce Greenstein's former employer could not bid for one of the most lucrative contracts in Louisiana government. But, lo and behold, after Greenstein was named health secretary in 2010, a little judicious rewriting soon made his old pals at CNSI eligible. They submitted one of four proposals to handle Medicaid claims, starting in 2014. You'll never guess what happened next. CNSI won the contract! It was worth almost $200 million (James Gill, 3/27).

Fox News: Has New York Mayor Bloomberg Made Americans 'Soda Shy'?
Has New York Mayor Bloomberg already made Americans soda shy? The New York State Supreme Court wisely rejected New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of super-sized sodas, but people who once loved 32-ounce sodas may, wisely, be banning the drinks on their own.   After all, ordering an extra-large drink of soda in New York with your sandwich or pizza, if you're overweight, is now more likely to invite subtle shakes of the head and knowing glances exchanged a few tables away (Keith Ablow, 3/26).  

The Lund Report: Real Life Consequences Of Health Reform
A southern Oregon non-profit organization, currently employing 205 employees, is wrestling with the implications of health reform on its organization. Of the 205 employees, 63 employees are considered administrative staff or professional and they are covered by health insurance with the employee premium fully paid. There are an additional 90 employees who would now meet the new definition of full-time employees at 30 hours per week. These employees are not currently offered health insurance. ... When it is time for this non-profit organization to renew their plan in 2014, they face some really tough choices relative to accomplishing their primary goal, choices that directly impact their employees in unintended ways (John Gridley, 3/26).

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