KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law Problems Plague Calif., Too; Obamacare Redistribution Is From Lucky To Unlucky; FDA Crackdown On Genetic Testing

The Wall Street Journal: Californians Souring On ObamaCare
While politicians in Washington are hailing California's exchange as proof of the law's success, voters in California don't seem to agree—and it's not hard to understand why. Policies for about 900,000 Californians are being cancelled because they don't meet the law's benefit mandates. And about two-thirds of these individuals won't be eligible for subsidies on the exchange and will likely see their premiums rise. And while the California exchange may be less glitch-prone than the one set up by the feds, it's been nothing short of an embarrassment for a state that considers itself the tech capital of the world (Allysia Finley, 12/9).

The San Francisco Chronicle: Obamacare Prescription: Fair Share Of Less Care
Lately I've been hearing from readers who are among the million Californians who had private health care plans, received cancellation notices and now have to buy new coverage. Some figured that if they signed up with their old providers -- Blue Shield or Anthem -- they'd have access to the same doctors and hospitals. Not quite (Debra J. Saunders, 12/9).

The New Republic: Yes, Obamacare Is Redistribution—But Republicans Are Wrong About Who Pays
Republicans aren't wrong when they say Obamacare amounts to redistribution. But they seem to have a distorted view of how that redistribution works. ... one obvious takeaway is that the majority of funding in the law is money paid by—or given up by—either the wealthy or parts of the health care industry. It's higher taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year, or new fees for the device industry, or cuts for health insurers serving Medicare patients. ... But one thing to remember is that, fundamentally, health care reform has always been about a vulnerability that the poor and the middle class share. In the old days, before Obamacare, just about anybody could end up without health insurance, which meant just about anybody could end up ruined because of medical bills. The simplest way to describe Obamacare is as a transfer from the lucky to the unlucky. And when it comes to health, you don't have to be poor to be unlucky (Jonathan Cohn, 12/10).

Reuters: Private Shame, Public Blame
Obamacare's troubled birth is cited as irrefutable evidence that the public sector is particularly ill-fitted to deal with something as important as healthcare. Had the process been left to the private sector, they argue, the website would have worked and Americans been better served. But hold on. Obamacare may be a government-run enterprise, but the profound errors in building the site were overwhelmingly due to the incompetence of the private sector (Nicholas Wapshott, 12/10).

Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer: State Changes Course On Medicaid. Good
It appears that Gov. Pat McCrory and some of his top managers are rethinking their plan to mend a "broken" Medicaid system. That's good, because the system that administers the health-insurance program for low-income residents isn't all that broken. Part of the Medicaid administration, the nonprofit Community Care of North Carolina, is widely considered one of the most successful in the country. Other states routinely send their health-and-human-services managers here to check it out and try to copy it. Community Care includes medical-provider networks that work to manage Medicaid patients' medical conditions and keep them healthier. Studies show that the system has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years (12/10).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Finally, Something Obamacare Actually Does
What's one thing Obamacare does? It gives people an awfully big incentive to cheat on their taxes. The subsidy cutoffs are the same in Georgia -- the subsidies are only for those earning less than four times the federal poverty level -- although the premiums and thus the potential savings for tax cheats are different. But the point remains: There's an awfully strong incentive for self-employed people, whose earnings aren't reported by others on a W2 form, to understate their income (Kyle Wingfield, 12/9).

Forbes: No, You Can't Keep Your Drugs Either Under Obamacare
The President famously promised that you could keep your health plan and doctor. For many people, both of those pledges are turning out to be false. And now, you might not be able to keep your medicine, either. There are two reasons why. The first has to do with the higher out of pocket costs patients will face. The second issue may be even more significant. Simply put, many drugs may not be covered at all, and the costs patients incur by buying them with cash won’t count against out of pocket caps (Scott Gottlieb, 12/9).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Repeal And Replace? What Would That Mean, Exactly?
Supporters of the ACA say that the opposition does not have an alternative plan. In fact, congressional opponents have offered alternatives, going all the way back to 2009. At least four pieces of legislation could be categorized as serious alternatives: Patient’s Choice Act of 2009, Empowering Patients First Act of 2009 and 2013 and, finally, American Health Care Reform Act of 2013. None of the bills was analyzed and scored by the Congressional Budget Office, however, so we do not have a long-term, non-partisan analysis of how much the proposals would cost, how much they would reduce or add to the deficit or how many uninsured Americans would be covered under them (Bob Semro, 12/10).

USA Today: Your DNA And Your First Amendment
Did you know that you cannot be trusted with knowledge of your own genetic background? That's what the Food and Drug Administration decreed late last month when it ordered 23andMe to stop marketing its "Personal Genome Service." ... The FDA does not claim that 23andMe is a scam or could cause direct injury. Instead, its concern is that people using the genome service "may begin to self-manage their treatments." Essentially, the agency wants to "protect" patients from knowing about their own health (David Rivkin Jr. and Andrew Grossman, 12/9).

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