KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Obama Drops ‘Grand Bargain’ Talk; Mitch McConnell In Tough Spot On Health Law

Los Angeles Times: Missing From SOTU: 'Grand Bargain,' Buffet Rule – And King Canute
What didn’t make the cut? ... A "grand bargain": For three years, Obama pursued a big fiscal deal that would have traded higher taxes (a Democratic goal) for cuts in long-term spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (a Republican goal). But with the federal deficit slowly shrinking, members of Congress in both parties are even less enthusiastic about tackling that kind of difficult compromise than before. Obama didn't even try to sell them on it this time. It's over (Doyle McManus, 1/29). 

The Washington Post: Hitting Mitch McConnell Over Health Care In Kentucky
In yesterday's speech, President Obama gave a shout-out to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, citing his tireless efforts to expand Obamacare coverage to his own constituents in a deep red state. As enrollment mounts, Mitch McConnell has refused to directly answer questions about Kentuckians befitting from the law. Counter-intuitively, some Kentucky Dems believe McConnell will ultimately face a reckoning on this issue (Greg Sargent, 1/29). 

Los Angeles Times: The Pope, The Pill And The Court
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of Colorado nuns will not be required to offer contraceptive coverage to employees while pursuing its legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The nuns' action highlights the misunderstandings and theological errors behind the Vatican's condemnation of what it terms "artificial contraception." And it also overlooks an important medical point: The nuns might have something to gain from taking oral contraceptive (Dr. Malcolm Potts, 1/30). 

USA Today: Give Little Sisters Of The Poor A Break
Personally, I support the mandate. The government has a compelling interest in providing free birth control. But there are ways to provide it that don't involve harassing nuns. Why not just use the more than 50 family planning clinics in Colorado, where the nuns are based? The government should leave the Little Sisters alone (Kirsten Powers, 1/28).

The Washington Post: Four Words In The ACA Could Spell Its Doom
Someone you probably are not familiar with has filed a suit you probably have not heard about concerning a four-word phrase you should know about. The suit could blow to smithereens something everyone has heard altogether too much about, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereafter, ACA). Scott Pruitt and some kindred spirits might accelerate the ACA’s collapse by blocking another of the Obama administration’s lawless uses of the Internal Revenue Service. Pruitt was elected Oklahoma’s attorney general by promising to defend states’ prerogatives against federal encroachment, and today he and some properly litigious people elsewhere are defending a state prerogative that the ACA explicitly created. If they succeed, the ACA’s disintegration will accelerate (George F. Will, 1/29). 

Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star: A Better Medicaid Plan
At this point in the ongoing war over the Affordable Care Act, some people — too many people — are suffering from ACA derangement syndrome. They simply hear the word "Obamacare" and they point their thumb up, or they point it down. The legislative bill introduced by Sen. Kathy Campbell that would expand Medicaid coverage in Nebraska deserves a better fate. People should actually consider whether the bill would improve health care in Nebraska (1/28). 

JAMA: What's Happening As Obamacare Coverage Debuts
With all of the ink that has been devoted to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), especially since the October 1 launching of the state and federally run insurance exchanges, remarkably little is being reported about what’s happening now that coverage for those newly enrolled in private insurance or Medicaid has begun (Gail Wilensky, 1/29).

And in other news-

The Fiscal Times: Medicare Opens A New Door To The Era Of Big Data
If there's a way of unlocking the black box that is U.S. medical pricing, it may come from an unlikely source: Medicare. The agency that oversees the federally run insurance system – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – quietly announced recently that it would "evaluate requests for individual physician payment information." The final rules have yet to be written, but that bureaucratese, in plain English, could mean you'll eventually be able to see what doctors are actually charging – or at least what they are reporting to Medicare (John F. Wasik, 1/29).

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