KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Anthem Stuns Health Law Supporters In Calif.; Administration May Realize Portions Of Overhaul Are ‘Unworkable;’ Judd Gregg Finds Fault With Employer Mandate Delay

Los Angeles Times: It's Anthem Blue Cross' Turn To Turn On Obamacare
Let's get this out of the way right up front: I feel like a guy who's continually making excuses for a friend who repeatedly messes up. For supporters (such as myself) of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, Friday presented another occasion to make excuses. This time it was the stunning news that Anthem Blue Cross will not offer group plans to small employers through a new, subsidized marketplace being set up by Covered California -- at least not in the exchange's first year (Jon Healey, 7/19). 

The Wall Street Journal: A CEO's-Eye View Of ObamaCare
Why did the Obama administration earlier this month delay enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate until 2015? The administration claims that it needed more time to get the mandate right. Some have suggested that politics—the concern that negative effects of the mandate might kick in before midterm elections in 2014—may have influenced the decision. My own hope is that the administration acted because it is beginning to understand that portions of the ACA are unworkable despite its drafters' good intentions (Andrew Puzder, 7/21).

The Hill: Opinion: Method In Mandate Madness
Independent of the question of the legal defensibility of this action, the essential effect of splitting the healthcare initiative [by delaying the employer mandate] will, far from improving the system, actually lead that system to sputter toward implosion. Its parts will simply fail to mesh and fail to function. Of course, the truly cynical might say that this was the game plan all along. First, get a large number of people hooked on a new entitlement — the subsidized, exchange-sponsored insurance. ... The result will be exchanges that are not sustainable but full of people getting a new government benefit. This will require the federal government to step in and save the rights of these folks to their new entitlement. ... The goal has always been a government-run system (Judd Gregg, 7/22).

Forbes: As Detroit Goes Bankrupt, Michigan's Senate Considers Adding Billions of Unfunded Liabilities to Its Medicaid Program
Last week, the City of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, making it the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. It’s a remarkable story, especially for natives of the state, like me, who have watched Detroit slowly decline for decades. But it’s even more remarkable when you consider the fact that the Michigan state legislature is on the verge of adding billions in unfunded liabilities to the state’s Medicaid program, precisely at the time when Michigan’s politicians should be most acutely aware of the dangers of fiscal irresponsibility (Avik Roy, 7/22).

Missoulian: Delay On Health Care Mandate Buys Businesses Time
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is new, it's complicated and it's confusing. That means those who will be affected by it -- and that's nearly everyone -- need time to prepare for the impending changes. That's why "Obamacare," as it's now almost universally called, was designed to launch its most significant provisions in stages, ending with full implementation by 2020. However, by now it's become clear that more time and educational outreach are needed before the law can move forward smoothly. Fortunately, Montana got a little of both this month (7/21).

USA Today: Our Disabled Deserve Access Abroad
Too many countries haven't done what the United States did 23 years ago this week when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. In too many countries, what we take for granted hasn't been granted at all. We need to change that — and we can. But it requires American leadership in the world so that our wounded warriors and Americans with disabilities can travel, serve, study and work anywhere in the world with the same dignity and respect they enjoy here at home (Secretary of State John Kerry, 7/21). 

USA Today: Can Medicare Reach Its 65th Birthday
Every day, 10,000 people in the U.S. celebrate their 65th birthday, making each one of these seniors eligible for Medicare. The very program that gives America's seniors access to affordable health care will turn a youngish 48 on July 30, but in a biting irony, it could go bankrupt before reaching its 65th birthday (Doug Holtz-Eakin and Ken Thorpe, 7/20). 

The Boston Globe: Medicare 'Cost-Savings' Rules Pushing Costs Onto Patients
How could a 99-year-old badly injured woman on an inpatient unit be an "outpatient?" And why would Mass. General, one of our most distinguished community resources, do such a thing? While the big players spend a small fortune to game the system, patients remain in the dark. The culprit, it turns out, is Medicare cost containment. In order to cut costs — actually shift them, partly to hospitals and partly to patients — Medicare applies extreme financial pressure on hospitals to book admissions as outpatients whenever possible. This shifts them from Medicare Part A (the hospital program) to Medicare Part B, which is designed to cover only doctor bills. The hospital gets paid a lot less and the patient gets stuck for a lot more (Robert Kuttner, 7/18).

Sacramento Bee: Cuts To Public Health Come Back To Hurt County
Anyone who wants to understand the alarming rise in sexually transmitted disease in Sacramento County need only look at the numbers. Five years ago, Sacramento County had half a dozen public health clinics to serve the poor. Today, only one still operates. Five years ago, Sacramento had 10 communicable disease investigators who tracked STD cases and contacted sex partners of infected patients to make sure they got treatment. As The Bee's Cynthia Craft reported Friday, the county today has only one full-time investigator and another who works half time. By necessity, the shrunken staff limits its investigations to pregnant women with untreated chlamydia (7/20).

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