KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: House GOP Moves Away From Health Law Repeal Demands; Defeating Polio; Health Website Insults Hispanics

The New York Times: Finally, Congress Does Its Job
Assuming hard-right members of the House don’t manage to block it, a $1 trillion appropriations bill is about to be approved by both chambers for the rest of the 2014 fiscal year, through the end of September. ... Republican moderates, politically burned by the government shutdown last fall, joined Democrats in fending off almost all of the Tea Party’s demands. Right-wing Republicans failed to prevent any money from being spent on implementing the health care law, or enforcing power-plant regulations, or reforming financial practices under the Dodd-Frank law (1/14). 

The New York Times: Eradicating Polio Everywhere
It has been three years since the last new case of polio was reported in India. The country can now be declared polio-free. India’s victory is an important milestone in the global effort to eliminate polio. In 2013, just 250 people were paralyzed by polio. But the viral disease remains a threat. The World Health Organization reported 359 new polio cases as of Dec. 10, 2013, up from 213 in December 2012. And the number of countries where polio is present rose to eight from four between December 2012 and December 2013, with polio spreading out of Nigeria into the Horn of Africa and from Pakistan into the Middle East. Violent conflict and distrust of vaccination programs are to blame (1/14). 

The Washington Post's The Plum Line: As Republicans Kill UI, A Battle Looms Over Safety Net
This is a reminder that the safety net is going to be front and center in many races this fall, even in red states. To read much of the commentary, you’d think Dems have two choices: either sink under the weight of Obamacare, or run away from it. As Charlie Cook put it, Dems are talking about inequality to "shift the focus" from Obamacare, because it has become a "sore subject." That’s true in some ways, but the nuances of what Dems are up to are worth appreciating (Greg Sargent, 1/14). 

The Wall Street Journal: Speechless In Massachusetts
A hallmark of the John Roberts Supreme Court has been its support for the First Amendment, and the Justices have another chance to advance free speech on Wednesday when they hear a case challenging one of their historic mistakes. In McCullen v. Coakley, 76-year-old Eleanor McCullen wants to stand outside clinics to change the mind of women who may want an abortion. She is challenging a 2007 Massachusetts law that says only patients and clinic employees can stand within a 35-foot radius of the entrance of a "reproductive health facility." Violators can be fined up to $500 for a first offense, and repeat offenders punished with fines up to $5,000 and two and a half years in jail (1/14). 

The Sacramento Bee: Ask Emily: Obamacare's Other Story: Medi-Cal Has Its Own Glitches
State officials have been crowing that more than 400,000 Californians have enrolled in plans through the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California. However, another important statistic is getting lost in the exchange hubbub, and it has to do with Medi-Cal, the state's publicly funded Medicaid program that insures low-income residents. Medi-Cal is huge. ... like the folks who have wrestled with the Covered California website or waited on hold for hours without getting an answer to their question, some Medi-Cal applicants say they are hitting roadblocks that are preventing them from obtaining coverage (Emily Bazar, 1/15).

USA Today: Obamacare Insults Hispanics
Hispanic Americans have a rocky relationship with the Affordable Care Act. After years of planning, the Spanish-language version of opened two months late and was only officially launched in January. But that was the least of the website's problems. The finished product turned out to be more punchline than health care portal. The glitchy "Spanglish" site is not only a technical disaster; it's also an embarrassment to the Spanish-language and a sign of disrespect to the Hispanic-American community, for whom much is at stake in the health care debate (Daniel Garza, 1/14). 

Journal of the American Medical Association: Implications Of New Insurance Coverage For Access To Care, Cost-Sharing, And Reimbursement
Whether the goal of the ACA in providing access to care for millions of uninsured US citizens is realized depends largely on the current primary care system to treat newly insured patients. The reimbursement and regulatory structure of the US health care delivery system makes decisions about accepting new patients particularly complicated for physicians, other clinicians, and practices. ... How, how much, and how long clinicians and practices will be paid for their services under Medicaid and the exchanges will be important considerations. It may well be that the ACA’s temporary reimbursement increases coupled with high cost-sharing insurance products and payments tied to quality measurement are simply not an attractive enough business proposition (A. Everette James III, Dr. Walid F. Gellad and Dr. Brian A. Primack, 1/14).

The Fiscal Times: Opening Up the Black Box Of U.S. Health Care Prices
What if you could compare hospital and doctor's fees the way you could shop for something online? For those expenses you pay out of pocket, it would make a huge difference. In theory, providers would compete to offer the highest-quality service at the lowest cost and would likely be "star" rated by consumers the way they are on hundreds of online sites. That begs a critical question: Will the 2.2 million Americans who signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act – including some 1.8 million added just last month – be more demanding consumers? (John F. Wasik, 1/15).

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