KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Law Is Not The Fault Of Health System’s ‘Age-Old Woes;’ Obama’s ‘Empty Pledge;’ Dysfunctional Website Was Inevitable

The Boston Globe: Don't Blame Obamacare For Health System's Age-Old Woes
The angst over the Obamacare rollout has obscured two truths: First, the computer glitches -- while deeply embarrassing -- are a tech problem that is fixable. Second, the cancellation of some Americans' insurance policies and premium hikes for others reflect longstanding problems in the health care system that weren’t suddenly caused by the Affordable Care Act. The great advancement in Obamacare is that it finally provides a framework to address these flaws (11/5).

USA Today: An Empty Pledge Comes Back To Haunt Obama
It was a disingenuous promise that has come back to haunt the Obama administration. Time after time, before and after the law went into effect, President Obama and his aides have promised that people who liked their current health insurance would be able to keep it under the Affordable Care Act. ... What makes the situation even worse is this was not simply some careless slip of the tongue, but rather a cold-blooded political calculation. The Wall Street Journal reports that way back when the law was being drafted, some White House policy advisers warned that this ironclad guarantee was a stretch. But, the Journal reported, they were overruled by political operatives (Rem Rieder, 11/4). 

The Washington Post: A Dishonest Presidency 
He said, "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what." That statement was clear, unequivocal and wrong -- and Obama and his advisers knew it. The president's defenders are twisting around for ways to explain away his 16 words (Marc A. Thiessen, 11/4).

The Wall Street Journal: How Low Can They Go?
To misspeak means to express oneself imperfectly or incorrectly. It implies either a careless choice of words or an unintended candor (as in a "Freudian slip"). Obama did not misspeak. As The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, the slogan was the result of careful deliberation. Whereas "some White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama's 'keep your plan' promise," "political aides" insisted upon it. The latter prevailed. In an interview with the Journal, one unidentified former official "added that in the midst of a hard-fought political debate 'if you like your plan, you can probably keep it' isn't a salable point" (James Taranto, 11/4).

Mother Jones: If the GOP Repeals Obamacare, 137 Million Americans Could Get Cancellation Notices
The GOP has gleefully jumped on media reports about Americans having their health insurance plans nixed because of Obamacare. "Obama lied. My health plan died," conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote in September, referring to President Barack Obama's promise that people who liked their health insurance plans could keep them. But how many Americans' health plans would receive some form of cancellation notice if GOP hard-liners got their wish and repealed Obamacare? Probably at least 150 million. Let's do the math (Erika Eichelberger, 11/5).

The New Republic: A Mixed Blessing From Obamacare
To simplify things a bit, some advocates and experts believe it’s important to insulate people even from more modest medical costs. They argue that the burden of paying even a few thousand dollars a year can cause serious hardship and discourage people from getting care they really need. ... Other advocates and experts believe that insurance should exist primarily for protecting people from catastrophic expenses -- and that leaving people directly responsible for other costs will encourage them to be smarter consumers of medical care. ... But the political debate over this issue lately has been mystifying -- and occasionally maddening. Conservatives tend to be ones who oppose making coverage more generous. They are the ones who hold up catastrophic policies as the ideal. But you never hear them applauding Obamacare for making such policies available and financially attractive. On the contrary, they say Obamacare fails to encourage catastrophic-only insurance -- when, in fact, the law seems to do just that (Jonathan Cohn, 11/4).

The Wall Street Journal: The ObamaCare Website Failure Was Inevitable
While the Obamacare website fiasco is disturbing, it is no isolated event. Dysfunctional information systems are endemic in the federal government. Officials' incessant talk about living in a 21st-century information society that can generate "big data" to help solve our problems diverts attention from the stubborn truth: Many government agencies and programs operate in an informational stone age (Peter Schuck, 11/4).

Bloomberg: The Primary Care Technician Will See You Now
One obvious way to address the shortage of primary medical care in the U.S. is to train more people who can provide it. Even if this could somehow happen overnight, though, it wouldn't necessarily solve the problem: Only 1 in 4 medical-school graduates goes into primary care (the least lucrative area of medicine), and no more than half of nurses and physician assistants do. Just as important, those who do practice general medicine are rarely drawn to work in the rural and inner-city areas where people most lack access to medical treatment (11/4).

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