KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: Health Premiums Bust Wallets; Affordability Of Care, Access To Insurance Go Together

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare’s Wallet-Buster Health Plans
Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, where I work, has analyzed all publicly available information for health-insurance premiums from healthcare.gov and state insurance departments. It then calculated the weighted averages for all health-insurance plans available on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The weighted average gives a more accurate view of overall premium increases, because it takes into account each insurance plan’s market share. The findings: Nationally, premiums for individual health plans increased on average between 2015 and 2016 by 14.9%. (Nathan Nascimento, 1/31)

Forbes: Obamacare Pummels Blue Cross Blue Shield Of NC. What Can We Learn From This?
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC is expecting to lose more than $400 million on its first two years of Obamacare business. According to this morning’s News and Observer, “The dramatic deterioration in Blue Cross’ ACA business is causing increasing alarm among agents and public health officials.” In response to its bleak experience with the Obamacare exchange, the company has decided to eliminate sales commissions for agents, terminate advertising of Obamacare policies, and stop accepting applications on-line through a web link that provides insurance price quotes–all moves calculated to limited Obamacare enrollment. What can we learn from North Carolina’s experience? (Chris Conover, 1/30)

The Washington Times: Why Health Insurance Premiums Are Rising
We shouldn’t be surprised that health insurance premiums continue to rise at record rates — by 15-20 percent for many employers and their employees in 2016 alone. Between private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, the number of insured Americans has grown dramatically to nearly 90 percent of the population. While more people than ever before are seeking health care services since the passage of Obamacare the supply of physicians, hospitals and outpatient treatment facilities has not kept pace. (Ed Michael Reggie and Claudia Campbell, 1/28)

The Hill: Sustaining The Marketplace For A Healthier America
As the third Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment season draws to a close, more than 11 million Americans have signed up for coverage and are enjoying the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance. For that reason, I am proud to have supported the law, but only with continued improvement can we help secure its future success. We now have a system in place where everyone, including those with pre-existing medical conditions, can gain access to coverage. This is transformative given that prior to the ACA, millions of Americans were uninsured. As of last year, the rate of uninsured reached its lowest in decades – roughly 10 percent according to the National Center for Health Statistics. (Tom Daschle, 1/29)

The Wall Street Journal: For Hospital Chains, Competition Is a Bitter Pill
When the 124-bed StoneSprings Hospital Center opened in December, it became the first new hospital in Loudoun County, Va., in more than a century. That’s more remarkable than it might at first seem: In the past two decades, Loudoun County, which abuts the Potomac River and includes growing Washington suburbs, has tripled in population. Yet not a single new hospital had opened. Why? One big reason is that StoneSprings had to fight through years of regulatory reviews and court challenges before laying the first brick. (Eric Boehm, 1/29)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton For The Democratic Nomination
Hillary Clinton would be the first woman nominated by a major party. ... The Times editorial board has endorsed her three times for federal office — twice for Senate and once in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — and is doing so again with confidence and enthusiasm. ... Mrs. Clinton’s main opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, has proved to be more formidable than most people, including Mrs. Clinton, anticipated. ... In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers. His boldest proposals — to break up the banks and to start all over on health care reform with a Medicare-for-all system — have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas. (1/30)

The New York Times: A Chance To Reset The Republican Race
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, though a distinct underdog, is the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race. And Mr. Kasich is no moderate. As governor, he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage. Still, as a veteran of partisan fights and bipartisan deals during nearly two decades in the House, he has been capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives. ... While Republicans in Congress tried more than 60 times to kill Obamacare, Mr. Kasich did an end-run around Ohio’s Republican Legislature to secure a $13 billion Medicaid expansion to cover more people in his state. (1/30)

Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal: Sandy Praeger's Thoughts On Medicaid Expansion
The arguments we hear today against Medicaid expansion are not new. In 1998, Republican Bill Graves was governor and I was chair of the Senate health committee. States had a similar opportunity from the federal government to expand health coverage for Kansans under the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Like today, opponents said we should not expand an already burdensome program. However, unlike today, the opportunity was not simply refused, but discussed openly. (Sandy Praeger, 1/31)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Across Louisiana, Hard-Working Families Can't Afford Life's Basics
Louisiana's high poverty rate is well documented, but what we don't see as clearly is how many people live just above that threshold and struggle to make ends meet on their meager paychecks. Doctors who treat patients without health insurance see it. The kind-hearted people who volunteer at food pantries see it. But there has been little concrete information on the number of Louisianians whose income doesn't cover their most basic expenses. ... Long term, there is a need for more affordable housing, better childcare and broader health care coverage. The Medicaid expansion that Gov. John Bel Edwards approved his first day in office could make a huge difference for the families in the ALICE report. (1/31)

The Washington Post: The Miracle AIDS Drug That People Refuse To Take
When the FDA approved a drug to reduce the risk of HIV infections in July 2012, gay men rejoiced. If taken daily, Truvada works like a vaccine against HIV, effectively halting its spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hailed it as an “important new tool” in the fight against the disease. Slate described it as “a miracle drug.” President Obama imagined an “AIDS-free generation.” It hasn’t worked out that way. (Richard Morgan, 1/29)

Minnesota Public Radio: A Kid, A Stolen Cellphone, And Invisible Faces Of Mental Illness
It’s a monumentally sad story published in today’s Pioneer Press. He’s Dejuan Quashon Montgomery, and he’s probably heading back to prison soon because he stole a 9-year-old girl’s cellphone while she was standing on a street corner earlier this month talking to her father. You might see it as a crime story. I see it as a health story. The cops, in releasing a photo after the incident, called the thief “despicable.” (Bob Collins, 1/29)

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