KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘Bailout’ Isn’t The Right Target For GOP; Republican Senators’ Alternative ‘Looks Inferior;’ Uninsured Are Not Rushing To Health Market

Los Angeles Times: Another Misguided GOP Attack On Obamacare
Ever since the housing market collapse, nothing stokes the flames of public outrage quite like the phrase "government bailout." It's become the condemnation of choice for both parties when faced with a policy they don't like. Lately, conservatives have been arguing that an obscure provision of the 2010 health care law would provide a taxpayer bailout to insurance companies that don't charge high enough premiums. Funny, but they didn't have a problem with that concept when it was used to help launch Medicare's prescription drug program under (Republican) President George W. Bush. Maybe that's because it isn't really a bailout (1/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurer 'Bailouts' Are The Wrong Target
Republicans do not improve their reputation with their recent brainstorm to focus their opposition on Obamacare subsidies to insurance to cover the uninsured. Of the 50 million Americans who lack insurance partly because of government actions that have rendered insurance an unaffordable luxury, some by now have contracted pre-existing conditions that make them uninsurable. Even under an ideal GOP reform, handouts were always going to be needed to bring these people into the system. ... Republicans might see their heaven-sent opportunity lies elsewhere: in reforming ObamaCare's excessive coverage mandates that drive up the cost of individual policies (Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., 1/31).

The New York Times: What G.O.P.-Style Reform Looks Like
Three Republican senators -- Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina -- have issued an alternative to the health care reforms that they deride as Obamacare. Conservative analysts have hailed their proposals as "an important milestone in the health care debate" and a "reform that has enormous promise." But the plan, which is hard to parse because it has not been put into precise legislative language, looks inferior in most respects to the existing law (2/1).

The Wall Street Journal: How Obamacare Misreads America
People learn from their mistakes. Or they can -- and should. Which is the reason we should try to learn from the revelations of mistakes about health care and health insurance since the passage of Obamacare. The evidence is not all in. But it seems that Americans are not behaving as Obamacare's architects -- and many critics -- expected. Start with the assumption that just about everyone wants health insurance. You can easily find polls that support this proposition. Obamacare architects assumed that if you offered health insurance with subsidies for those with relatively modest incomes, those currently uninsured would flock to apply. So far that seems not to have happened. A McKinsey & Co. survey of those thought to be eligible for Obamacare health care exchanges found that only 11 percent of those who bought new coverage between November 2013 and January 2014 were previously uninsured (Michael Barone, 2/2). 

The New York Times: Fewer Benefits For Target's Part-Timers
Target has announced that it will no longer provide health insurance for part-time workers but will send them instead to the new health care exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. The change could help low-income workers who will now have access to subsidized coverage. It might distress middle-income workers ineligible for a big subsidy, and it is likely to be bad news for taxpayers, who will foot the bill for the coverage Target had provided. But the biggest unanswered question is this: Will Target raise wages to make up for the loss of the company contribution? As a matter of fairness, it should (1/31).

Los Angeles Times: Hey 'Bette,' You Can Buy Insurance Outside An Obamacare Exchange
The tale of "Bette," the beleaguered health insurance consumer highlighted in the (official) GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, has drawn a lot of blowback from liberal pundits in recent days. But one point left out is how Bette's tale illustrates a common misunderstanding about the law, one that is unnecessarily limiting consumers' options. ... because she opposes the law, she wouldn't even look at the exchange's website, deciding instead not to carry coverage this year. ... [T]here other sources available for those who loathe Obamacare so much that they won't patronize the new state insurance exchanges. Individual policies are still available directly from insurers or through comparison-shopping sites such as or (Jon Healey, 1/31).

The New York Times: Delusions Of Failure
The Republican response to the State of the Union was delivered by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican representative from Washington -- and it was remarkable for its lack of content. A bit of uplifting personal biography, a check list of good things her party wants to happen with no hint of how it plans to make them happen. The closest she came to substance was when she described a constituent, "Bette in Spokane," who supposedly faced a $700-a-month premium hike after her policy was canceled. "This law is not working," intoned Ms. McMorris Rodgers. And right there we see a perfect illustration of just how Republicans are trying to deceive voters -- and are, in the process, deceiving themselves (Paul Krugman, 2/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Tom Coburn: The Doctor Who Is Sick of Washington
Tom Coburn stood for Congress in 1994 as a political tenderfoot for two main reasons: As an obstetrician he thought government was impinging too much on his medical practice, and the nine-term House Democrat who held his Oklahoma district's seat favored the Clinton national health plan then under consideration. Another reason Dr. Coburn entered the race, he says, was that "the cowardice of career politicians governing to win the next election above all else made me sick." Twenty years later, he finds himself amid another health care scrimmage -- and in a similar political climate (Joseph Rago, 1/31).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Medicaid Expansion Means Quality Health Care For More Virginians
I am dedicated to finding common ground with Virginia's General Assembly to bring the tax dollars that Virginians are sending to Washington back to Virginia. This will allow us to help more than 400,000 additional Virginians access quality health care. This is the most important decision we face in this legislative session, and I am optimistic that we can sit down together and accept this deal in a way that works best for the taxpayers whom we serve. If we find common ground, we will help those 400,000 Virginians gain access to health insurance that is an essential underpinning of economic success (Gov. Terry McAuliffe, 2/2).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Howell And Cox: Medicaid Expansion: Promises On Future Costs Don't Ring True
The biggest debate of the 2014 General Assembly session is undoubtedly the fate of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Virginia. We have been very clear that we oppose Medicaid expansion for several reasons. First, Obamacare is a disaster. The website barely works, premiums have skyrocketed and perfectly good health care plans have been canceled. Virginia cannot irresponsibly entangle itself in Washington's health care mess (Dels. William J. Howell and Kirk Cox, 2/2).

Roanoke Times: Our View: Don't Dither On Health
Medicaid is an enormous program, one that has grown to meet new demands of an aging population and challenges related to serving intellectually disabled individuals. Because of its size and scope, it has been the subject of multiple quality and efficiency improvements over many years. That scrutiny should never cease. For that reason, no one is objecting to House leaders' request for yet another audit of the agency that oversees Medicaid. But Republican Sens. Emmett Hanger of Augusta County and Walter Stosch of Henrico County are wise to warn that it should not be an excuse for delaying a decision on whether to expand the insurance program or embrace a business-oriented alternative (2/2).

Los Angeles Times: Henry Waxman, The 'Tougher Than A Boiled Owl' Congressman
He said he's proud of his role in bringing the Affordable Care Act into existence, despite the program's chaotic rollout. If anything, he said, the law doesn't go far enough. "Maybe it would be helpful to have a public option, a Medicare kind of option," he said, reviving a proposal he made in the early stages of the Obamacare debate (Doyle McManus, 2/2).

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