KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Current Insurance Was Made Cheaper By Turning Away The Sick; Even In Obama’s Illinois, Implementing Changes Is Tough

The Washington Post: The Shocking Truth About Obamacare’s Rate Shock
Some people will find the new rules make insurance more expensive. That's in part because their health insurance was made cheap by turning away sick people. The new rules also won't allow for as much discrimination based on age or gender. The flip side of that, of course, is that many will suddenly find their health insurance is much cheaper, or they will find that, for the first time, they're not turned away when they try to buy health insurance (Ezra Klein, 6/1). 

The New York Times: Next Year's Health Plan Rates
Republicans are doing their best to persuade Americans that the Affordable Care Act will drive health insurance premiums so high that consumers will experience "rate shock." That fear-provoking tale seems much less credible now that the rates proposed by health insurers for individual coverage on the new health care exchanges have been made public in several states. For the most part, the premiums will increase only slightly or even decrease for individuals and family coverage on the exchanges, electronic marketplaces in which consumers choose among a variety of plans with differing benefits and costs (6/1).

Tampa Bay Times: Improving Heath Care Reform
Americans have much to look forward to as the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect in January. But major legislation never passes without political compromise, ensuring that fixes and revisions will be required, just as has happened to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. President Barack Obama borrowed heavily from former Gov. Mitt Romney's health reforms in Massachusetts and overlaid a new system atop the established private insurance market. That made the law far more complex and increased the likelihood that changes would have to be made. Now that it's just months from full implementation, the following are among the tweaks needed to ensure more people get health coverage (5/31).

Politico: Glitches The Media Must Watch For In Covering ACA
President Barack Obama recently predicted “glitches and bumps” when major provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented next year. It is always this way. Today we think of Medicare as a popular program that is part of the fabric of American life. But my friend Joseph Califano, who helped create Medicare while working for Lyndon B. Johnson, recalls real problems during the early days of the program, including resistance to desegregating hospitals and physician reluctance to participate. But there is at least one big difference today: Our almost instant and nonstop news cycle, the Internet and the impact of the news echo chamber on the public. As several news organizations learned during last summer’s coverage of the ACA ruling in the Supreme Court, it’s better to be right than to be first. Getting the ACA story “right” will be nearly as difficult as implementation itself (Drew Altman, 6/2).

The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary: Illinois And ObamaCare
ObamaCare implementation is tough going, even in the president's old stomping ground: Springfield, Ill. The Illinois House, which is dominated by Democrats, passed the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but only by a whisker and after heavy lobbying of undecided Democrats (Stephen Moore, 5/31).

Arizona Republic: Dems: Give Brewer Some Credit On Medicaid
I'm no fan of Jan Brewer – her failings as a governor are legion. But if she pulls off this Medicaid expansion, she will have accomplished lasting good for Arizona. Her stand represents real courage – not to mention good sense. She's been willing to alienate her base – and they keep their pitchforks handy for any sign of heresy among the ranks (Linda Valdez, 5/30).

Arizona Republic: Governor's Medicaid-Expansion Push Is Pragmatic
Gov. Jan Brewer has said that her decision to move forward with Medicaid expansion was a combination of common sense and gut. ... In the end, the question for her was do we only use state funds, leaving the general fund overextended and vulnerable, or do we continue to use the opportunity to have a mix of dollars that gives us a stable fiscal environment, enough money to fund the state’s responsibilities without fear of imminent tax increases or dramatic cuts to programs, and have the ability to meet parent and business demands for strategic investment — particularly in education? Doesn’t seem like much of a choice, does it? That’s why the governor’s plan makes sense (John Fisher, 6/2).

Health Cal: New Insurance Market Taking Shape
California's new health insurance marketplace is starting to come into focus as a state agency in charge of implementing President Obama's federal health reform steadily adds more and more detail to the emerging picture, like a painter filling in a vast canvass. But exactly how the final image will look to consumers remains a bit murky (Weintraub, 6/3).

The Fiscal Times: Social Security, Medicare Still Face The Abyss 
Social Security and Medicare are still treading down a dangerous financial path. The trustees for both entitlement programs issued their annual reports on Friday, showing—without much surprise—that a year of political gridlock did little to change the long-term challenges confronting Social Security and Medicare, which represent 38 percent of all federal spending (Josh Boak, 5/31).

Los Angeles Times: Debating Just How Long To Wait Before Fixing Social Security
It's clear that Medicare is getting healthier, boosted by lower-than-expected increases in medical costs per patient. Some of that is attributable to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), which is slowly shifting the program away from an inefficient payment system that encourages providing too much care toward one that gives doctors and hospitals more incentive to keep patients healthy. But it's also clear that the burgeoning ranks of retirees will bankrupt Medicare's hospital trust fund before too long, even if the system manages to keep a lid on spending per beneficiary (Jon Healey, 5/31).

The New York Times: The Geezers Are All Right
To be fair, the reports of the Social Security and Medicare trustees released Friday do suggest that America’s retirement system needs some significant work. The ratio of Americans over 65 to those of working age will rise inexorably over the decades ahead, and this will translate into rising spending on Social Security and Medicare as a share of national income. But the numbers aren’t nearly as overwhelming as you might have imagined, given the usual rhetoric. And if you look under the hood, the data suggest that we can, if we choose, maintain social insurance as we know it with only modest adjustments (Paul Krugman, 6/2).

Sacramento Bee: Abortion Battle Could Ripple Into California
California might seem worlds away from [Arizona] on the issue of abortion. In many ways, it is. This state's supreme court legalized abortion in 1969, four years before Roe v. Wade. California protects the right of privacy for everyone, including women wrestling with the most personal of issues. That's how it ought to be. But even here, access to abortion remains an issue. In contrast to what is happening in most of the nation, however, legislators here are looking for ways to solve that issue, to their credit (Dan Morain, 6/2).

The New York Times: A Simple Way To Reduce Suicides
Every year about a million Americans attempt suicide. More than 38,000 succeed. In addition, each year there are around 33,000 unintentional deaths by poisonings. Taken together, that's more than twice the number of people who die annually in car accidents (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 6/2).

Los Angeles Times: Rx For A Medical Near-Miss
As the saying goes, "With great power comes great responsibility." That applies to physicians when prescribing medications, but it also should apply to pharmacies when they're dispensing medications (David Margolius, 6/3).

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