KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Local Political Fallout From Obama Insurance Pledge; ‘Debunking’ Sob Story; Is Single Payer Still A Possibility?

The Wall Street Journal: State Officials Vs. ObamaCare
Democratic state leaders have been some of ObamaCare's strongest advocates. To show his gratitude, President Obama is sticking them with political responsibility for the millions of insurance policies that are being cancelled because they don't comply with the law's minimum-benefits mandates. ... Renewing lapsed policies could weaken the state exchanges as healthy young people will want to keep their discontinued, lower-cost plans ... there are other political considerations. Namely, the criticism they'll face from both the right and left if they don't back the president's directive to allow policy renewals (Allysia Finley, 11/25). 

The Los Angeles Times: The Dirty Secrets Behind Boehner's 'Spiking' Obamacare Premiums
Boehner's spiking premiums is one of those claims that may be true as far as it goes, but leaves out so much that it's at best a half-truth. And the contention that Boehner's experience is at all representative of what most Americans will experience under the Affordable Care Act jumps it up from half-truth to outright lie. The real alternative for most people using the individual exchanges is not employer coverage, as it was for Boehner, but no coverage (Michael Hiltzik, 11/25).

Seattle Times: Debunking Obamacare Sob Story
[Jessica Sanford] and her teenage son had been hailed last month by President Obama as an Affordable Care Act “success story” because they were going to get insurance for the first time in 15 years. ... Except later, the state said it had goofed and calculated her income wrong. No big subsidy after all (she makes $49,000 a year). She then wrote on Facebook that she was “screwed” and “priced out” of the market and ... But a bronze-level policy for a 48-year-old woman making $49,000 can be had on the state exchange for $237 a month, and a silver-level policy for $313. ... How is that a horror story? (Danny Westneat, 11/23).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Is Obamacare Turning The Corner?
A spin through HealthCare.Gov this morning went smoothly. The site loaded quickly. The process progressed easily. There were no error messages or endless hangs. I didn't complete the final step of purchasing insurance but, until then, the site worked -- or at least appeared to work -- exactly as intended. My experience isn't rare. There are increasing reports that HealthCare.Gov is working better -- perhaps much better -- for consumers than it was a few short weeks ago (Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, 11/26).

The New York Times: The Health Care 'Distraction' Conspiracy
Two things happened last week that had nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. This, Republicans say, is proof of a devious Democratic conspiracy to distract the American people from the Affordable Care Act (Juliet Lapidos, 11/25).

The New York Times: The Single-Payer Alternative
Rush Limbaugh’s take on the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act could, ironically, warm the hearts of those at the other end of the political spectrum. He contends that President Obama knew all along that the Affordable Care Act would crash and burn, but pushed it through so that the conflagration would clear the way for single-payer health insurance. The conspiracy charge sounds deranged, but problems with the new health insurance system may indeed revitalize demands for more substantive reforms, ... And while Republicans despise the Affordable Care Act despite its conformity with many of their earlier proposals, their proposed changes (other than simple rollback) look complicated, kludgy and costly to administer (Nancy Folbre, 11/25).

The New York Times: Seven Conclusions About Small-Business Health Insurance
If you need to renew your policies before Jan. 1, as I do, there is no time to waste. ... I am a small manufacturer, who currently offers coverage to my employees. I have an insurance agent who has been my primary point of contact with the insurance market. Because I am in Pennsylvania, a state that does not have its own exchange, I am forced to use the site. However, the local market is dominated by three large private insurers — Independence Blue Cross, Aetna, United Healthcare — that all have their own websites where business owners can shop directly. With that in mind, I offer seven hard-earned conclusions I have reached about the new world of small-business health insurance (Paul Downs, 11/25). 

The Wall Street Journal: The Next ObamaCare Mirage
In his 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama promised that his health-care reform plan would save a typical family $2,500 in annual premiums by the end of his first term. ... Those cost savings haven't materialized. ... To argue that the Affordable Care Act has been and will be a key driver of slower health-care spending is irreconcilable with the most basic facts about such spending over the last decade, as well as with the judgment of the executive branch's own team of actuaries responsible for health-care accounting and future projection (Thomas Miller and Abby McCloskey, 11/25).

The Wall Street Journal: The Great Destroyer
Most interestingly, the administration and congressional Democrats seem genuinely surprised that their prized legislation, which was to be the crown jewel of the president's legacy and the culmination of decades of liberal ambition, simply doesn't work. Did these folks ever study history, economics or sociology? If they had, they would have known there was little chance of success for their attempt to snatch one-sixth of our economy and thrust it under a complex set of bureaucratic regulations, market disincentives, higher costs and new taxes (Pete du Pont, 11/25).

Boston Globe: The Boston Globe: Obamacare Fail Isn’t The Site – It’s The Law
In early October, as things went sour, the White House tried to pass it all off as a simple computer glitch. Two months on, it is hard to overstate the magnitude of the failure. Three years and $600 million were spent creating a nonfunctional system that was never fully tested and has deep security flaws. ... But a working website was never the real problem; it’s the law itself — which, tragically, performs as designed. ... Simple economics tells us that nearly everyone dropped by their current insurer will see rate increases; if the law demands new features, those features will cost money (John E. Sununu, 11/25).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Is No Starship Enterprise
Back when I used to do technology consulting for banks and other financial firms, I found myself in the middle of a project with many of the characteristics that made the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act so difficult: hard deadlines fixed by lease expirations and some regulatory requirements, mission creep, and project requirements set by distant, hard-to-reach figures. ... We like to think that being “smart and competent” makes you less likely to make mistakes. But when you’re out of your element, it may merely enable you to make more -- and larger -- mistakes (Megan McArdle, 9/25).

Los Angeles Times: The Obamacare Success Stories You Haven't Been Hearing About
Last summer Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina, a married gay couple in San Diego County, got kicked off their long-term Kaiser health plan, for which they'd been paying more than $1,300 a month. ... But they were lucky, thanks to Obamacare. Through Covered California, the state's individual insurance marketplace, they've found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both for a total premium of $142 a month, after a government subsidy based on their income (Michael Hiltzik, 11/25).

The Sacramento Bee: California Health Insurance Decision Has Political Fallout
Obama sought to protect himself and his party from fallout during next year’s elections by delaying some enrollment deadlines and calling on state insurance regulators to allow old policies to remain temporarily in force or be reissued. ... Covered California, the state’s new health care exchange, refused last week to go along with the plea, forcing upwards of a million Californians facing cancellation to quickly buy new, often more costly coverage. California’s vulnerable congressional Democrats cringed, because it gives their challengers heavy ammunition (Dan Walters, 11/26).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: An Economic Argument For Medicaid Transformation
The most important issue facing the 2014 Missouri Legislature is whether to expand state health care coverage to working people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. I say “working people” because the vast majority of the 226,525 uninsured Missourians who fall between 19 percent of the federal poverty level — the current limit for Medicaid coverage in Missouri — and 138 percent are employed at low wage jobs. ...  I have the privilege of serving on the House Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation. One of the things we have learned is that if one objectively evaluates all the costs and benefits of expansion, the inescapable conclusion is that expansion actually saves money in the general revenue budget (State Rep. Chris Kelly, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: The FDA And Thee
23andMe—named after the number of chromosome pairs in human DNA—does not make diagnoses. The company helps patients and curiosity-seekers to understand their own biology. Patients can also offer their code for research projects—nine of 10 do—to contribute to discoveries about the relationships between genetics and health that could transform traditional medicine. ... The FDA can't abide such unsupervised innovation. The agency is declaring 23andMe's service an "adulterated" product under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, in one more case of 20th-century law undermining medical progress in the 21st (11/25).


Los Angeles Times: Honest, FDA Guys, My Wife Made Me Take That 23andMe Test
Seems the FDA is concerned that some folks might actually, you know, believe the results. And then they might do something stupid, like perhaps have their breasts removed because their test showed they’re at risk for breast cancer. ... he FDA says no more test kits, but does that mean no more test results? Am I grandfathered in? Do I want to be grandfathered in? Will I ever be a grandfather? So many questions, so little time (at least, that’s what I figured my test was going to show: that I had a rare and fatal genetic disorder. ...) In the end, I’m going to do what I do really well: nothing (Paul Whitefield, 11/25).

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