KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: McConnell, Wasserman Schultz, Barasso On 4th Anniversary

CNN: Blindsided By The Realities Of Obamacare
[T]he promises that were made to sell Obamacare — that it wouldn't disrupt people's previous health care arrangements and that premiums would go down — are now being exposed for the cheap and deceptive sales pitch they were. It may be tempting for some to brush all this aside as standard politics. But it's hard to think of anything even comparable to the scope of the deception involved in selling this law (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn., 3/23).

USA Today: Obamacare Reflects America's Values 
A few years ago, I used to enter my local drug store and stand behind seniors as they left prescriptions behind because they couldn't afford all the medications they needed. I used to talk to cancer survivors like myself whose daunting diagnosis was compounded by the financial stress of having to choose between essential treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Those days are finally over. Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It ushered in significant change. More than 5 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the state and federal marketplaces alone (Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., 3/23).

Fox News: On ObamaCare's Fourth Anniversary Let's Take Action, Skip Celebration
Republicans are taking steps now that include helping patients with pre-existing conditions, allowing small businesses to pool resources in order to buy health insurance for their employees, expanding health savings accounts, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, and increasing transparency about the costs of medical care. In contrast to ObamaCare, all of our proposals are focused on giving Americans the flexibility and freedom to make their own health care choices. After watching ObamaCare fail for four years, we know that this law is never going to work well for a majority of Americans (Sen. John Barrasso, R - Wyo., 3/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Progress, With Caveats 
Despite the calamitous rollout of the federal exchanges and persistent headwinds in public opinion, the law is producing real, measurable, positive progress across the health-care system. ... At least 12 million Americans have now received coverage directly through a provision of the law. ... more than five million Americans have selected a private insurance plan on an exchange, a figure robust enough to ensure the exchanges will be a stable way for Americans to get health coverage for a long time to come. ... Conservative fear-mongering and predictions of calamity notwithstanding, the Affordable Care Act is moving American health care in the right direction (Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 3/21).

The Wall Street Journal: A Costly Failed Experiment
Most of those who were uninsured before the law was passed will remain uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Democrats also fixated on another goal: protection for people with pre-existing conditions. One of the first things the new law did was create federal risk pools so that people who had been denied coverage for health reasons could purchase insurance for the same premium a healthy person would pay. Over the next three years, about 107,000 people took advantage of that opportunity. Think about that. One of the main reasons given for interfering with the health care of 300 million people was to solve a problem that affected a tiny sliver of the population (John C. Goodman, 3/21).

Los Angeles Times: As Obamacare Turns Four, HHS Toots The Wrong Horn
Trying to put the best possible spin on the anniversary, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered "four big reasons to celebrate" in a blog post Friday. Unfortunately, at least three of those reasons are, if not bogus, at least misleading. And I say this as someone who thinks the Affordable Care Act is a good thing (albeit a work in progress) (Jon Healey, 3/23).

Los Angeles Times: Where Are The Positive Stories About Obamacare?
[Rita] Rizzo, 60, owns a management consulting firm for nonprofit groups and government offices in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Lou Vincent, 64. Vincent, who suffers from Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, has gone without health insurance for 10 years. "We got 30 denial letters," Rizzo told me ... In December, Rizzo signed up for Obamacare. She now has a policy that covers her and Vincent together ... [But] the airwaves and news columns have been filled to overflowing with horrific tales from consumers blaming Obamacare for huge premium increases, lost access to doctors and technical frustrations — many of these concerns false or the product of misunderstanding or unfamiliarity with the law (Michael Hiltzik, 3/23).

The New York Times: Health Care Caricature
Republican leaders are making preposterous assertions that President Obama has abandoned a centerpiece of his health care reforms — the requirement that most people obtain comprehensive insurance or pay a penalty. In a cartoonish misrepresentation of how so-called hardship exemptions will be determined, the leaders, egged on by their allies in the conservative media, contend that recent steps by the administration undermine the individual mandate by giving virtually everyone who wants one a free pass to escape the penalty. These steps are modest midcourse corrections to deal with individual problems in the rollout of a large and complex program (3/21).

The Washington Post: The Next Health-Care Debate
Everyone who believes that reducing economic insecurity requires a strong government role in guaranteeing health insurance to all Americans should take advantage of this opportunity. This obligation falls on President Obama, but it also encompasses Democratic members of Congress who voted for the law but now fret over the political consequences of a full-hearted embrace of the system they created. They can’t just duck. ... Say what you will about the Koch brothers: They fully understand the long-term importance of the health-care battle. Supporters of indispensable government programs must be as shrewd and as committed as they are (E.J. Dionne Jr., 3/23).

The Washington Post: McAuliffe’s New PAC Distracts Attention From Where It Belongs — On Medicaid
It's hard to think of a more tone-deaf political move lately than Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s unveiling of his Common Good Virginia PAC, which peddles dinners and sit downs with Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, his wife and unnamed "policy experts" for fat cats with a policy agenda for fees reaching $100,000. ... And why now? Mr. McAuliffe is in a no-holds-barred fight with Republicans over whether to embrace Medicaid expansion, which would unlock billions in federal dollars that Virginia badly needs. Mr. McAuliffe has called a special session starting Monday on the contentious issue. This can only weaken his own hand and blur the focus on his top policy priority (3/21).

The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog: Was Delaying The Employer Mandate Legal? Did The IRS Even Check?
The legal justification for the employer mandate delay offered by the Treasury Department has been exceedingly weak. Perhaps this is because the Treasury Department never considered whether it had legal authority to delay the employer mandate until after it made the decision to delay it. ... This has led some to speculate that the order for the delay came from the White House, where political considerations would have trumped legal constraints. ... This is eminently plausible given some of the White House’s other announcements seeking to alter PPACA implementation in unauthorized ways (Jonathan H. Adler, 3/22). 

The Chicago Sun-Times: Unemployment Insurance Saved Me
Twelve years ago I was free-lance graphic designer living in downtown Chicago and taking advantage of my two bachelor’s degrees, leading an enjoyable life and earning enough to go on vacation every so often. Then I was diagnosed with AIDS and my life changed forever. ... I have been underemployed or unemployed ever since, never making more than $25,000 a year because my health care under the Ryan White Act limits the amount I can make (Will Wilson, 3/23).

On other health issues -

Los Angeles Times: Why NRA Opposition Shouldn't Doom Obama's Surgeon General Nominee 
The National Rifle Assn. has a problem with Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, but it has nothing to do with Murthy's medical expertise. It's that Murthy thinks gun control is smart public health policy. Unfortunately, too many members of the Senate share the gun lobby's skewed view of the world, much to the detriment of the country and, it seems, to Murthy's chances of being confirmed (3/23).

The Washington Post: Guns Are A Health-Care Issue
[He] once dared to claim that “guns are a health care issue,” a fact that any doctor with experience in the emergency room knows well. Mr. Murthy, the NRA fumed, would remove the ban on physicians asking patients whether they keep guns in the home and lift restrictions on gun death research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of those ideas sound pretty modest to us. Even if they weren’t, they don’t provide any pretext to oppose Mr. Murthy’s confirmation, since he would not be in a position to set firearms policy as surgeon general. The fact that he’s right just makes the insult worse. (3/22). 

The New York Times: Making Vaccination Mandatory For All Children
An outbreak of measles in Manhattan showed that even doctors had overlooked the disease as childhood vaccination became widespread. But over the last decade more people have objected to immunization. Along with the religious exemptions that almost all states allow, 19 states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons. But are broader outbreaks like those in Britain evidence that parents should no longer be allowed to get any exemption from having their children immunized? (3/23).

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