KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Looking To The Supremes For Answer On Subsidies; ‘Personhood’ Laws

The Wall Street Journal: Fast-Tracking ObamaCare To The Supreme Court
Liberals are telling themselves that the latest ObamaCare legal challenge won't amount to much, although more nervously after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the White House is defying the law's plain text by allotting insurance subsidies through the federal exchanges. Allow us to increase their anxiety by speeding things along to the Supreme Court (7/23).

The Washington Post: Without Obamacare, What Would The Country Really Give Up?
After months of mostly encouraging news, many analysts have been upbeat about the law. Enrollment in private insurance and in Medicaid is up significantly. Nearly all of those buying private coverage are receiving tax credits, dropping their premiums by 76 percent, on average. Despite predictions to the contrary, a huge chunk — maybe something like half — of the newly insured lacked coverage before signing up, so the law isn’t just forcing people to move from one plan onto another whether they want to or not. The law is instead pushing the proportion of Americans without insurance down significantly. Given these things have happened despite a troubled rollout, it’s fair to be optimistic about year two (Stephen Stromberg, 7/23). 

The Washington Post: A Conservative Judiciary Run Amok
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens captured our ideal when he wrote of the judge as "an impartial guardian of the rule of law." By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government (E.J. Dionne Jr., 7/23).

The New York Times' The Upshot: Two Americas On Health Care, And Danger Of Further Division
For decades, the United States has had a fragmented health policy. States called the shots on major elements of how health care and health insurance were financed and regulated. The result: a hodgepodge of coverage and a wide variance in health. The Affordable Care Act was intended to help standardize important parts of that system, by imposing some common rules across the entire country and by providing federal financing to help residents in all states afford insurance coverage. But a series of court rulings on the law could make the differences among the states bigger than ever (Margo Sanger-Katz, 7/23).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Takes A Body Blow
When you read through the ruling, it’s easy to see the many ways in which the law’s architects brought this on themselves. The law was highly complex, badly drafted and highly controversial. ... the Democrats had to push it through on a straight party-line vote with some adroit parliamentary maneuvering -- which gave them a health-care law, but one that was badly put together and couldn’t be substantially amended (Megan McArdle, 7/22).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Is Ending, And Other Nonsense
It's too soon to panic -- or celebrate, as the case may be: Obamacare isn't dead. And given the flimsy logic of the latest legal argument against it, there's a good chance it never will be (7/22).

Bloomberg: Courts Can't Fix Obamacare
Supporters of Obamacare have been lamenting that the law shouldn't be crippled by a mere "drafting error." But it's not at all clear that restricting tax credits to state-established exchanges was a drafting error. If Obamacare had proven more popular, or resistance to it weaker, then most states would have established exchanges. And if the law were put in place as written -- with the restriction on tax credits -- then the few holdouts would be under pressure to establish exchanges to get credits for their residents. Other health-care legislation before Congress at the same time as Obamacare had the same restriction (Ramesh Ponnuru, 7/22).

Bloomberg: Add Fraud To The List Of Obamacare Disasters
It sounds like the systems that are supposed to check identity, immigration status and income simply aren’t working at all; the system just assumes that you are who you say you are. This isn’t the only major part of the system that’s still missing .... the system that pays insurers still seems to be MIA. Presumably, the emergency team called in to fix the exchanges prioritized the bits that the public could see, leaving everything else for later. Compared to what was described by the Barack Obama administration (and the law), the system still seems to be half-built (Megan McArdle, 7/23).

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare OK’s Fake Accounts And Fake Promises
To this day, the federal exchange still lacks the “back end” needed to determine how many sign-ups actually have coverage and are paying their premiums, leaving the number of successful enrollments a guessing game based more on surveys than hard data. Now, however, the problem has expanded from failed enrollments to successful enrollments that shouldn’t have made it. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a small test of the site, which the Obama administration claims is functional now, to see whether the system could prevent fraudulent enrollments. In twelve attempts, the GAO succeeded in eleven fictitious enrollments (Edward Morrissey, 7/24).

The Wall Street Journal: McConnell's Campaign Lesson For The GOP
His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, appeared in an ad sitting with a retired miner who wanted to know why Mr. McConnell "voted to raise my Medicare costs by $6,000. How are my wife and I supposed to afford that?" He and Ms. Grimes then stared at the camera for five seconds, before Ms. Grimes said, "I don't think he's going to answer that." He did answer, in 24 hours, in a video with clips of local and national media calling the charge "false," "misleading" and "laughable" since he didn't vote for the measure the miner cited. (It was a House proposal that never reached the Senate and wouldn't have raised the miner's Medicare costs.) The video even included footage of Ms. Grimes being pressed by Kentucky reporters to defend the ad. Then the McConnell campaign flipped the issue, reminding voters that President Obama's Affordable Care Act cut Medicare and saying that Ms. Grimes is "Obama's Kentucky candidate. Obama Needs Grimes. Kentucky Needs Mitch McConnell" (Karl Rove, 7/23).

The New York Times: Do Personhood Laws Protect Or Harm?
Ms. DeSamito and Ms. Loyola have been arrested or detained because of the increasing nationwide push to pass so-called personhood laws. These laws, though they vary state to state, by and large recognize fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs as persons who are separate from the mothers who carry them. The laws seek to protect this category of persons, whether from strangers or from the mothers themselves. Jennifer Mason, a representative of the pro-life group Personhood USA, said on NPR’s "Fresh Air" in November that "the 14th Amendment requires equal protection under the law for everybody, and so we believe that every human being, regardless of their location, whether they're in the womb or out of it, deserves those protections and those rights." These laws now exist in 38 states, and some say they harm the mothers whose fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses they aim to protect (Anna Altman, 7/23).

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