KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Views: Responding To ‘Farcial Bit Of Political Theater;’ Senators Call For Revision Of Law’s Definition Of Full-Time Job

The recent announcement of the premium cuts in New York and President Barack Obama's health speech has galvanized opinion writers.

Bloomberg: The Pointless Debate Over Obamacare
President Barack Obama's remarks this week on the Affordable Care Act had the trappings of importance: members of Congress in the audience, ordinary citizens on stage. All that was missing, as is too often the case in the health-care debate, was anything important to say. ... In his defense, Obama was responding to an even more farcical bit of political theater staged by House Republicans, who voted to delay the health law’s mandate that individuals buy insurance. It was the 38th time the House has voted, futilely, to stop or slow Obamacare. Such posturing only contributes to public confusion over the law -- and keeps Republicans and Democrats alike from addressing essential steps toward health-care reform (7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Definition Of A Full-Time Job Needs Revising
In Lafayette, Ind., a school district cut the hours of 200 support staff to no more than 29 per week. In Bangor, Maine, the school system is preparing to track and cap the number of hours worked by substitute teachers to ensure that they don't work more than 29 hours a week. Elsewhere, in Portland, Maine, a small business reduced a part-time employee's hours from 35 to 29. We are hearing reports like this from across the country. Why is this happening? (Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, 7/18).

The New York Times: The Good News On Insurance Premiums
Individuals and families who buy health insurance on their own will pay significantly lower premiums next year in New York and many other states. It is the most impressive evidence yet that the Affordable Care Act, through its mandates and competition-promoting health insurance exchanges, can hold previously rising premiums in check. The encouraging news underscores the vital importance of the health law’s “individual mandate" (7/18).

Reuters: The Obamacare Plot Twist 
If this much-reviled bill proves to work for tens of millions in select states, it will change the current narrative dramatically. It will demonstrate that collective action is not just desirable for optimal collective outcomes; it is essential. Fight all you want to prevent laws you dislike from passing; work all you wish to amend laws that have passed; but once those laws exist and have been validated, work together to implement them. Sounds oddly naïve in today’s jaded world, but it’s the only way forward (Zachary Karabell, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: A Health Scare For Democrats
What if waking up is more terrifying than the nightmare? Democrats for three years have comforted themselves with the thought that 2014 would be the year they broke free of the ObamaCare night sweats. Their political washout in 2010, their failure to take back the House last year, all was the result of their having to defend a law that had yet to take effect. Once the law was up and running, Americans would wake up to its benefits. Or so they believed (Kimberly A. Strassel, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Eroding Support
The Washington refrain is that Wednesday night's House votes delaying ObamaCare mandates were a pointless dead end, but the White House shouldn't be too confident. Opposition to more of the Affordable Care Act is becoming bipartisan. The first measure, which sailed through 264 to 161 with 35 Democrats in favor, codified President Obama's decision to suspend the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate to extend insurance benefits to workers or else pay a penalty. The White House lacks the legal authority to delay the mandate by fiat, so the vote was a vindication of the rule of law (7/18).

The New York Times: Economix: What Makes U.S. Health Insurance Exchanges So Complicated
Americans insist on choice and pluralism among insurance products, enabling them to find coverage they believe will fit their personal needs. That choice, desirable though it may be, comes at a stiff price, with two dimensions. First, it adds considerably to monetary outlays on administrative functions, which in the United States run about twice per capita what they are in other countries. And to make careful and responsible choices takes a great deal of a person’s time (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 7/19).

Fox News: 5 Problems With The President's Spin On ObamaCare
President Obama claimed that consumers in states such as Maryland received a windfall as a result of refunds issued by insurance companies who failed to meet the requirements. These requirements tried to enforce insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents on every dollar towards medical care and not administrative costs. If, in fact, the Affordable Care Act was working the way the President claims, insurance companies should be staying above the 80 percent threshold, and not providing refunds (Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, 7/18).

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