KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: November 8, 2013

Today's headlines include coverage of President Barack Obama's apology to people who lost their individual market health coverage because of requirements of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can Adult Children With An Offer Of Family Coverage Instead Get Subsidies?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers this reader's question. Her response: Yes, if their parents have not claimed them as tax dependents (11/8). Read what the answer.

Kaiser Health News: Enrolling In Obamacare In Alaska Is Possible – A Computer Degree Helps
APRN's Annie Feidt, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Despite extensive problems with, a few dozen Alaskans have managed to enroll in a health plan on the marketplace, and Lara Imler is one of them. … Even without health insurance, Imler spends a lot of time in doctors' offices. She has Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. The treatments and blood work she needs are expensive -- but not as expensive as buying insurance in Alaska's individual market" (Feidt, 11/8). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Make Tax Day Also Enrollment Deadline, One Health Expert Says; Conn. Governor To Feds: Get Your Act Together On
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Julie Appleby writes about one rationale for a change in the health law’s open enrollment period: "With one small fix, the administration could satisfy calls from some members of Congress to extend the time people have to enroll in new health insurance through online marketplaces, a health policy expert says" (Appleby, 11/7).

Also on the blog, WNPR's Jeff Cohen, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on the Connecticut governor's take on the federal exchange: "Gov. Dannel Malloy said the rollout of Obamacare in Connecticut has been a success — but it would be a bigger success if the federal health marketplace weren’t doing so badly. 'I hope that the federal folks get their act together in the remainder of the month, because I'm tired of sharing their bad news interrupting our good news,' Malloy said Thursday, speaking at the opening of a retail store for Access Health CT, the state’s marketplace" (Cohen, 11/7). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Apologizing, Obama Yields To Criticism Of Health Law
President Obama bowed Thursday night to mounting criticism that he had misled the American people about the health care law, apologizing to people who were forced off their health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act despite "assurances from me" (Shear, 11/7).

Los Angeles Times: Obama 'Sorry' For Health Insurance Cancellations
President Obama apologized Thursday for the fact that some people are losing their current health insurance plans even though he had told Americans they could keep their plans if they wanted to, saying his administration was working on changes to his healthcare law to address the problem. "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," the president told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday evening (Parsons and Hennessey, 11/7).

The Washington Post: President Obama Apologizes To Americans Who Are Losing Their Health Insurance
The president said he had asked his staff to see whether there was an administrative fix to preserve insurance for some Americans who may have lost their coverage and do not qualify for subsidies that would make new policies affordable. "I've assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law," he said, "because, you know, my intention is to lift up and make sure the insurance that people buy is effective — that it's actually going to deliver what they think they’re purchasing" (Eilperin, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Apologizes For Insurance Cancellations
President Barack Obama said Thursday he was sorry that thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance, expressing regret for the first time that the Affordable Care Act hadn't lived up to his promise that people who liked their coverage could keep it. Mr. Obama said he had intended to make good on his pledge but the administration wasn't as clear as it should have been in describing the changes the new health law would bring. Now, facing a chorus of complaints as many people receive notice that their plans have been canceled, Mr. Obama signaled he was open to some kind of relief, although he didn't give specifics (Nelson, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: How Obama's Language Has Shifted On Insurance
President Barack Obama, in an interview with NBC News, said he was sorry that many Americans were losing their current coverage, despite promises by the White House that people who were happy with their coverage could keep their plan. Here is what the president said in the interview, compared with previous statements on the issue (11/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama To Americans Losing Health Care Coverage Because Of New Law: 'I Am Sorry'
Officials said the president was referring to fixes his administration could make on its own, not legislative options proposed by congressional lawmakers. The president’s apology comes as the White House tries to combat a cascade of troubles surrounding the rollout of the health care law, often referred to as "Obamacare" (11/7).

USA Today: Obama Says He Is Sorry For ‘You Can Keep It’ Declaration
The comments, which Obama made in an interview with NBC News, come as he faces a steady stream of criticism as millions of Americans on the individual insurance market received notices that their plans do not meet the minimum benefit requirements set under the ACA and will be canceled (Madhani, 11/7).

Politico: Barack Obama: 'I Am Sorry'
President Barack Obama offered an apology Thursday to those Americans who have been told they’re losing their health insurance plans, contrary to his promise that no one would be forced off a plan they wanted to keep. "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," the president said in a Thursday interview with NBC News, offering his first mea culpa for an issue that’s generated negative headlines for the White House for the past two weeks (Epstein, 11/7).

Los Angeles Times: 10 Republican Senators Want Sebelius Fired Over Obamacare Rollout
Ten Republican senators have called on President Obama to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its troubled website. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and nine other senators told Obama they were concerned not only with the botched rollout of, but the implementation of the broader law, which they all oppose. Dozens of House Republicans have also pushed for Sebelius' dismissal (Mascaro, 11/8).

Politico: Dems Give White House Tight Deadline To Fix Obamacare
Democratic senators facing reelection have a green light to bash the White House and call for certain legislative fixes. But they’ve been urged by senior administration officials not to insist on delaying the controversial law’s core: The mandate for individuals to purchase insurance coverage or face penalties (Raju and Kim, 11/7).

Politico: Tea Partier Shifts Tactics On Obamacare
But this week, as he wheeled through county after county, lambasting his congressional leadership and the Obama administration with equal fervor, Huelskamp is publicly admitting that a government shutdown to choke off funding for Obamacare likely isn’t in the cards when government funding runs out again in January (Sherman, 11/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: People Whose Coverage Is Being Canceled Could Improve Overall Risk Of Obama Insurance Plan
It’s Economics 101, a little-noticed consequence of a controversial policy decision. And there are winners and losers. Millions of people who currently buy their own health insurance coverage are losing it next year because their plans don’t meet requirements of the health care law. But experts say the resulting shift of those people into the new health insurance markets under Obama’s law would bring in customers already known to insurers, reducing the overall financial risks for each state’s insurance pool (11/7).

Politico: Uninsured Not Surfing Health Sites
Less than a quarter of uninsured Americans who plan to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges have been to an exchange website, a new poll shows. Asked if they’ve been to any government health insurance website since they were launched on Oct. 1, only 22 percent of the uninsured who said they planned on using the exchanges said yes, according to a Gallup poll out Friday (Topan, 11/8).

Politico: For Younger People, Obamacare Sign-Up Comes Later
Everyone knows that a couple of million young, healthy people will have to sign up for Obamacare to succeed. But there’s one big problem with that: They’ll probably wait until the last minute. While older and sicker people have good reason to more aggressively try to get covered, the younger, healthier people aren’t likely to exhibit much patience with a balky website. They’re likely to put off the mandatory insurance sign up until much closer to the March 2014 deadline (Villacorta, 11/7).

The Washington Post: Health Care Law’s Exchange Problems Leave Small-Business Owners In A Difficult Position
David Glazier and Jody Manor each own small businesses in Old Town Alexandria, just outside the nation’s capital, and in the months leading up to the launch of the federal government’s new health insurance exchange, both were eager to see what kind of savings they could find on the new marketplaces. It has now been six weeks since the exchange opened for business — but for Glazier, Manor and many other small employers, the wait continues (Harrison, 11/7).

The Washington Post’s Wonk Bog: Uh-Oh: Techies Are Finding New Problems With
Every day, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hosts a phone call with reporters. This is the "Operational Update on the Health Insurance Marketplace" and usually happens around 1:30 or 2 p.m. Today's "Operational Update on the Health Insurance Marketplace" was not especially good news: As capacity problems at the start of get fixed, tech workers are finding new capacity problems later in the application process -- ones that, up until now, they didn't know about (Kliff, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal: Goldman Tech Leader Says Lack Of Accountability Hamstrung, the government’s beleaguered health insurance website, was hurt by a lack of coordination between policy makers and IT leaders managing its development, according to Don Duet, co-head of the technology division of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. This lack of coordination also led to a lack of accountability, he said (Hickins, 11/7).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Read The Fine Print: GOP Spin On Premium Hikes
Portman first refers to President Obama’s repeated claim, during the 2008 campaign, that his health plan would reduce costs by $2,500 a year for a typical family. As we have noted before, Obama’s claim at the time was quickly criticized by fact checkers, including The Fact Checker, as dubious and unrealistic. Moreover, the pledge came with a very large asterisk: He was not saying premiums would fall by $2,500, but that health-care costs per person would be that much lower than anticipated (Kessler, 11/8).

USA Today: States Report Low Health Insurance Enrollment Numbers
Enrollment for health insurance on state-run exchanges has been low in the first month, as officials in various states cite website glitches, a months-away deadline and even the government shutdown as reasons for the low numbers. Officials from 13 of the 15 states with their own exchanges, said 757,000 have registered for the exchanges, but only 139,170 people have bought or enrolled in health insurance plans (Kennedy, 11/7).

Politico: White House Pushes Florida, Louisiana On Medicaid
The Obama administration again called out states that have refused to expand Medicaid on Thursday, calling it a “reckless” play to undercut Obamacare at the expense of their constituents’ health. The White House held a conference call featuring officials in Florida and Louisiana who made the case for expanding the program and attacked those holding it up. President Barack Obama is traveling to the two states tomorrow on unrelated business, but the messaging is part of a larger drive to draw attention to the states that have refused to cover low-income people —and away from the tidal wave of bad news about Americans whose health plans are being canceled (Norman, 11/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Conn. Opens Nation’s First Insurance Stores To Help People Sign Up For Health Care Coverage
Connecticut is opening the nation’s first insurance stores as part of an effort to fight the perception there are problems with its insurance marketplace that’s separate from the flawed federal website. State officials hailed the brightly lit storefront, modeled after Apple’s stores, as another sign that the rollout of the health care overhaul in Connecticut has been a success. Connecticut is one of 14 states plus the District of Columbia that created their own insurance marketplaces (11/7).

USA Today: Even Doctors In Dark About New Health Plans
More than a month after and 15 state-based exchanges opened for business, consumers and even physicians are finding it's isn't easy or even possible sometimes to find out which doctors and hospitals are in the plans' provider networks (O’Donnell and McGinnis, 11/7).

The New York Times: Rules To Require Equal Coverage For Mental Ills
The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment (Calmes and Pear, 11/8).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Judge Refuses To Delay Fired Medicaid Contractor’s Lawsuit Against The Jindal Administration
A Maryland company fired from its $200 million Medicaid contract can continue to move forward with its wrongful termination lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, a Baton Rouge judge ruled Thursday. State District Judge Tim Kelley rejected a request from the attorney general’s office to delay witness interviews and evidence-gathering until January in the case filed against the state by Client Network Services Inc., or CNSI (11/7). 

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.