KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Cooking The Census Books; Immigrants Left Off Health Law; Abortion Still A ‘Tripwire’

The Wall Street Journal: Cooking The ObamaCare Stats
You can't manage what you don't measure, as the great Peter Drucker used to say, and for the White House that seems to be the goal. Out of the blue, the Census Bureau has changed how it counts health insurance—at the precise moment when ObamaCare is roiling the insurance markets (4/15). 

Bloomberg: Is Obama Cooking The Census Books For Obamacare?
The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the [Census] survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time. ... This is the biggest policy debate of the last 10 years, and these data are at the heart of that debate. It is implausible that everyone involved somehow failed to notice that they were making it much harder to know the effect of this law on the population it was supposed to serve (Megan McArdle, 4/15).

USA Today: Obamacare Doesn't Help Immigrants
I can't remember the last time I had a medical check-up; I'm 20, and it's been at least five years. When I was a little kid in South Los Angeles, my mother would only take my older sister and me to the doctor when we were already sick; whether we had a fever or any other illness, every visit cost $100, including treatments. Then a neighbor informed my mom of a community clinic that offered free visits for low-income families — but only, again, if we were already sick. The clinic was our best option because as undocumented immigrants we had no insurance and weren't eligible for benefits from state programs (Miguel Molina, 4/15).

Arkansas Times: Tom Cotton Avoids Taking Stance On Private Option
The private option — the state's unique plan using Medicaid funds to purchase health insurance for low-income Arkansans — has provided coverage to 150,000 Arkansans (and counting). The funding mechanism for the private option is Obamacare, and repealing Obamacare is at the top of Rep. Tom Cotton's agenda. Repeal Obamacare, and the private option dies with it. At today's presser, I asked Cotton about this. "We would repeal Obamacare and replace it entirely with many reforms for our health care program," Cotton said. I asked whether he had a specific replacement plan which would cover all the folks who would lose their coverage if Cotton succeeded in repealing the law. He trotted out some tried-and-true Republican talking points which would do no such thing, such as allowing insurance to be sold across state lines (David Ramsey, 4/13).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: In Health Fight, Both Sides Told What They Want To Hear
At a town hall-type meeting Monday night organized by three Republican legislators who represent rural Louisa County, speaker after speaker questioned or criticized a proposal to bring as many as 400,000 uninsured Virginians under Obamacare through a private market set up by the state. In fact, after the lawmakers reprised their wins and losses during the winter session of the General Assembly, the coverage plan was the only topic the audience wanted to talk about. The scheme — caught up in the latest budget impasse that threatens a state government shutdown unless there’s a deal by June 30, the final day of the spending cycle — would be paid for over the next four years with nearly $7 billion from Medicaid, a health care program for the poor. Welcome to the echo chamber (Jeff E. Schapiro, 4/15). Corbett Medicaid Plan Puts Pennsylvanians At Breaking Point Over Cuts And Delays
With the federal public comment period ending this week on the Corbett Administration's Healthy PA proposal, Pennsylvanians delivered a loud and clear message to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Healthy PA is overly complex, overly complicated and unnecessary. The best choice for Pennsylvania taxpayers and uninsured workers is to join all of our surrounding states by expanding Medicaid immediately (Antoinette Kraus, 4/16).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana Taking Away Medicaid Lifeline For Disabled, Other Vulnerable Residents
It's well known that Gov. Jindal steadfastly opposes expanding Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act, and that the Legislature voted against expansion in 2013. This is misguided, as Medicaid expansion would cover as many as 300,000 uninsured residents, with 100 percent of the costs picked up by the federal government through 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter. But less widely known is that Medicaid in Louisiana is actually shrinking, through termination of programs and tighter eligibility requirements. In the state's view, since the Affordable Care Act's private insurance marketplace will cover people earning more than the federal poverty level, many people on Medicaid should pick up insurance on marketplace exchanges. But it's not that simple (Megan McLemore, 4/15).

The CT Mirror: Accessing Mental Health Care Still A Challenge In CT’s Rural Areas
The Affordable Care Act has brought ongoing changes in health care, but there are still issues surrounding those living with mental illness, particularly in rural areas, where there is a significant lack of mental health care available. In rural populations, the rates of depression exceed those in urban populations, and suicide rates among teenagers and adults are significantly higher in rural areas than in urban areas. As a mother and nurse living and working in rural of Connecticut, I have found that obtaining mental health services can be a time-consuming, frustrating process (Holly Atkinson, 4/15). 

Fox News: Kathleen Sebelius Quits: Can You Spell Scapegoat? offers two definitions for scapegoat: "1. A person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place; 2. Chiefly biblical. A goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26." Both definitions seem to fit last week's announcement of the "resignation" of Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who presided over the disastrous rollout of the government's website,, which was supposed to provide easy access for people who wished to sign up for ObamaCare (Cal Thomas, 4/15).

On other health issues -

The New York Times: Abortion Endures As A Political Tripwire
Why is there such a difference in the durability of two foundational issues of American conservatism: gay marriage and abortion? Same-sex marriage burst onto the political scene in the early 1990s, lasted through the mid-2000s, and is now quietly fading. Abortion, as a political call to arms, has been around twice as long and shows no signs of disappearing (Thomas B. Edsall, 4/15). 

The Des Moines Register: Medicare Pay Info Helps With Accountability
For the first time since the 1970s, the federal government has released data on Medicare payments to individual physicians. The media have focused on a few doctors who collected from $10 million to $20 million in 2012 from the government health insurance program for seniors. About 2,000 providers were reimbursed at least $2 million. The information certainly does raise eyebrows (4/14).

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