KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Reads: Impact Of Missing November Deadline For Health Website Fix

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

New Republic: Obamacare's Worst-Case Scenarios
Administration officials are saying that will be "functioning smoothly" by the end of November. And maybe they are right, in which case all the fuss about broken websites will become a historical footnote. But what if administration officials are wrong? What if it's December and Obamacare's official online portals are still barely functional? It's easy to assume that Obamacare would simply unravel. As the argument goes, the only people willing to put up with such a slow, cumbersome process for enrollment would be the people who need health insurance the most—in other words, people with serious medical conditions (Jonathan Cohn, 10/28).

The New York Times: The President Wants You To Get Rich On Obamacare 
Tom Scully bolted through the doors and up the stairs to a private dining room on the third floor of the "21" Club. Scully, 56, is slightly taller than average and has tousled graying hair, an athletic build and a lopsided smile. … During the past year, anxiety about the onset of Obamacare has created a chill in some parts of the economy. While large health care businesses — insurance companies, for instance, and hospital chains — have poured significant resources into preparing for millions of new customers, countless investors have appeared spooked by the perpetual threats to repeal, or at least revise, the law (Adam Davidson, 10/30).

National Review: Serco's Checkered History
The CEO of Serco, a British-based company whose North American division received one of the largest contracts to work on the Obamacare insurance exchanges, resigned Friday amid allegations that the company had defrauded the British government of millions of pounds. Even as myriad other allegations emerged about its work around the globe, Serco spent heavily on lobbying in Washington, D.C., and secured a multi-year contract potentially worth $1.249 billion to handle paper applications for the Obamacare exchanges. Serco did not respond to e-mail and voice-mail requests for comment (Jillian Kay Melchior, 10/30).

National Review: Obamacare's Unlikely Coverage Goal
The Obama administration has spent the last several months telling reporters that the benchmark by which to measure Obamacare's success is 7 million new exchange enrollees. That number comes from the Congressional Budget Office's most recent baseline estimates of how the law will affect spending and taxes as well as enrollment in public programs and private insurance. But focusing just on enrollment in the exchanges is misleading, as many millions of individual-market participants are now discovering. They are receiving cancellation notices from their current insurers and are being told that they need to pick their coverage for next year from among the Obamacare-compliant plans offered in and outside of the exchanges. Some of these individuals will make the switch and buy new coverage, assuming the Obama administration is able to make minimally functional at some point. But there also will be some current individual-market participants who don't sign up for an Obamacare plan and go without insurance for some or all of 2014. The interesting number, then, is not gross enrollment in the exchanges, but the net number of newly insured Americans (James C. Capretta, 10/29).

The Atlantic: Mental Illness, The Video Game
Kara Stone has recently taken up gardening. Her floral dependents—Echinacea, sage, and geranium—have only yet grown into big sprouts, but she finds the activity a nice change from time spent in front of glowing screens. It's worth noting Stone recently put in a lot of that kind of time while creating her first video game, MedicationMeditation. It's also worth noting that she's planted these seeds in discarded antidepressant bottles. … Though making it caused momentary negligence of her own, Kara Stone's game, of sorts, seeks to make players conscious of their own bodies (Zack Kotzer, 10/28).

5280, The Denver Magazine: Rude Awakening
Im dying. I'm dying. I'm dying. I kept repeating the words as I stared at my 10-year-old reflection in a bathroom mirror at Bonanza Steakhouse, a cheap buffet-style restaurant in my home state of North Dakota. It was 1990, and outside the door I could hear my sister’s volleyball teammates chattering. I tried to picture my parents smiling tolerantly at the middle-schoolers as they ate their iceberg lettuce salads with ranch dressing. How was I going to break their complacent reverie to tell them that their youngest daughter was deathly ill? ... In many cases, a girl with precocious puberty will get her first period at a normal age. Others will need hormone intervention—a drug regimen similar to those used to halt puberty for transgendered children—to stall the development process. Either way, parents of a child with precocious puberty are faced with a dilemma: Let nature happen, or chemically alter their child’s transition to adulthood (Natasha Gardner, 10/2013). 

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