KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Health Law Still Facing Major Challenges; Ky. Gov. Questions McConnell’s Assessment Of Overhaul; Pa.’s Medicaid Experiment Is A ‘Sham’

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Troubles Are Only Beginning
The White House is claiming that the website is mostly fixed, that the millions of Americans whose health plans were canceled thanks to government rules may be able to keep them for another year, and that in any event these people will get better plans through ObamaCare exchanges. Whatever the truth of these assertions, those who expect better days ahead for the Affordable Care Act are in for a rude awakening. The shocks—economic and political—will get much worse next year and beyond (Michael J. Boskin, 12/15). 

The Wall Street Journal: Backdating ObamaCare
The White House says that ObamaCare is all fixed, but its conduct suggests otherwise. As it has realized that the government-created chaos is exposing patients to nasty and even deadly surprises, the government is now forcing the insurance industry to cover everyone retroactively and also to waive the contractual terms of that coverage—or else (12/13). 

The Washington Post: Two Problems That Could Undermine The Affordable Care Act
For years, critics have charged that President Obama's Affordable Care Act is a government takeover of the health-care system, which accounts for about a sixth of the economy. The criticism is feeble. Actually, as the law rolls out, some of the biggest threats to its success stem from the fact that its architects decided not to be more coercive. Two major issues have cropped up since the phase-in began Oct. 1 that could undermine the law's fundamental logic (12/13). 

The New York Times: Medicaid Outpaces Private Plans
After a botched start, the number of people signing up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act has accelerated greatly, with the most substantial gains occurring in Medicaid programs for the poor (12/15). 

Politico: The Republican Answer To Obamacare
It's been a rough two months for the White House since went live on Oct 1. In the weeks that followed, it soon became clear that the problem was not just one of technical incompetence leading to a shoddy website, but of bad policy. Millions of Americans began receiving notices that they couldn’t keep their current health plan, their premium costs would be going up, or both. In the face of this disaster, the White House has pivoted to a new line, which can be summed up as, "Well, yes, Obamacare's rollout has been deeply flawed and the impact it has had on Americans wasn't exactly as advertised, but the Republicans have no alternative proposals for how to fix things and just want to return to the status quo." ... The problem with this new accusation from President Obama and his surrogates is that it is completely, utterly and verifiably false (Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Gleason, 12/15).

The Dallas Morning News: The Importance Of Health Care Navigators To Texas
Millions of Texans don't have the security of health coverage. In fact, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation. Yet there are some who will seemingly stop at nothing to deter Texans — and those who assist them — from obtaining coverage or even learning about their new options under the Affordable Care Act (Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 12/16).

The Dallas Morning News: Who Are These Obamacare Navigators?
To help the American people navigate the onerous and confusing requirements of signing up for Obamacare exchanges, the administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars to create the navigator program. Disturbingly, news reports from the last four weeks have highlighted numerous examples of fraudulent activity related to health navigators in Texas. So — who are these navigators and what is their role in Obamacare? (Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., 12/15).

Lexington Herald-Leader: McConnell Took Medicaid Comments Out Of Context
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell should be careful not to hurt himself with the contorted stretching he and other critics are continuing to do in their increasingly farcical opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and its underlying goal of improving access to affordable health care for all Americans. The senator's blanket statement in a recent column in the Herald-Leader that "most Kentuckians oppose" the act must be based on the complaints he hears in the echo chamber he and other critics have created and continue to nurture. Because the reality in Kentucky — many hundreds of miles from the senator's offices and home in Washington — is different (Gov. Steve Beshear, D-Ky., 12/16).

Los Angeles Times: Pennsylvania Isn't Serious About Expanding Medicaid. How Do We Know?
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has lately been getting credit in the political press for being one of those Republican governors coming around on the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates for the underprivileged can't understand why. They're right to wonder. Corbett's "Healthy Pennsylvania" plan, which was released for public comment this week, is a sham. It would reduce health benefits for many of his neediest citizens and impose punitive conditions on their coverage (Michael Hiltzik, 12/14). 

Tampa Bay Times: Failure At The Top On Medicaid
Florida is stuck with a tea party governor who won't talk and a tea party House speaker who won't listen. Gov. Rick Scott refuses to repeat his earlier support for Medicaid expansion, and House Speaker Will Weatherford refuses to hear the economic and moral arguments for accepting billions of federal dollars to cover the poor. Congress is finally rejecting such ideological rigidness in embracing a budget compromise, and the Legislature should do the same on health care (12/13).

Detroit Free Press: Affordable Care Act Won't Solve All Our Health Care Problems
Michigan is one of the 25 states where the legislature voted for Medicaid expansion, albeit reluctantly. Statewide, it is estimated that more than 400,000 of Michigan’s 1.3 million uninsured will people become eligible for Medicaid. I was hopeful that about 80% of the uninsured patients we see at Cabrini Clinic would be among them. However, the Michigan Legislature asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for waivers on the program that it is calling Healthy Michigan. ... For the uninsured poor, these waivers will pose barriers (Mary Ellen Howard, 12/14). 

USA Today: Obamacare Hurts My Small Business
When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, politicians are governing by sound bite rather than by reason. Nowhere is this more evident than with some of the promises regarding how the law will affect both individuals and businesses. Everyone is now familiar with the administration's debunked promise that "if you like your plan, you can keep it." Over 5 million Americans lost their health insurance in recent months. But many small businesses, like mine, have also been notified that the plans we offer our employees will be canceled and replaced with more expensive alternatives (Susan Gabay, 12/14).

Des Moines Register: Health Care Comes With Responsibility
Iowa, a purple state, has reached an agreement with the federal administration on a form of Medicaid expansion that doubtless will be spun in different political ways. ... Described in partisan terms, Democrats wanted to expand a comprehensive set of health benefits to those who, because of lack of resources or private health coverage, did not have access to health services. Republicans wanted those receiving coverage to exercise personal responsibility for their health. Iowa lawmakers found a way to do both. Probably imperfect, it nonetheless represents a substantial (Charles Bruner, 12/15).

And on other issues -

Los Angeles Times: Budget Deal Is Just A Start
The budget agreement reached by the House and Senate this week is a small step forward in restoring some sanity and order to the process. ... But the agreement also represents another missed opportunity to address our long-term fiscal problems. ... The small reforms in this agreement do not address the real long-term drivers of our debt, including the growth of healthcare entitlement programs and Social Security's funding shortfall (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, 12/13). 

The New York Times: Skip The Supplements
Doctors always ask parents if their children are taking any medicines. Unfortunately, because most parents don't consider dietary supplements to be drugs, we often never knew about their use, let alone whether they might react dangerously with the child’s other treatments. The F.D.A. has the mandate, but not the manpower, to oversee the labeling and manufacture of these supplements. In the meantime, doctors — and consumers — are on their own (Paul A. Offit and Sarah Erush, 12/14).

The New York Times: Solving The Shortage In Primary Care Doctors
Again and again, we hear that the country has too few doctors, particularly for primary care. And Obamacare is supposed to make the shortage much worse in the coming years as more Americans become insured and try to shoehorn themselves into already crowded medical offices. But why, exactly, are doctors in such short supply? ... It turns out that the real bottleneck is at the post-med-school step: residencies, those supervised, intensive, hazing-like, on-the-job training programs that doctors are required to go through before they can practice on their own (Catherine Rampell, 12/14). 

NPR: Before The Prescription, Ask About Your Doctor's Finances
When my mother discovered that her oncologist was being paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak about a cancer drug — the same one that he had put her on — she became upset, confused and scared. Every time he recommended a medication or a procedure, she wondered whether he was picking a treatment because it was right for her, or because he got paid to do it. At the dawn of managed care, worried patients wanted to know whether their doctor was getting paid more to do less. Now, as many doctors' salaries depend on how many procedures they perform, patients want to know whether their doctor is paid more to do more. ... A few doctors, and I'm one of them, are beginning to post information about how we earn our money on a public website and to discuss the financial issues with our patients (Dr. Leana Wen, 12/14).

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