KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Nothing ‘Magical’ About 6 Million Enrollees; The High Cost Of Hep C Medicine

Bloomberg: Surge In Obamacare Enrollments Means Success. Or Failure.
Big news this afternoon on the Affordable Care Act: The ACA exchange signups have reached the 6 million mark. With a few more days to go before the open sign-up period closes (well, sort of) it looks like the original 7 million estimate -- which the Congressional Budget Office had revised downward after the botched October roll-out of the federal exchange -- is going to be pretty close to the mark. There’s nothing at all magical about this number. Reaching it doesn't mean that Obamacare "works." Surpassing the goal might have some effect on the federal budget (more signups, for example, presumably mean higher subsidy costs), but there's no obvious correlation between the signup total and anything else (Jonathan Bernstein, 3/27).

The Washington Post: In Maryland, Official Incompetence Has Made Signing Up For Health Coverage Too Much Work
Because Maryland's $170 million health-care exchange Web site continues to be buggier than August in Florida, [Tyrone] Keels decided to drive to the Montgomery County Health and Human Services Center in Silver Spring and sign up the old-fashioned way, before Monday's deadline (Petula Dvorak, 3/27). 

The Wall Street Journal: Ezekiel’s Prophecy
Ezekiel Emanuel, Rahm's elder brother, is a physician who helped design ObamaCare and has been one of its most intense champions. So you may be surprised to learn that in his new book, "Reinventing American Health Care," he predicts that tens of millions more Americans will lose their medical plans in the coming decade (James Taranto, 3/27). 

ABC News: Let's Restore Hourly Wages Cut by Obamacare
On Jan. 31, a fry cook asked President Obama why his hours were being cut to part-time because of Obamacare, and the president responded by saying he was pushing to raise the minimum wage. This moment between the fry cook and the president reveals the entire reasoning of the Democratic Party's push to raise the minimum wage. Rather than restore wages and hours lost by working middle-class Americans due to Obamacare, Democrats are hiding these losses behind a false debate about the minimum wage (House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., 3/27).

The New York Times' Economix: The Dollar Value Of An Extra Year Of Life
A recent article on Kaiser Health News reported on a new drug for the treatment of hepatitis C for which the manufacturer charges $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. Chronic hepatitis C is a leading cause of serious liver disease, including cancer (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 3/28). 

The Washington Post's The Plum Line: Congress Demonstrates Yet Again Why Controlling Health-Care Costs Is So Hard
We’re talking about the Medicare "doc fix," a particularly odd piece of legislation Congress is required to pass again and again. This time around, it required a bunch of last-minute maneuvering in the House, with the bill passing on a voice vote so no one would have to be accountable for voting for it, or voting against it, depending on which of your opponent's attacks you're worried about on a given day. ... So what does this tell us about Congress, and about health care? One lesson is that when the interests of a powerful group like doctors are at stake, even a gridlocked Congress can hop to and accomplish something. But more importantly, it's a reminder of why it's so difficult for government to control health-care costs (Paul Waldman, 3/27). 

Bloomberg: Medicare Advantage Helps Insurers, Not Seniors
Earlier this year, an ad campaign in Washington showed an old man with binoculars, under the words "Seniors are watching." The ad warned Congress against cutting funding for Medicare Advantage, which pays private insurers to provide health benefits to more than a quarter of all Medicare enrollees. The campaign, funded by America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's leading trade association, argues that rate cuts "mean higher costs, lost benefits and lost provider choices for seniors." That seems pretty compelling. A newly released paper finds that it's also mostly bogus (Christopher Flavelle, 3/27).

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