KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: ‘False Hysteria’ Over Health Law’s Part-Time Criteria; Marketplaces ‘Flunk’ Initial Test; Ben Carson’s Surprising Assessment

The New York Times: Economix: The Hurdles To Success For The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has had a difficult launching, but the more serious challenges for the law relate not to glitch-filled Web sites but rather to its possible long-term effects on the United States economy. The law is not likely to last if it imposes a severe drag on growth and job creation, or involves large costs obscured by the legislative gimmicks used to shape the scoring of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office. Indeed, Casey B. Mulligan has discussed the negative effects of the legislation on the American labor market in a series of posts on Economix, while the policy expert Charles Blahous explains in detail why the "fiscally reckless" legislation will aggravate the already difficult federal and state fiscal situations (Philip Swagel, 10/14). 

The Wall Street Journal: The False Hysteria Over 'Part-Time Nation'
Conservative politicians, business owners and even union leaders claim that the health law is forcing employers to shift many of their workers to part-time status. It has become a central thrust of current opposition to the law. And unlike complaints about "death panels" or "socialized medicine," this worry is grounded in actual provisions of the law, and it would be a serious concern for anyone who cares about working Americans. There is only one problem: All the evidence indicates that it is not true (Ezekiel Emanuel and Andrew Steinmetz, 10/13).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Needs A Drop Dead Rate
Exactly how bad are things on the federal health-care exchanges? The working assumption among most journalists, including me, is that they would be fixed in a few weeks -- that is, by the end of this week. …Insurers began warning in 2012 that they were worried about these systems making their delivery dates, a concern that the Government Accountability Office echoed in June. Now we know why: The systems weren't on track to meet their delivery dates (Megan McArdle, 10/14).

Los Angeles Times: Government Shutdown: Obamacare Dodges A Bullet
The bullet, of course, is the disastrous rollout of the government's sign-up website for federal health insurance exchanges, which has prevented countless Americans from signing up for health coverage. The dodge was graciously provided by the House Republican caucus, which chose to distract the public's attention with its quixotic effort to "defund" the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government, thus placing the workaday financial pain facing millions of America's at the top of the news cycle. Thanks, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas! (Michael Hiltzik, 10/14).

ProPublica: How The Feds Could Fix Their Glitchy Health Care Exchange
There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about how the glitchy rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace may not mean much IF the developers of are able to turn it around in the next month.  To prove the point, health policy experts point to the 2006 start of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for seniors and the disabled, which was also bumpy (Charles Ornstein, 10/11).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Despite Initial Problems, Obamacare Is Still A Step Forward
Under a plan by Gov. Scott Walker, those 92,000 people will lose their state BadgerCare Plus coverage on Jan. 1 and be pushed on to the new federal health insurance exchange. The exchange is aimed at giving people a way to find affordable insurance through the private sector. Subsidies are available for people who meet income guidelines. The problem is they are supposed to use the federal government's website to sign up, and that hasn't worked. While the feds say they're working to fix the problems, the fear is that some of those losing BadgerCare coverage won't line up new insurance in time. That would be a real shame, because the health exchanges are the only way right now that some of those people will be able to afford insurance (10/14).

The Boston Globe: Obamacare Flunks First Test
Anyone who thinks this disaster derives from a lack of time or money is on another planet. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama more than three years ago. This timeframe only underscores the ineptitude of the bureaucrats now entrusted with managing the largest and most intrusive federal program in history. As for cash, it appears that HHS spent over $600 million for the online system -- more than it took to get Facebook started. Aside from the government-wide sequester, Republicans have been singularly unsuccessful in starving Obamacare of funds for implementation. No, this is a disaster of Obama’s own making, and it’s due to what the outgoing Social Security administrator calls “plain old incompetence and arrogance” (John E. Sununu, 10/14). 

Raleigh News & Observer: NC's Failure To Expand Medicaid Takes Its Toll
But while they were on a roll in the last session, bashing public school teachers, cutting unemployment for jobless North Carolinians and cutting education in general along with other worthwhile programs, GOP lawmakers and [Gov.] McCrory said no to more Medicaid participants. The problem, they said, was that the federal government would probably go back on its promise to pick up the cost. There was no basis for that suspicion. The federal government has paid its share of Medicaid for decades (10/14).

Toledo Blade: Expand Ohio Medicaid
When the Republican-controlled General Assembly isn’t making life harder for most Ohioans, it isn’t doing much of anything else. GOP Gov. John Kasich is right to work around lawmakers of his own party who have rejected his sensible proposal to expand the state Medicaid program of health insurance for working-poor Ohioans and their families (10/14).

WBUR: Lingering Health Law Questions Jon Stewart Wants To Know
Last week Jon Stewart hosted Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on The Daily Show. During the interview, he kept returning to the same question: Why was the piece of the Affordable Care Act that requires businesses to provide health insurance delayed for one year, but the piece requiring individuals to obtain health insurance (the "individual mandate") was not delayed? ... The employer mandate was delayed not for the purpose of giving businesses a reprieve from paying for insurance, but to give them a reprieve from the burden of reporting to the I.R.S. Not only is extensive reporting required, the IRS still had not released regulations for the reporting (Georgia Feuer, 10/15).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dr. Ben Carson Links Obamacare To Slavery
Dr. Ben Carson has spoken on many conservative platforms and he has criticized the Affordable Care Act in the past but on Friday, he went too far by comparing Obamacare to slavery -- and he should be called out for it. Carson is a smart man, but whenever people use stretches like this to make a point, I wonder if they really know their history. Does he know about the lynchings? Jim Crow laws? How blacks were denied opportunities to read and how they were forced to do manual labor for free? Does he know how black men were stripped of their manhood in front of their families and how their children were sold to the highest bidder? No Carson, Obamacare is not any of these things (James Causey, 10/14).

In other topics --

Los Angeles Times: Discovering The Epidemic Of Overtreatment
Similar populations living in different regions of the United States get exposed to wildly different amounts of medical care. If that sounds like an old story, it is. It's now four decades old. But it is an important story to reflect on as we consider the path forward for our medical care system (Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, 10/15).

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