KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Urges People To Sign Up For Coverage In State Of The Union

The president extolled the health law during his State of the Union address, describing those who are benefiting and challenging Republicans for their ideas. Utah Sen. Mike Lee hit back, calling the law "an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs," while Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers cited its troubled rollout.

Politico: State Of The Union 2014: Obama Embraces Obamacare
President Barack Obama left no doubt Tuesday night what his Obamacare sales technique will be: loud voice, lots of confidence and no apologies. Don’t dwell on the scratches on the hood. Just tell the customer how good it will feel to rev the engine and drive the car off the lot (Nather, 1/28).

The Washington Post: In State Of The Union, Obama Vows To Expand Opportunity, With Or Without Congress
Instead, Obama also praised his health care law, which is both the signature achievement of his administration and -- because of the fraught rollout of last year -- the centerpiece of Republicans’ case against him. Obama described the situation of an Arizona woman, Amanda Shelley, who he said had obtained coverage Jan. 1 because of the law. On Jan. 6, she had emergency surgery -- which, Obama said, “would’ve meant bankruptcy” if she had not been covered. Then, after saying that the law had made changes for the better, Obama made a blunter argument aimed at congressional Republicans: No matter what they think of the law, they now have no choice but to live with it (Nakamura and Fahrenthold, 1/28).

Los Angeles Times: In State Of The Union, Obama Focuses On America’s Economic Divide
The speech represented an attempt at a political comeback for the president, whose approval rating was damaged by the disastrous rollout of his signature health care law and whose Democratic Party faces the prospect of losing control of the Senate in the November election. Obama mounted his most pointed recent defense of the health care law, and issued a challenge to Republican critics to put forward their own plans (Hennessey and Parsons, 1/28).

The New York Times: In State Of The Union Address, Obama Vows To Act Alone On The Economy
Despite his vow to move ahead without Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama said he was not giving up on Congress altogether and recycled calls for many past legislative priorities, like extending unemployment insurance. “Let’s see where else we can make progress together,” he said. … And he offered a vigorous defense of his embattled health care program. “Let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping Americans,” he said (Baker, 1/28).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obama Touts Health-Law Developments In Speech
There was plenty of speculation about whether President Barack Obama would address the health-care overhaul in his State of the Union address -- his signature domestic initiative that took full effect 27 days ago with a problematic rollout. He answered that question right at the top, when he included the law among a list of American achievements during his administration: “A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford.” Eventually, he came back to it. For several years, administration officials have emphasized some of the earliest consumer provisions of the law to kick in, which happen to be the best known and most popular. That habit has stuck, since the first number the president touted on health care is that three million young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ plans until their 26th birthdays (Radnofsky, 1/28).

Watch Kaiser Health News' video excerpt from last night's speech.

Politico: 20014 Dems Plot Obamacare Strategy
One of President Barack Obama’s rowdiest standing ovations Tuesday night came when he demanded Republicans drop their endless crusade to repeal his signature health care law. But there’s a more critical bloc of lawmakers he needs to implement Obamacare: vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in 2014 (Raju, 1/29).

Los Angeles Times: As The President Shifts Topics, The GOP Is Still Focused On Obamacare
In his State of the Union address, President Obama will touch on his health care law but keep the focus instead on his agenda to tackle income inequality: a push to increase the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits and boost access to pre-kindergarten education. That was not the case across town Tuesday at the Republican National Committee, where the pre-buttal to the speech was all Obamacare, all the time. Though the administration has made progress by enrolling some 3 million people through the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, Republicans show no signs of backing off their opposition as they hammer Democratic lawmakers over the problems created by the law. At RNC headquarters, Republican leaders handed the microphone to 10 constituents from eight states who were asked to share the problems they have faced -- from premium increases to canceled plans -- as a result of the health care law (Reston, 1/28).

CNN: Tea Party SOTU Response: ‘Obamacare Is An Inequality Godzilla'
Utah Sen. Mike Lee blamed big government for growing inequality in America, calling Obamacare an “inequality Godzilla.” Lee’s comments came during his Tea Party response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. “Obamacare -- all by itself -- is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs,” Lee said. “Many Americans are now seeing why some of us fought so hard to stop this train-wreck over the last four years” (Fischer, 1/29).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Blame President Obama For Nation’s Economic Woes
Both Lee and [Rep. Cathy] McMorris Rodgers cited the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Lee said Obamacare “all by itself is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs. Many Americans are now seeing why some of us fought so hard to stop this train wreck over the last four years.” McMorris Rodgers said the nation “shouldn’t go back to the way things were,” but said the new healthcare law “is not working.“ “Republicans believe healthcare choices should be yours, not the government’s, and that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you” (Reston, 1/28).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Health Care Is Ticket For Some SOTU Guests
Health care isn’t expected to take a starring role in the State of the Union speech Tuesday night but that doesn’t mean it will be entirely absent. The White House has invited Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech because his state’s health insurance exchange worked surprisingly smoothly when others stumbled, and has now signed up 182,000 residents, chiefly in Medicaid. Mr. Beshear, a Democrat in a red-leaning state, said in a December interview that the exchange was “succeeding beyond our wildest dreams at this point,” which he attributed to starting work early with a contractor that worked closely with state officials and took a no-frills approach to the site (Radnofsky, 1/28).

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