KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Health Law’s Forgotten Taxes; ‘Lame Documentation’ By Critics; Hospital Closing Crisis

The New York Times' Economix: The Affordable Care Act's Multiple Taxes
The Affordable Care Act contains at least two economically distinct taxes on labor market activity. Even the experts on the law have failed to recognize all of them (Casey B. Mulligan, 2/26). 

Los Angeles Times: A Tea Party Group's Lame 'Documentation' Of Its Anti-Obamacare Ad
Greg Sargent on Tuesday unveiled the "documentation" offered by the Koch brothers-funded tea party group Americans for Prosperity to back up its recent anti-Obamacare campaign commercial airing in Michigan. The ad featured a local leukemia patient named Julie Boonstra, complaining about her experience under Obamacare. The ad's target, Gary Peters, a Democratic candidate for Senate, demanded that the group back up its claims. As you might expect, the documentation does nothing to contradict the expert debunking of the original ad performed by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post. We reported on the back-and-forth here, and placed it in the context of the short, sad history of conservative efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act with "horror stories" that don't stand up to scrutiny (Michael Hiltzik, 2/25). 

The Washington Post's Plum Line: Obamacare 'Horror Stories' Fall Apart Under Scrutiny
The documentation provided by AFP, which was passed along from TV stations by the Peters campaign, doesn't actually back up the ad's key claim. But it tells us something interesting about how the AFP campaign — and by extension, the broader GOP strategy against Obamacare — really work (Greg Sargent, 2/25). 

The Washington Post's Right Turn: Obamacare's Bad News Multiplies
Over the past few days Republican leaders and advocacy groups have pummeled the administration over an announced cut of 3.55 percent in Medicare Advantage. In a letter signed by a batch of GOP senators to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, they complain that the change will necessitate significant cuts in benefits and/or cost increases (Jennifer Rubin, 2/25). 

The Washington Post's Post Partisan: The Insiders: Another Day, Another Obamacare Disaster
In a colossal "oh by the way" revelation, last Friday afternoon the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency under the United States Department of Health and Human Services (that would be the executive branch run by President Obama), quietly released a report exposing the fact that under Obamacare, two-thirds of Americans who work at small businesses will see their insurance premiums increase. So this report – which is more than two years late – says over 11 million American workers will have higher health insurance premiums because of Obamacare. Despite the administration's attempts to, as House Speaker John Boehner put it, "delay and deemphasize" the report, we now have it straight from the Obama administration that Obamacare will raise health-insurance premiums for American workers (Ed Rogers, 2/25). 

The Washington Post's She The People: Experts Disagree About Job Losses And The Moral Status Of Obamacare
As a general matter, economists don't know how Obamacare will affect the economy. "There's a wide range of opinion on the effects of the ACA on long-run growth," according to Jay Bryson, who is the policy survey chair for the National Association of Business Economists. He coordinated a survey of 230 NABE members that showed 30 percent said it would hurt, 18 percent said it would help, and 42 percent said the ACA would have no impact on economic growth (Joann Weiner, 2/26). 

Bangor Daily News: Support Managed Care, Expand Medicaid, Keep Patients Front And Center
Republican Maine Sens. Roger Katz of Augusta and Tom Saviello of Wilton rolled out legislation Tuesday that would overhaul the state's health insurance program for low-income residents. It would permit the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act for three years, and it would fundamentally change the way Maine administers Medicaid for all recipients by contracting the program out to private companies or nonprofits, a model known as managed care. ... As long as rulemaking resulting from the bill ensures greater access to care for Maine's low-income patients and fair rates for providers, there's no reason not to pursue the new health care delivery system (2/25).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Audit Medicaid
"All I've heard from the other side is 'Let's do an audit,' " said Del. Patrick Hope in a speech urging expansion of Medicaid. "That's not a plan. That's a stall tactic." ... Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recovered scores of millions of taxpayer dollars through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The fact that the AG’s office has an entire division, with nearly 100 employees, dedicated to Medicaid fraud should tell you all you need to know. Auditing Virginia's Medicaid system might, indeed, be a delaying tactic. That doesn't mean it's uncalled for (2/26).

And on other health issues -

Los Angeles Times: Another Healthcare Crisis: Closing Hospitals
Lower Oconee Community Hospital in southern Georgia closed its doors this month, eliminating 25 hospital beds and up to 100 hospital jobs. This was the fourth Georgia hospital to fold in two years and the eighth rural hospital in the state to close since 2000. Although Lower Oconee's shutdown may not have registered much media coverage, those in search of medical attention in Glenwood, Ga., should be mindful that the closest hospital is now 30 miles away. As reference, Santa Ana is 30 miles from Los Angeles. When faced with a medical emergency, no one fancies a long road trip (Craig B. Garner, 2/26). 

The New York Times: Rethinking Our 'Rights' To Dangerous Behaviors
Similarly, we need to be asking not "Do junk food companies have the right to market to children?" but "Do children have the right to a healthy diet?" ... In short, says [Nicholas Freudenberg in his new book]: "The right to be healthy trumps the right of corporations to promote choices that lead to premature death and preventable illnesses. Protecting public health is a fundamental government responsibility; a decent society should not allow food companies to convince children to buy food that’s bad for them or to encourage a lifetime of unhealthy eating" (Mark Bittman, 2/25).

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