KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Court And Women’s Health Care; Decouple Work And Coverage

Bloomberg: Who Really Lost In Hobby Lobby
The 5-4 decision, which runs 89 pages (including a 35-page dissent), is a messy, sprawling affair. The majority insists that its reach is narrow, while the dissent holds otherwise. What's clear is that the ruling will needlessly complicate not only constitutional and corporate law but also -- at least as significant -- health care for women who work at such companies (6/30).

Bloomberg: A Few Things The Hobby Lobby Ruling Won't Do
Does the court's ruling -- in which a majority held that Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and other private employers can be exempted from a requirement in Obamacare to cover contraceptives in their health-care plans -- represent a terrible blow to women's rights? Not really. Women have the same rights they had all through President Barack Obama's first term. At that time, federal law did not require most employers to cover contraceptives (Ramesh Ponnuru, 6/30).

Politico: Hobby Lobby's Unintended Consequences
Which would you prefer: to have the ability to decide for yourself and your family the type of coverage you want to purchase on a health insurance exchange—and having your premiums subsidized by a defined contribution or voucher from your employer—or to cede that ability to your employer entirely, having them pick your insurance for you, but empowering them to decide, based on their personal religious beliefs, which services to cover and which to exclude? After Monday’s Hobby Lobby decision, this is exactly the type of choice that more and more Americans will face (Ezekiel Emanuel, 7/1).

The New York Times: The Illogic Of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance
The argument is that the premiums ostensibly paid by employers to buy health insurance coverage for their employees are actually part of the employee's total pay package – the price of labor, in economic parlance – and that the cost of that fringe benefit is recovered from employees through commensurate reductions in take-home pay. Evidently the majority of Supreme Court justices who just ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case do not buy the economists' theory. These justices seem to believe that the owners of "closely held" business firms buy health insurance for their employees out of the kindness of their hearts and with the owners’ money. On that belief, they accord these owners the right to impose some of their personal preferences – in this case their religious beliefs — on their employee’s health insurance (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 7/1).

The New York Times: Hobby Lobby Is Only The Beginning
The United States Constitution speaks of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over "cases" and "controversies." But when social controversies do come before the court, its powers are limited. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which concerned the dispute over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, the court may have decided the case. The larger controversy, however, won't be settled so easily (Paul Horwitz, 7/1).

Los Angeles Times: The Hobby Lobby Case Proves The Necessity Of Single-Payer Healthcare
Is there anything more absurd than the American way of delivering healthcare coverage? Most Americans receive coverage through their employers. In the wake of Monday's Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, businesses accounting for about 52% of all privately employed workers now have the option to discriminate among their employees and among the healthcare benefits they offer, based on their owners' religious beliefs (Michael Hiltzik, 7/1).

Los Angeles Times: Post-Hobby Lobby, Congress Should Cut Health Insurance's Ties To Work
By ruling that private corporations can shape their employee insurance plans to fit their religious beliefs, the Supreme Court has given Congress another reason to take a step it refused to take in 2010: decouple insurance benefits from employment (Jon Healey, 6/30).

And on other health issues -

The New York Times: Gov. Cuomo’s Plan To Fight AIDS In New York
New York City was ravaged by AIDS after the first cases were reported more than 30 years ago, and the plague soared to about 14,000 new cases in the state and nearly 8,000 deaths a year in the city in the early 1990s. Since then, medication and prevention programs have lowered new infections with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, to about 3,000 a year and far fewer deaths. Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that he wants New York to reduce new infections to 750 by 2020, about the same as the number of new tuberculosis cases each year (7/1).

The Wall Street Journal: How Affordable Is The Affordable Care Act?
The Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report making the case for how Obamacare’s premium subsidies have made health insurance more affordable for individuals. But those who do not qualify for federal subsidies appear to find exchange coverage anything but affordable (Chris Jacobs, 7/1).

The Washington Post: Was GOP Control Of The State Senate In Virginia 'Purchased' With A Quid Pro Quo?
The more circumstances emerge about the deal that flipped control of the Virginia state Senate to Republicans, the seamier it looks. And there’s plenty we still don’t know. ... Puckett's resignation dashed Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) hopes of forging a legislative compromise to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians (7/1).

Los Angeles Times: The Meningitis Outbreak We Weren't Ready For
During the last two years, there have been a couple of outbreaks and sporadic cases of bacterial meningitis that federal health agencies failed to address with sufficient aggressiveness. It could have been much worse, and the experience should serve as a wake-up call. Meningitis is a devastating infectious disease, often misdiagnosed as flu, and it can become debilitating so quickly that by the time it is recognized, the patient may be too sick for effective treatment (John J. Cohrssen and Henry I. Miller, 7/1).

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