KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Rove Warns GOP That Defunding Could Be ‘Self-Defeating;’ Jonathan Cohn Says Latest Obamacare Fight Reveals Republicans’ Will To Overlook Gains From Law

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP's Self-Defeating 'Defunding' Strategy
Today, independents look more like Republicans than Democrats, especially when it comes to health care. In a new Crossroads GPS health-care policy survey conducted in 10 states likely to have competitive Senate races and in House districts that lean Republican or are swing seats, 60 percent of independents oppose President Obama's Affordable Care Act. If this holds through 2014, then Republicans should receive another big boost in the midterms. There is, however, one issue on which independents disagree with Republicans: using the threat of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare (Karl Rove, 9/18).

The Washington Post: Why Republicans Are Desperate For A Shutdown
The coming battles over budgets, the debt ceiling, a government shutdown and Obamacare are not elements of a large political game. They involve a fundamental showdown over the role of government in stemming rising inequality and making our country a fairer and more decent place. Anyone who doesn't see this should be forgiven. The stakes in this battle are almost always buried in news accounts about tactics and obscured by an unquenchable desire across the media to provide the latest take on whether President Obama is growing "weak" and has already become the lamest of lame ducks (E.J. Dionne Jr., 9/18).

The New York Times: The March To Anarchy
Until now, the only House Republicans pushing for a government shutdown and debt crisis were a few dozen on the radical right, the ones Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, referred to as "the anarchists." On Wednesday, however, the full Republican caucus, leadership and all, joined the anarchy movement, announcing plans to demand the defunding of health care reform as the price for keeping the government open past Sept. 30. The decision means that a government shutdown next month is now much more likely (9/18).

Bloomberg: Republicans' Phony Obamacare Replacement
A mere 48 months after the law was introduced, only 42 months after it was signed, with just two weeks until one of its main provisions takes effect, Republicans today finally offered their alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Which would be cause for genuine (if belated) congratulations, except for one thing: It's not really an alternative. Understanding why can help clarify the U.S.'s seemingly endless debate about health care. The Republican bill would give individuals tax deductions to buy health insurance, expand tax-free health savings accounts and limit insurance premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. What it wouldn't do is expand coverage to the same number of uninsured Americans -- about 25 million, according to the latest estimates -- as Obamacare (9/18).

Bloomberg: 'Party Of No' Should Focus On 'Getting To Yes'
Last week, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the 41st time to repeal or dismantle parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And no, the 42nd time is not going to be the charm. What exactly is the Republican endgame? Initially, it may have been about what House Speaker John Boehner calls the "optics": allowing newly elected members to cast a symbolic vote on the law. Now they just look like spoilers (Caroline Baum, 9/18).

The New Republic: Boehner: Surrender On Obamacare, Or It's Shutdown City 
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, because of the law, the number of people without health insurance will fall by 14 million next year—and then nearly double, to 27 million, in the three years after that. ... Repeal Obamacare and people lose out on regulations guaranteeing them minimum levels of coverage, prohibitions of annual and lifetime limits, and (for low-income people buying on their own) extra protection against out-of-pocket spending. ... Does insisting on Obamacare defunding and delay defy political logic? Yes. But it’s the substantive claims Republicans make—the argument that a world without Obamacare is better than a world with one—that deserve the most scrutiny (Jonathan Cohn, 9/18).

The New York Times: World War O
On Wednesday, leaders of the House of Representatives announced their plans for a 42nd and 43rd vote to thwart the new health care reform law. If they don't get their way, they're threatening to defund the government and crack the debt ceiling. ... Seriously, people, why do you think the Republicans have gone so completely lunatic when it comes to this issue? (Gail Collins, 9/18).

The New York Times: Bring Back The Lyme Vaccine
The ticks that carry Lyme disease — which are prevalent in the Northeast United States, the Upper Midwest and Northern California, as well as in Central Europe and Scandinavia — can be hard to spot, too. Both nymph and adult ticks can transmit the bacteria, but the tiny nymphs — which emerge in the springtime — are hard to see with the naked eye until they mature in the fall. In other words, it's easy to be bitten and not realize it. If you are infected, it's easy for a doctor to miss the symptoms. Shouldn't there be a vaccine for such a prevalent and dangerous disease? In fact, we used to have one, and are perfectly capable of producing another, if the public demand is high and we avoid the mistakes of the past (Stanley E. Plotkin, 9/18).

Roll Call: How Telemedicine Could Change Medicare
The majority of Medicare's costs come from the treatment of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, about 82 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have one or more chronic conditions. Unfortunately, there are proven solutions to help patients better manage chronic diseases and access primary care providers that are already reducing costs and addressing the shortage issue. Unfortunately, constrained by the Medicare law, most seniors and the disabled do not have access to these solutions (Joel White, 9/18).

Forbes: Health Insurance Exchanges: Don't Everyone Show Up At Once!
On Oct. 1, health insurance exchanges will open for business across the United States. Our advice: wait. That's also the same advice you can infer from the president on down. There will be bugs. Count on it. The always excellent Politico blog ran a story about how federal officials are looking at the exchanges as a marathon, not a sprint. And the worst thing that could happen is if everyone in the nation who needs insurance logs on to their respective state health insurance exchange on the first day (Evan Albright, 9/18).

The Fiscal Times: Business Boondoggle: Shedding The Cost Of Health Care 
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama laughed off the concerns of Americans that have driven approval for the ACA to their lowest levels ever as the start date for the individual mandate approaches on October 1st. Asked whether "everybody" is wrong to oppose Obamacare in an interview with Telemundo, Obama chuckled and replied, "Yes, they are." He insisted that the law has delivered "the lowest increase in healthcare costs in 50 years over the last several years," and that "there is no evidence at all that this is somehow making healthcare more expensive." Maybe he should tell that to his partners in the program. Walgreens, one of the nation’s largest retailers, surprised its 160,000 employees by ending employer-provided health insurance. Instead, the company will provide a fixed stipend for use in a private exchange (Edward Morrissey, 9/19).


California Healthline: A Dozen Hospitals Are Laying Off Staff And Blaming Obamacare. Don’t Believe Them.
Hospitals tend to be among the largest employers in their communities -- which means that any individual decision to lay off staff can have an outsized local impact. And taken together, a dozen recent announcements seem to paint an especially dire picture for hospitals (and their communities) around the nation. … When Obamacare was being debated in Congress, its opponents tried to tar it with a deadly label: "the job-killing health law." So is the ACA finally living down to its sobriquet? Not exactly. While the recent news makes for provocative headlines, the devil's in the details -- and the financial reports (Diamond, 9/18).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Data Breach Needs To Be Taken Seriously
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox have had a painful couple of weeks. This time, the legendary lumberjack's injuries weren't inflicted by woodpeckers, water skiing or sledding — among the hazards that make Minnesota the land of "10,000 reasons to get health insurance,"’ according to the ads in which Bunyan and Babe promote the state's new online health coverage marketplace. Instead, the latest mishaps came at the hands of their new MNsure colleagues, who have made two disappointing mistakes recently that sapped confidence in this important marketplace in the critical lead-up to its Oct. 1 launch (9/18). 

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