KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: GOP’s Repeal Vote Is Not ‘Pointless’; Medicaid Expansion Debates Rev Up Again

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

The Wall Street Journal: A Victory Over Obamacare
As early as Wednesday the House will vote to send a bill repealing most of ObamaCare to President Obama, and this may become a consequential moment, assuming Republicans are prepared to make an argument. Some on the left and right are dismissing the move as pointless because Mr. Obama will veto the measure .... The task now is to leverage Mr. Obama’s veto to hold Democrats accountable for their votes and the consequences. Liberal spin can’t disguise that the law is failing on every level other than expanding coverage—as if anyone ever argued that a new entitlement couldn’t reduce the uninsured rate. The huge premium increases and other disruption in the health-care markets that the critics predicted explain why the law continues to be so unpopular. (1/5)

Bloomberg: Three New Reasons to Expand Medicaid
Some 3 million Americans who lack health insurance could gain coverage, if only their states would accept the Medicaid funding that the Affordable Care Act provides. Two years into Obamacare, the arguments in favor of extending this coverage have only grown stronger. (1/6)

Charlotte Observer: N.C. Medicaid Reform Would Benefit Nearly 500,000
North Carolina has the opportunity to shape how we take care of our own, through Medicaid reform, passed by state lawmakers in September. The Medicaid Reform mandate passed by the North Carolina General Assembly puts the state on a tight timeline to customize our plan. The goal is to seek permission from the federal government by June 2016. North Carolina can negotiate with the federal government for a Medicaid waiver that is North Carolina-specific, that closes the coverage gap and takes advantage of $21 billion in federal funds. This does not have to be political. North Carolina can join the 30 other states who have expanded coverage. (Susan Fitzgibbon Shumaker and Allen Smart, 1/5)

Kansas City Star: The Glacial Pace Of Progress On Medicaid Expansion In Kansas
About 150,000 persons in Kansas and twice that many in Missouri are believed to be uninsured because of the states’ failure to increase Medicaid eligibility to the threshold called for the in federal Affordable Care Act. But [Sen. Jeff] King’s presence and posture at the event — sponsored by local chambers of commerce, hospitals and businesses — signified a sort of progress. The senator is conservative on most issues and used to avidly oppose expanding Medicaid. But then Mercy Hospital of Independence closed because of financial problems, leaving the town without a hospital. “The hospital I was born in, the hospital my kids were born in, is gone,” King said. “I know Medicaid expansion is not a panacea, but my constituents would have other options if we had it.” (Barbara Shelly, 1/5)

Louisville Courier-Journal: Medicaid Benefits Clear, Former Director Says
On Dec. 30, Gov. Matt Bevin repeatedly and, in his own words, intentionally, used the word “lie” to describe the representations of the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear regarding the economic impact of Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. ... Gov. Bevin’s comments reflect either a grave misunderstanding or a deliberate misrepresentation of even rudimentary economics, about which no serious person can disagree. It is a simple fact that Medicaid expansion is an enormous economic win for Kentucky and every other state that has chosen to participate. (Emily Whelan Parento, 1/6)

The Wall Street Journal: How Health-Care Bills Hinder Millions Of Americans
The adequacy of health insurance coverage – sometimes called under-insurance – pops up periodically, but the issue has taken a back seat to covering the uninsured and controlling health-care costs. Yet the number of Americans who have problems paying their medical bills in a given year runs into the tens of millions, a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times found. These are not only people who are uninsured, have low incomes, or are very sick. For many, their uncovered medical expenses affect their ability to meet other basic needs – such as paying for housing, food, or heat – or make it tough for them to pay other bills. (Drew Altman, 1/5) Louis Post-Dispatch: Think The Insured Can Afford Their Medical Bills? Not So, New Survey Finds
Despite the recent federal law requiring that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine, this mandated insurance coverage still fails to protect a significant percentage of Americans. A new Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey challenges a narrative put forth by many policymakers — the notion that patients do not have enough “skin in the game.” To the average American, this is nonsense. (Mark Rukavina, 1/5)

Bloomberg: Warning: You Still Need To Stress About Stress
Differences in life expectancy by education and income are increasing. And while differential trends in smoking and other habits partly explain the lifespan gap, it's mostly a puzzle. I suspect that a major factor is stress -- that prolonged exposure to stress has risen more among families of moderate income than it has among those of high income, and that the stress is literally killing people. A new study raises doubts about this hypothesis. (Peter R. Orszag, 1/6)

Concord Monitor: Bills Alone Won’t Solve Drug Crisis
When the New Hampshire Legislature reconvenes today, the focus will be on how it handles the state’s opioid crisis. A special task force has wrapped up its work and proposed several bills. And while lawmakers have come a long way in acknowledging the problem, much ground remains to be covered. They should start by considering drug addiction itself – what the term means, how we understand it and what science tells us. A YouTube video titled “Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong” made waves in October by condensing arguments from British author Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream. (1/6)

The Washington Post: The Market For Human Organs Is Destroying Lives
If you would be willing to ask a living person to sell his or her kidney to you, be aware that you enter a moral, social, ethical and political gray zone. While it may mean that you wouldn’t have to resort to organ waiting lists and dialysis treatment in the event of kidney failure, you’d be putting the seller and yourself at risk. (Nancy Scheper-Hughes, 1/5)

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