KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Medicaid’s Effect On Health Debated; Young Adults Central To Lowering Anxiety About Online Marketplaces

The New York Times' Room For Debate: More Medicaid, More Health?
A study comparing low-income people in Oregon who received access to Medicaid over the past two years with those who did not, found that those on Medicaid visited doctors and hospitals more often, suffered less from depression and were more financially secure. That said, the Medicaid recipients saw little average improvement in blood pressure, blood sugar and other measures (5/7). 

Bloomberg: Why Cash Can’t Replace Health Insurance
Since the release of the Oregon Health Study last week, conservative columnist Ross Douthat and liberal blogger Matt Yglesias have both written articles broaching the idea that the government should offer poor people more cash benefits in place of health benefits. Douthat argues more broadly for re-conceiving health insurance as something akin to homeowners insurance: a backstop against catastrophic losses, not a comprehensive package covering everyday expenses (Josh Barro, 5/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Florida Flips Back
The nine Republican Governors who decided earlier this year to pump some helium into the ObamaCare balloon and expand Medicaid forgot about that saving grace of American politics: the separation of powers. On Friday Florida became the latest state to reject the expansion, as Governor Rick Scott failed to convince the GOP-controlled legislature to approve his Medicaid flip. Mr. Scott's Medicaid plans stalled as the Florida Senate and House stalemated and adjourned for the year. Unless the Governor recalls legislators for a special session, the state won't participate in new Medicaid. Opposition is concentrated in the lower chamber, where conservatives are concerned about Medicaid's large and growing costs and the Florida budget's dependence on federal funds (5/6).

Tampa Bay Times: The Governor Who Wasn't
Only in political life do we stumble across people who aspire, yearn, crave to hold high and powerful offices without the slightest clue about what the job requires. ... Scott also meekly came out in support of accepting $50 billion in federal Medicaid funding over the next 10 years to help 1 million Floridians get health insurance. Then he promptly went back to sleep instead of using the bully pulpit of his office to hammer a tea-party-beholden Weatherford and an ideologically recalcitrant House to accept the money. He didn't. They didn't. And more than a million Floridians are now left holding an empty Medicaid bag (Daniel Ruth, 5/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Exchanges Will Need the Young Invincibles
In less than five months, on Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges will go live online. Millions of Americans will suddenly be able to log on to a website and choose their own heath-care coverage from a menu of subsidized options for prices and coverage levels. As the opening day gets closer, anxiety is increasing over how well these online exchanges will function (Ezekiel Emanuel, 5/6). 

Bloomberg: Buying Insurance Should Be As Easy As Using An iPad
In March, a draft of the Obama administration's application form was released online. Unfortunately, the form was complex, long and immensely difficult to navigate. Skeptics asked a reasonable question: How can the law possibly work, if people can’t understand the forms they need to fill out to get insurance in the first place? Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a radically revised application form, and there’s excellent news. It's much simpler. ... Although the tale of the streamlined health-insurance application form has a happy ending, it also offers three general lessons (Cass R. Sunstein, 5/6).

Fox News: Obama Plays Truth Or Dare With Your Health Care
At his impromptu news conference last Tuesday, President Obama demonstrated he is either so detached he doesn't know what's happened as the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is being implemented or that he knows but intends to brazen his way through an emerging policy debacle.  Whichever it is, it's likely to be a political disaster for the president and his party. Saying that while there were big changes for those now uninsured, it was a different situation "for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance," Mr. Obama said. The only impact for them, he assured us, is that "their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That's it. They don't have to worry about anything else" (Karl Rove, 5/6).

Los Angeles Times: A Plan To Make The Morning-After Pill A Moot Point
It's a new front in the long-running battle over reproductive rights, playing out this time as a clash between politics and science. Doctors say there's no medical reason to keep girls of any age from having easy access to the morning-after contraceptive known as Plan B. A judge's ruling last month would do away with current age restrictions. But the Justice Department appealed that ruling last week. The Obama administration wants to make the over-the-counter pill off-limits to girls younger than 15, unless they have a prescription. Activists have denounced Obama's plan as an assault on women's rights. But the women in question this time are 12, 13, 14 years old (Sandy Banks, 5/7). 

Tampa Bay Times: Plan B Appeal A Setback For Public Health
President Barack Obama told an audience at the National Academy of Sciences last month that his administration would not let politics interfere with science. Now the president has broken that promise. The Justice Department has announced that it will appeal a federal court ruling that grants unlimited access to emergency contraception for younger teens. What is certain is that Obama is sacrificing the reproductive freedom and health of girls by ignoring the evidence and playing politics (5/6).

The Washington Post: The Senate Aims To Clean Up Compounding Pharmacies
When a doctor sticks a needle in you, you expect that the drugs it carries won't be tainted. But, possibly owing to a strange gray area in federal law, thousands of patients last October got injections for back pain that contained highly dangerous fungal meningitis, and dozens of them died. Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee are now seeking to fix the government's oversight of the obscure world of compounding pharmacies. The reforms they want are overdue (5/6). 

Politico: Advanced Nurses Lower Costs, Improve Care
As our nation prepares to implement the bulk of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the issues of access to care and unsustainable cost continue to loom large. What can we do about an aging population with increasing chronic health issues and millions more needing care? How can we meet the increasing demand, maintain quality and not break the bank? Legislators looking for solutions to these questions can unleash the skills of nurse practitioners by removing regulatory barriers that prevent them from practicing to the top of their education and training (Sheila Burke and Bill Novelli, 5/6).

The Lund Report: Author Points Out What’s Wrong With Health Care Reform
Health reform was not initiated with ObamaCare. We have been reforming in spurts unsuccessfully for decades, always driven by populism. Beliefs that win the contest of ideas do not usually endure the requirement of proof of concept (Stephen Gregg, 5/6).

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