KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law And The State Of The Union; Court Ruling On Contraceptive Rule ‘Disappointing;’ Medicaid ‘Myth’ In Virginia

The Washington Post: Obamacare Breeds Distrust Of Liberalism
For President Obama, the state of the political union ... could be better. It is not only that the president's political support is diminished; it is diminished, in large part, because of his main political achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Because of the way the law was sold -- "you can keep your plan" -- Americans have questions about Obama's credibility. Because of the way it has been implemented -- "the system is down at the moment" -- they have questions about his competence. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, a plurality of American voters doubts that Obama is "honest and trustworthy," and a majority believes the Obama administration is not competent at running the government (Michael Gerson, 1/27). 

The Washington Post’s Post Partisan: How Obama's SOTU Speech Can Be Memorable
Second, own the "mistake" on health care (again) and then pivot to a strong defense of the new law’s benefits. (All the president's guests in the audience should be living examples of how the new law saved a life or avoided a bankruptcy). The president must offer the game plan for the counterattack on the Republicans' plan to make the mid-term a referendum on Obamacare. The president may yet make this a winning issue for Democrats next November; interestingly, despite the horrible rollout, American are almost evenly divided on whether they support the new law, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll (Carter Eskew, 1/27). 

USA Today: Obama's State Of The Union Opportunity
Prominent in his last State of the Union Address was the president's plea for tax reform. That is now bogged down in the usual congressional morass. The corollary of tax reform is entitlement reform -- likewise a non-starter. ... Remarkably, the marquee policy of the Obama administration was barely mentioned last year. And after the calamitous rollout of the Obamacare website and his ill-considered promise that those with insurance could keep their plans, expect his remarks to be brief again (Ross K. Baker, 1/27).

The New York Times: Contraception Before The Court
In a disappointing order on Friday, the Supreme Court extended a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing paperwork rules against a Colorado nuns' group in connection with a federal law that requires employer health plans to cover birth control without a co-payment (1/27).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Today's Top Opinion: A Medicaid Myth
Few things have done more lately to prove the adage that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on than debate over Medicaid expansion in Virginia. The discussion often has been complex and arcane, but one argument -- a false one -- has been repeated almost ad nauseam: the claim that if Virginia does not expand Medicaid, Virginia's share of federal expansion funds will simply go to other states. Since the money will get spent no matter what, the argument implies, Virginia might as well expand Medicaid and keep the money here (1/27).

WBUR: Patient Safety Scandal: Company Paid Doctor $11M In Kickback Case
Here's an example of a recent headline, from Reuters: Carefusion to Pay $40 Million In U.S. Kickbacks Lawsuit. And on Influential Patient Safety Board Cut Ties With Doc Before Carefusion Kickbacks Case. What's the story? And is it, as it seems, an extraordinarily outrageous case of financial conflict of interest at the highest levels of medicine? I asked Brian Johnson, publisher of, who wrote the safety board story above. Our conversation, edited (Carey Goldberg, 1/27).

WBUR: Project Louise: The Dirty Word That Starts With 'D'
So far in Project Louise, we've been talking mostly about setting goals and developing new exercise habits. But of course there is that one word that always comes up in any discussion of health and fitness, a word that strikes fear into the heart, a word that evokes countless memories of hope and failure and shame, a word that so far I have avoided saying because I hate it at least as much as you do. That word is "diet." But Dr. Thomas J. Moore says we shouldn't be so scared of this word -- and we should learn what it really means (Louise Kennedy, 1/27).

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