KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: CBO Report On Health Law: Damaging The Labor Market Or Freeing Workers From ‘Insurance Trap’?

The Wall Street Journal: The Jobless Care Act
There are 7.8 million Americans working part-time who want full-time work, including a fry cook whose restaurant cut his hours to avoid Affordable Care Act mandates and confronted President Obama in an online Google Q&A last week: "We can't survive. It's not a living." Mr. Obama changed the subject to raising the minimum wage. But he can't dodge reality forever as the evidence piles up that ObamaCare is harming the labor market. On Tuesday no less than the Congressional Budget Office reported that the health law is causing Americans to work less or not at all (2/4).

The New York Times: Freeing Workers From The Insurance Trap
The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law. Of course, Republicans immediately tried to brand the findings as "devastating" and stark evidence of President Obama's health care reform as a failure and a job killer. It is no such thing (2/4).

Los Angeles Times: Why The New CBO Report ON Obamacare Is Good News
The Congressional Budget Office is out with its latest report on the Affordable Care Act, and here are a few bottom lines:
— The ACA is cheaper than it expected.
— It will "markedly increase" the number of Americans with health insurance.
— The risk-adjustment provisions, which Congressional Republicans want to overturn as a "bailout" of the insurance industry, will actually turn a profit to the U.S. Treasury.
Given all this, why are the first news headlines on the CBO report depicting it as calling Obamacare a job killer? You can chalk up some of that to the crudity of headline-writing, and some to basic innumeracy in the press (Michael Hiltzik, 2/4). 

The Washington Post: Obamacare’s Scorekeepers Deliver A Game-Changer
This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans' charges is much easier than refuting the federal government's official scorekeepers (Dana Milbank, 2/4). 

The New York Times' Economic Scene: Health Law Goals Face Antitrust Hurdles
With the midterm elections fast coming into focus, politics in Washington will remain consumed by health care for months to come. ... This political theater, however, has little relevance to the actual delivery of medical services. For that, the debate that matters has been taking place far from the klieg lights, in a remote courthouse in Idaho, where less than two weeks ago a district judge sided with the Federal Trade Commission and ordered the unwinding of the merger between one of the state’s biggest hospital systems and its biggest independent network of doctors (Eduardo Porter, 2/4). 

Los Angeles Times: Red Vs. Blue: The Battle Lines Of 2014
The conventional wisdom is that this fall's congressional election will be all about Obamacare. Republicans, it's argued, will try to expand their majority in the House and take the Senate with a campaign focused mostly on the failings of President Obama's health insurance law; Democrats will fire back with warnings that the GOP would simply repeal the law and leave consumers on their own. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Obamacare will be a major issue this fall, but so will the economy and a host of other issues, including immigration and -- if Democrats have their way -- pay equity for women. Over the last two weeks, leaders of both parties have staked out new ground on which they plan to fight in the nine months until election day (Doyle McManus, 2/5). 

Politico: The Latest GOP Lie About Obamacare
The target of Republicans' new criticism is a sensible mechanism to ensure an even distribution of risks across insurance companies. According to Republican leaders like House Budget Chairman Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, these risk corridor provisions are "massive insurance company bailouts." ... What’s most remarkable about their comments on risk corridors is that Republican leaders are denouncing a model they created to smooth out rate increases in prescription drug coverage under Medicare (Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Sander Levin, D-Mich., and George Miller, D-Calif., 2/4).

Raleigh News & Observer: Renewing The Call To Expand Medicaid In NC 
Soon after [state leaders opted not to expand Medicaid], I began asking physician colleagues around our state about their patients, mostly the working-class poor, who were most affected by the decision. ... Reflecting on my own patients I provide primary care for, several have refused all preventive health care until their 65th birthday kicks in. This includes refused mammograms, colonoscopies, diabetes screenings and the shingles vaccine. And the list goes on. At the moment, a formidable 318,710 adults in North Carolina are working for incomes less than $11,500. These folks are too poor to qualify for subsidized tax credits for private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid under our current standards. In refusing the expansion, [Gov.] McCrory not only turned down much needed money for our state, but also might have shortened the lives of our working-class poor (Dr. Laura Musselwhite, 2/4).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: McAuliffe Has Cards To Play In Obamacare Gamble
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is trying to sell a cow for a horse. The Democratic power grab in the Virginia Senate preserved the bipartisan coalition that supports his debut initiative: Medicaid-for-Obamacare. The Republican-dominated House of Delegates continues to resist the frosh chief executive. However, even the House may have its price (Jeff Schapiro, 2/5).

The Boston Globe: Mass. Model Of Health Care: Wait For It
Is Massachusetts now in its seventh year under Chapter 58, the health care overhaul signed into law by Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, a preview of what the rest of the country can expect under Obamacare? If so, my fellow Americans, you’d better get used to waiting. According to a national survey of approximately 1,400 medical practices in 15 major metropolitan markets, the average wait for new patients scheduling a non-emergency doctor appointment between June and November 2013 was 18.5 days. In Boston, however, patients had to wait an average of 45 days, and considerably more than that for some specialties. The wait was 66 days to see a family physician and 72 days to see a dermatologist (Jeff Jacoby, 2/5).

The Washington Post: Dodging Accountability In Annapolis
The Democratic party's commissars in Maryland have decreed that meddlesome questions about the state's disastrous online health-insurance exchange are distracting and, for the time being, terribly inconvenient. Having closed ranks behind the gubernatorial candidacy of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who bore putative responsibility for getting the operation up and running, party leaders have put out the word: No official inquiries that might embarrass Mr. Brown will be tolerated before the Democratic primary on June 24 or the general election in November (2/4). 

And on other issues --

The New York Times: Overselling Testosterone, Dangerously
A large study has found substantial risks in prescribing testosterone to middle-age and older men for a variety of ailments. One part of the study found that testosterone doubled the risk of cardiovascular disease in more than 7,000 men who were 65 years old or older, essentially confirming findings in previous studies. The other part found that testosterone almost tripled the risk of heart attacks in a group of more than 48,000 middle-age men with previous histories of heart disease. The harm in both cases occurred within 90 days of receiving the prescription (2/4). 

Reuters: Philip Seymour Hoffmann And The Middle-Aged Drug Epidemic
Celebrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death at age 46 from an apparent heroin overdose is yet another indictment of the ongoing failure of drug war officials, interest groups, and politicians to confront the rising, decades-long epidemic of middle-aged abuse of illicit drugs, which now kills an American age 40-64 every 20 minutes. ... [O]piate and other illicit-drug deaths have been increasing for three decades. Although public service campaigns have long invoked "new" scourges of heroin and opiates that afflict middle-class young people, the group that most frequently dies from the most-abused drugs -- street and pharmaceutical opiates -- is white, middle-aged adults, not teenagers and young adults (Mike Males, 2/4).

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