KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: GOP Opponents To Health Care Listening ‘Only to Their Own Choir,’ Congress Should Turn Down Federal Contribution For Insurance

Los Angeles Times: In Washington, Countdown To A Shutdown
Yes, a majority doesn't like Obamacare. They're unsure about what it will do and worried that it might make their health care worse. But do they really want to defund the law, and risk the chaos of a government shutdown to do it? Probably not, most polls suggest. As one Republican pollster told me, though a majority of voters don't like Obamacare, they're not angry enough about it to risk a fiscal crisis that could hurt the economy. So why are Republican lawmakers hearing a different message? Because most of them represent districts so conservative that they are listening only to their own choir (Doyle McManus, 9/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Countdown To GOP Self-Destruction
With most Americans undeniably dissatisfied with the direction of their government, why would some congressional conservatives insist on identifying Republicans as unyielding defenders of a broken status quo? Their implacable obsession with uprooting ObamaCare and their die-hard resistance to immigration reform all but guarantee near-term legislative defeats and long-term devastation to future party prospects (Michael Medved, 9/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Carve-Outs For Congress 
The Affordable Care Act requires the 11,000 people who work on Capitol Hill to purchase their health insurance on its exchanges, but many of them earn too much to qualify for subsidies. That's a financial hit worth about $5,000 for individuals and $11,000 for families. So in early August President Obama's personnel team came to the rescue with a let-the-good-times-roll regulation that entitles Members and aides to their current premium contributions, on the basis of zero legal authority. ... Republicans are sitting on a potent theme, and if they hate Obamacare as much as they claim, the least they can do is try to turn the Congressional carve-out to their advantage (9/22).

The Washington Post: Obamacare's Strange Bedfellows
Yet (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich, a one-time scourge of labor unions who was a top lieutenant in Newt Gingrich's revolution in the 1990s, has endeared himself to liberal and low-income Ohioans by insisting, loudly and incessantly, that his state participate in the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. An unapologetic conservative is fighting the tea party and his own Republican legislature because he thinks the less privileged people of Ohio deserve health coverage (E.J. Dionne Jr., 9/22). 

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Fill The Coverage Gap For The Most Vulnerable Workers By Extending Medicaid In Ohio
Health insurance marketplaces or exchanges for uninsured working families and individuals to purchase affordable health care will soon open. ... But only those making more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the new federal marketplace. Ohio has chosen to have the federal government run the state's exchange. What happens to those who do not qualify for insurance through their employer and are not eligible for the state's current Medicaid plan, but are living below 100 percent of poverty and therefore are earning $23,050 or less for a family of four? These Ohioans have no coverage options (Susanna Krey, 9/22).

The Washington Post: Social Security Disability Insurance Needs Major Reform
In the debate over entitlement reform, few subjects are more fiercely debated than the cause of the explosive recent growth of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Defenders of the program, which cost a record $135 billion in fiscal 2012, argue that the rolls are increasing mainly because of technical and demographic changes. ... Critics, including a significant number of academic economists, suggest that the program's manipulable and inconsistently applied eligibility criteria have enabled millions of people who could work to sign up for benefits instead (9/21).

The New York Times: Is This A Hospital Or A Hotel?
As the new St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland, Ill., prepared to open in August, its chief executive exulted, "You feel like you could be at the Marriott." ... In the current boom of hospital construction, private rooms have become the norm. And some health economists worry that the luxury surroundings are adding unneeded costs to the nation's $2.7 trillion health care bill. There are some medical arguments for the trend -- private rooms, for example, could lower infection rates and allow patients more rest as they heal. But the main reason for the largess is marketing (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 9/21).

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Reform Heats Up Drugstore Battle
Obamacare is driving a transformation in the way pharmacies do business, so get ready. The health care reform law will expand access to medical services for millions of people. That's going to place added pressure on primary health care providers and challenge the system to meet the new demand (Michael Hiltzik, 9/20).

Los Angeles Times: Expiration Date Nearing On Miracle Drugs
Beware of magical discoveries: They generally require careful use lest the magic wear off. Even the genie's lamp gave only three wishes. Antibiotics, which at one point were viewed as miracle drugs providing cures for previously fatal illnesses, are among the discoveries that have been used too carelessly, giving rise to an era of resistant infections. Scientists have been concerned about these resistant bacteria -- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is probably the most familiar -- for many years. But doctors have continued to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily for illnesses such as colds that are caused by viruses, not bacteria (9/20).

The Washington Post: Our Looming Long-Term Care Crisis
I suspect many people didn't know that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was supposed to include much-needed coverage for long-term care. The enacting legislation was called, ironically, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. But what happened to an initiative that was meant to address a huge financial burden for families as the population ages isn't classy at all. It's sad (Michelle Singletary, 9/21).

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