KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: SCOTUS Should Support Contraception Mandate; Our Brains ‘Not Wired’ For Obamacare; President’s Personality Impairs Law’s Success

The New York Times: Another Challenge To The Health Care Law
More than a year after it upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has set the stage for a showdown over the law’s requirement that employer health plans cover birth control. ... The mandate’s promotion of women’s health and equality is clearly a compelling interest. More fundamentally, the 1993 law was not intended to cover profit-making corporations, and any burden imposed on the employer’s religion is trivial — the law, after all, merely allows employees to make independent decisions about birth control (11/26).

The Washington Post: Corporations Aren't People
Individual believers and non-believers draw their own lines on all kinds of moral issues every day. That’s human nature. They are free to say that their lines adhere to or are close to specific religious doctrines. But to extend the exemptions that churches receive to secular, for-profit corporations that claim to be following religious doctrine, but may in fact be nipping it here and tucking it there, would open the door to a range of idiosyncratic management practices inflicted on employees (Harold Meyerson, 11/26).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court To Rule On Whether Corporations Pray
The Supreme Court's most notable expansion of corporate "personhood" rights was the infamous Citizens United case of 2010, which granted corporations the equivalent of free-speech rights in election law. ... the corporate form affords its users considerable benefits, such as limited legal liability -- and that brings obligations along with benefits. What the Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Autocam families are asking is to reap the benefits of incorporation but shed the obligations of operating in the secular world. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether they should be permitted to have things both ways (Michael Hiltzik, 11/26).

The Wall Street Journal: An Executive Without Energy
In the last week of September 2013, a "pre-flight checklist" indicated that 41 of the 91 functions for which a key contractor was responsible were not working. Another checklist prepared a week later showed serious, and in five cases critical, defects in functions previously categorized as working. Nonetheless, the website was launched on Oct. 1 and failed almost immediately. ... the trail of responsibility for its botched rollout ends at the Oval Office (William A. Galston, 11/26).

The Washington Post: What Medicare Can Teach Us About The Future Of Obamacare
Conservative opposition to the ACA is partly driven by fears that, once fully implemented, the program will prove popular and thus be difficult to roll back. My new research suggests that these fears may be justified. The research, conducted with Princeton's Katherine McCabe, builds on a long-standing finding from political science: Policies, once created, generate constituencies who benefit from those policies and will therefore oppose efforts to reform or repeal them. This "policy feedback" is what Republicans want to avoid and Democrats want to cultivate (Amy Lerman, 11/26).

The Washington Post: Why Are Some Feds' Health-Insurance Premiums Increasing More Than Others’?
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) patted itself on the back when it announced an average rate hike of 3.7 percent for health insurance coverage next year in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). ... But the law of averages means some increases will be more than 3.7 percent. Sometimes a lot more (Joe Davidson, 11/26).

The Washington Post: More People Can’t Keep Their Health-Care Plans
President Obama’s broken promise that people can keep their existing health insurance is much larger than we’ve been led to believe. Until now, attention has focused on the individual insurance market: ... [which] is small, representing about 5 percent of the non-elderly population. But cancellations, under today’s law, will ultimately spread to the largest insurance market: employer-provided coverage. So Chapter Two of the broken promise looms (Robert J. Samuelson, 11/26).

Politico: Are Our Brains Just Not Wired for Obamacare?
The exchanges are based on a laudable idea: that competition, transparency and consumer choice will lead to higher-quality, more affordable products. ... But despite the good intentions behind the website, behavioral science research suggests that many consumers may be ill equipped to make good decisions in the insurance marketplaces. ... Humans have difficulty making optimal choices under conditions of uncertainty, when weighing probabilities of long-term risks and benefits, and when analyzing complex products with multiple components of unclear relative values (Dhruv Khullar, 11/26).

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Aftermath: Fewer Doctors, Higher Costs
[M]ore money isn’t pouring into healthcare – it’s just being rearranged. It’s being taken from the Medicare system, from people who can afford to pay higher insurance premiums and manage higher deductibles, from those who don’t now have health insurance because they have chosen to self-insure (the young and healthy), from those earning high incomes and from the makers of medical devices – and distributed to people who by and large cannot afford healthcare today. This may be a worthy social adjustment, but it does not create a new generation of eager doctors (Liz Peek, 11/27). 

Politico: The Bad-Faith Presidency
At the end of the day, the root of President Obama’s mendacity on Obamacare was simple: He didn’t dare tell people how the law would work. He couldn’t tell people how the law would work. Forthrightness was the enemy. It served no useful purpose and could only bring peril, and potentially defeat. It had to be banished. Instead of candor, Obama made the sale on the basis of dubious blandishments and outright deceptions. ... Obama was a natural at delivering sweeping and sincere-seeming assurances that weren’t true. This kind of thing is his métier (Rich Lowry, 11/26).

Bloomberg: Is Obamacare Challenging Enough for Obama?
Two statements explain the huge failure of Obamacare. One is by President Barack Obama, the other is about him. ... A chief executive less bored than Obama would have stayed on top of his signature legislation. ... After the Oct. 1 rollout, he seemed as surprised as your average citizen that the exchanges weren’t working. He keeps suggesting the failure should be mitigated by the fact that his opponents were wishing for it. It took him six weeks to apologize, he still hasn’t held anyone responsible, and not one head has rolled. One reason he could say that the fiasco was “on him” is that his head can’t roll (Margaret Carlson, 11/26).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: How Republicans Can Save Obamacare And Themselves
Even though Democrats passed it, the Affordable Care Act offers a hospitable environment for conservative reform. That's not just because it incorporates aspects of a proposal from the conservative Heritage Foundation, closely resembles the health care reform bill that Mitt Romney signed in Massachusetts, and bears striking similarities to earlier proposals by Republican members of Congress. No, the reason the ACA may be good for conservatives is that it provides a sound chassis for many of their health-policy proposals (Austin Frakt, 11/26).

The Fiscal Times: HealthCare.Gov May Have Risked My Identity
Last week, I received several calls from a representative who claimed to be from She was trying to obtain some more information for my application and claimed to be from a "processing center in Arkansas." Since I've written extensively about scams elsewhere (see my "Bamboozlement" blog on, my nose shot up like a terrier sensing a rodent. Why would someone call me, I wondered? Wouldn't they want to send me a secure email or an old-fashioned certified snailmail letter? (John F. Wasik, 11/27).

Los Angeles Times: Peter V. Lee, Obamacare's California Savior?
By the numbers, Peter V. Lee has some reason to crow while the feds are eating crow. The executive director of Covered California can be pleased that, as of mid-November, nearly a third of all Americans who signed up under the new healthcare law were Californians. But it's not over yet: The state's success with the young and with Latinos is not a slam dunk. As California goes, so goes this national experiment, most experts say. But Lee, whose last job was working for Medicare and Medicaid in D.C., doesn't seem to be feeling the pressure (Patt Morrison, 11/27).

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