KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Announcement Creates ‘Utter Chaos;’ A Serious Chip In The Individual Mandate; Law’s Benefits Aren’t Free

Forbes: Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare's Insurance Mandate, 'Unaffordable' Exchanges
Last night, in a stunning reversal, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that Americans who have had their plans canceled will be exempt from enrolling in the exchanges, "because some consumers were finding other coverage options to be more expensive than their cancelled plans or policies." ... But this most recent announcement from the Obama administration is the first time it has publicly admitted that Obamacare is making health insurance less affordable, not more so, for millions of Americans. ... This decision by the administration—characterized by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as an attempt to provide "the smoothest possible transition" into the Obamacare era—has instead thrown the individual insurance market into chaos (Avik Roy, 12/20).

The Washington Post: The Individual Mandate No Longer Applies To People Whose Plans Were Canceled
This puts the first crack in the individual mandate. The question is whether it's the last. If Democratic members of Congress see this as solving their political problem with people whose plans have been canceled, it could help them stand against Republican efforts to delay the individual mandate. But if congressional Democrats use this ruling as an excuse to delay or otherwise de-fang the individual mandate for anyone who doesn't want to pay for insurance under Obamacare, then it'll be a very big problem for the law (Ezra Klein, 12/20).

The New York Times’ Economix: The Economics Of Being Kinder And Gentler In Health Care
In the late 1980s, about 35 million respondents to large nationwide surveys declared that they lacked health insurance of any kind. The comparable number now is close to 50 million. Then, as now, the endless "national conversation" went on and on, pondering ways to achieve truly universal health insurance coverage, a feat most other developed nations accomplished long ago (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 12/20). 

Los Angeles Times: Note To The White House: Obamacare's Benefits Aren't Free
With Republicans hoping to make next year's election another referendum on the 2010 healthcare law (better known as Obamacare), the White House issued a report Thursday aimed at those calling for the law to be overturned. "Repeal Would Raise Costs, Strip Protections from Families Across America," the report declares. The Times' editorial board has steadfastly supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, warts and all, because it makes a credible effort to make a more sustainable healthcare system. But it's disingenuous to pretend that the changes mandated by the law cost nothing or that the benefits it delivers magically arrive for free (Jon Healey, 12/19).

Los Angeles Times: Why You Should Stop Worrying About The Obamacare 'Death Spiral'
Among the many reasons often put forth for why the Affordable Care Act is supposedly doomed to failure -- put forth with hand-wringing by the act's supporters and with gleeful anticipation by its opponents -- is the sinister-sounding "death spiral." Like many concepts in the health insurance business, this one is highly complicated, nuanced and easily reduced to a sound bite. The Kaiser Family Foundation has now come out with a paper explaining why it's not the threat it's made out to be (Michael Hiltzik, 12/19).

The Washington Post: Story Of The Year
Obamacare was sold as simply a refinement of the current system, retaining competition among independent insurers but making things more efficient, fair and generous. Free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke. Free mammograms and checkups for you and me. Free (or subsidized) insurance for some 30 million uninsured. And, mirabile dictu, not costing the government a dime. In fact, Obamacare is a full-scale federal takeover (Charles Krauthammer, 12/19).

MinnPost: Beyond Frustrated With MNsure
I really didn't think I would be personally impacted by all of the problems plaguing MNsure, Minnesota's online health insurance exchange. But, oh, how wrong I was about that. First, a little background: Since completing a MNsure application on November 25, I've been waiting to see if I qualify for a subsidy. I got a response in 2 ½ weeks, which is a positive. ... Friday I learned that I don’t qualify for assistance, although trained assisters guiding me through the application process said I should qualify based on income guidelines. ... Then, on Monday, a MNsure rep called. Due to "technical errors, calculations were incorrect" and I may, indeed, qualify for assistance or a credit, she said. ... But then she dropped the bombshell: I would need to resubmit my application. Are you kidding? (Audrey Letscher Helbling, 12/19).

And on another topic -

The Washington Post: Hope For A Breakthrough In AIDS Research
In 1987, two medical researchers, Anthony Fauci and Cliff Lane, conducted the first clinical trial of an AIDS vaccine. They took the envelope that surrounds the virus and simply injected it into study participants, hoping to get an immune response — an approach that had worked on hepatitis B. It failed on AIDS. Thus began one of history’s most consequential scientific detective stories (Michael Gerson, 12/19).

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