KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

‘Crunch Time’ For Obama On Health Law; The Problems With That Apology; Young People Feeling The Sting Of Higher Prices

The Washington Post: For Obama, And Democrats, It's Crunch Time
But today, it’s Obama in the spotlight. A president famous for his unflappability, he is now struggling to square assurances that he is on top of the problems confronting his administration with assertions that he was unaware of the problems as they were developing. The president's apology for misleading people about whether they could keep their health insurance under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, which came during an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, was a remarkable step, underscoring just how concerned he and his advisers are about the damage caused by the chaotic rollout of the new law (Dan Balz, 11/8).

The New York Times: Salvaging Obama
The first job is obvious, not least to the president. The bungling of the health care rollout was a humiliation for an administration whose campaign wizards famously tamed the social network in 2012. It has given Republicans license to feign indignation even as they do their best to undermine the new program. It has distracted the press from both the success stories (like Kentucky, where the rollout worked the way it was supposed to) and the episodes of Republican mischief (like Georgia, where the state blocked the hiring of "navigators" to help applicants through the enrollment process). I have no doubt that the administration will get the system working and that the program will ultimately prove popular. But the longer it takes, the more the president squanders the already meager public confidence that he can do anything right (Bill Keller, 11/10).

The New York Times: Why I (Still) Support Obamacare
In the end, this transition we're going through could prove more exciting than people think, but right now sking large numbers of people to go from being an "employee" to a "work entrepreneur" feels scary and uncertain. Having a national health care safety net under the vast majority of Americans — to ease and enable people to make this transition — is both morally right and in the interest of everyone who wants a stable society (Thomas L. Friedman, 11/9). 

The Washington Post: The Health-Care Law's Success Story: Slowing Down Medical Costs
The anger over the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance exchange — and over the conflicting explanations about whether people can keep their coverage — has been bipartisan and well-deserved. The administration needs to make personnel and management changes to get enrollment back on track. But the focus on insurance coverage obscures other parts of the ACA that are working well, even better than expected. It is increasingly clear that the cost curve is bending, and the ACA is a significant part of the reason (David Cutler, 11/8).

The Washington Post: Immediate Lessons From Health-Care Reform
As President Obama has recognized, his administration’s failure to deliver a functioning Web site that Americans can use to enroll in Obamacare represents an inexcusable error. The Affordable Care Act, which legislates near-universal health insurance, was passed after more than a century of failed efforts to achieve this progressive dream in this country. It is tragic to be falling short on the mundane task of enrolling Americans in health-care exchanges. Even if the goal of getting the health-insurance exchanges working by Nov. 30 is achieved — and objective observers cannot regard this as a certainty — a shadow has been cast on the federal government’s competence (Lawrence Summers, 11/10). 

The Washington Post: What Obama Forgot To Apologize For
He’s sorry that some people have been inconvenienced by’s computer disaster. He’s sorry that some people have lost the policies he promised they could keep. He’s sorry that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) wasn’t adequately "crafted." But is he sorry that he intentionally misled people? I must have missed that part (Kathleen Parker, 11/8).

The Wall Street Journal: The ObamaCare Dozen
The ObamaCare Dozen are receiving an overdue education in the damaging consequences of the bill they supported, all of which were predicted by critics in 2010. Any one of these Senators could have prevented the current madness by voting no. And now the President they empowered to govern from the ideological left has rejected even their de minimis fixes and is promising to "grind it out" even if the problems get worse. These Senators deserve to be held accountable at the ballot box (11/8).

The Washington Post: Beyond, Obamacare's Other Challenges
A health insurance exchange is more than a Web site. It is an insurance store, and to manage it well requires insurance experience, technical know-how, and savvy marketing and sales tactics. The administration has a few months to put together a management team with these skills, dedicated exclusively to running the world's largest store for private insurance. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have talented staff, and Jeffrey Zients, a former budget official who’s been called up to help fix the federal exchange's online enrollment, may be just the guy to corral wayward technology vendors. But selling insurance is not what policy analysts and turnaround specialists do. I had 45 employees dedicated to operating the Massachusetts Health Connector; California has budgeted more than 300. Who’s minding the federal store? (Jon Kingsdale, 11/8).

The Washington Post: There Is No 'Fix' To The Affordable Care Act That Has Everyone Paying Less
The unvarnished truth is that neither president nor Congress can — or should — "fix" the fundamental logic of the new system, which will inevitably result in many people paying less but some people paying more after they transition into a reformed insurance market. As long as implementation troubles don’t do long-term damage, and there isn't evidence of that yet, the overall structure will be an improvement over what we have today (11/9).

The New York Times: Good Deals on Pills? It's Anyone's Guess
This month, a dysfunctional website stymied hundreds of thousands of Americans trying to check out new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. But that embarrassing technical glitch may have masked a more fundamental question: Can Americans shop effectively for health care? (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 11/9). 

The New York Times: High And Low Premiums In Health Care
The debate over the effect the Affordable Care Act will have on individuals and families who buy their own policies has mostly been waged in anecdotes. Supporters of the law point to grateful individuals who were previously unable to get insurance or paid exorbitant premiums but found affordable coverage on the new health insurance exchanges. Critics counter with frustrated people who liked their old policies but will now be forced to buy a more comprehensive policy and pay a higher premium for it (11/10).

The New York Times: Daring To Complain About Obamacare
The Anthem Blue Cross representative who answered my call told me that there was a silver lining in the cancellation of my individual P.P.O. policy and the $5,400 annual increase that I would have to pay for the Affordable Care Act-compliant option: now if I have Stage 4 cancer or need a sex-change operation, I’d be covered regardless of pre-existing conditions. Never mind that the new provider network would eliminate coverage for my and my son’s long-term doctors and hospitals (Lori Gottlieb, 11/10). 

USA Today: Obamacare Options Grim For Young People
I don't know about you, but as a young adult I'm not as disturbed as some Americans by the technical glitches delaying access to the Obamacare website. My lack of enthusiasm for signing up has to do with the unappealing options health care reform has presented my generation (Katrina Trinko, 11/10).

The Washington Post: What's The Matter With Motherhood?
If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world? In particular, wouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy? This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage (E.J. Dionne Jr., 11/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Healthcare.Junk
So the national embarrassment known as and the 36 federal ObamaCare exchanges won't be fixed by the end of November after all, notwithstanding a month of assurances from the White House. In updates for reporters on Thursday and Friday, the Affordable Care Act's lead repairman Jeff Zients more or less conceded that the website three years in the making won't work until sometime after the end of this month. He explained that every problem that is resolved and taken off the "punch list"—already several hundred items long—reveals new problems that the tech people didn't know about. "Where we are is not where we want to be," he said (11/10).

CNN: Obamacare And The Failure Of Half-Baked Liberalism
While it is true that the challenges facing the program have received much more attention than the successes, the problems are impossible to ignore. There are many reasons for Obamacare's troubles, ranging from the failure of White House officials to adequately prepare for the launch of the website to the successful Republican efforts to undermine its operations, including the refusal of many governors to establish exchanges in their own states (Julian Zelizer, 11/11).  

Fox News: The Real Cost Of ObamaCare – The Loss Of Good Doctors
Medical care costs had gone up, but those with good insurance made up for those with no insurance and doctors were generally happy to take care of everyone. That’s how the haves took care of the have-nots. People without insurance would be offered the best medical care at any American hospital’s emergency room, whether or not they were U.S. citizens. Soon I fear that unbeknownst to most Americans, the good, smart, well-rested physicians won’t be there to take care of us (Kristin Bianco, 11/9).

Seattle Times: Exploring The Wild West Of Health Insurance
Washington state has gotten plenty of props for a health-insurance website that works better than most. At last count, 55,000 residents had enrolled in Medicaid or individual insurance through the state exchange. Yet Washington Healthplanfinder has its limitations. So what’s a health-insurance consumer to do in the new world of the Affordable Care Act? One option is to ditch the official sites and explore the sometimes deceptive but potentially informative world of the private sector. That’s right folks, you can go rogue. The best site for comparative shopping that we at HealthCare Checkup have found bills itself as the “Washington Health Insurance Exchange.” (Stiffler, 11/8).

Kansas City Star: Numbers Look Good For Medicaid Change In Missouri
One study after another has made the case that Missouri could vastly reduce its hefty number of medically uninsured residents and also improve its finances. Now there is one more, Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City, presented data this week showing how the state could get nearly all of its residents under some form of health coverage and achieve a modest savings while doing so (11/8).

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