KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Why Can’t Health Website Be Like Amazon?; Debunking GOP’s Resistance To Medicaid

The Wall Street Journal: Obama And The 'Amazon Experience'
For an "Amazon-like" experience, it isn't enough to have a website that functions on the front end, the back end and in between. ... You also need an Amazon-like culture, which is the product of other Amazon-like realities. Such as: Jeff Bezos as the boss, demanding results and innovation from his employees, providing results and satisfaction for his customers and shareholders. So how does Barack Obama's management style measure up to Mr. Bezos's? Let's compare (Bret Stephens, 12/2).

The New York Times: The Conscience Of A Liberal: Unacceptable Realities
On both the healthcare and inflation fronts, what you have to conclude is that there are a large number of people who find reality — the reality that governments are actually pretty good at providing health insurance, that fiat money can be a useful tool of economic management rather than the road to socialist disaster — just unacceptable. I think that in both cases it has to do with the underlying desire to see market outcomes as moral imperatives (Paul Krugman, 12/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Low-Information Leadership
Everyone understands in their own rough way that ObamaCare is a big mess. And that it's not the website, it's the law itself. ... It's a leader's job to be skeptical of grand schemes. Sorry, that's a conservative leader's job. It is a liberal leader's job to be skeptical that grand schemes will work as intended. You have to guide and goad and be careful. And this president wasn't (Peggy Noonan, 12/3).

The New York Times: The Real Health Care Distraction?
In the last few weeks it's been trendy, in Republican circles, to claim that anything Democrats do or say unrelated to the Affordable Care Act is a ploy to "distract" attention away from the problematic HealthCare.gov rollout. (Really, anything: filibuster reform or a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran.) In his speech today defending the law, President Obama seemed to try to take back that narrative, suggesting that all the attention paid to the glitchy rollout is the real distraction — from the fact that the law’s working, the status quo ante was terrible, and that his political opponents have never offered a viable alternative (Juliet Lapidos, 12/3).

Los Angeles Times: Debunking The Anti-Obamacare Camp's Attack On Medicaid
If Congress were really concerned about the "indignity" of Americans on Medicaid, nothing's stopping lawmakers from upgrading the reimbursement rate or even shifting all those people to the subsidies available to other lower-income Americans on the ACA. ... It's also worth noting that of the 25 state governments that have refused to expand Medicaid to cover more of their citizens (all Republicans), not a single one has claimed to be doing so because they don't think Medicaid is good enough -- their chosen alternative is no health insurance at all for people living at 138% of the poverty line or below (Michael Hiltzik, 12/3).

Los Angeles Times: For Obama, It's All About Obamacare
President Obama's speech Tuesday announced the relaunch of his healthcare program's website. But he was also aiming to relaunch his entire second term, which has careened from high ambition to near-catastrophe in less than 11 months. Until his signature healthcare program is running smoothly, Obama stands little chance of focusing Congress on any of the other goals of his once-ambitious second-term agenda, including immigration reform and addressing the nation's infrastructure needs (Doyle McManus, 12/4).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Cannot Rely On Ire At Obama To Last
For the GOP, continuing glitches in the online delivery system for the new national healthcare market reinforce the argument that the Obama administration has tried to do too much, too fast without really understanding the enormity of the job. That is the upside for Republicans. The downside is that there is obviously a demand for the product Obamacare is trying to deliver and, by the time the election rolls around, millions of voters may have forgotten the website bugs. Instead, they may be pleased that healthcare coverage is no longer out of reach for them and they will not want to see it taken away by a Republican Congress (David Horsey, 12/3).

The Washington Post: The GOP's Toxic Messaging
As the government health-care Web site chugs along, the Obama administration has begun a counter-initiative to combat Republican naysaying — and its weapons are of superior grade. The bunker buster is positive messaging and a return to hope and change (Kathleen Parker, 12/3).

The Washington Post’s The Plum Line: Medicaid Expansion Becomes Weapon Against GOP Governors
It's widely accepted as an article of faith that Obamacare will be uniformly bad politics for Dems in 2014. After all, the rollout is a disaster and majorities disapprove of the law, so how could it possibly be any other way, right? Here's something that counter-programs that narrative a bit: Democrats are currently using a major pillar of the health law — the Medicaid expansion — as a weapon against Republican Governors in multiple 2014 races (Greg Sargent, 12/3).

The Washington Post’s Post Partisan: Health Care Reemerges As A Normal Issue
For years now, we’ve thought about Obamacare in terms of whether it would pass, and then whether or not it would actually be implemented. That fight is over. ... That doesn’t mean that health care won’t be an issue. Expect, for example, Republicans to eventually fight over subsidy levels (and, perhaps, both parties to try to refashion subsidies to avoid perverse incentives on earnings). Expect, too, Republicans to eventually try to reduce ACA-connected taxes (Jonathan Bernstein, 12/3).

Bloomberg: Nobody Should Get Rich Off Obamacare
For an industry that's supposed to be burdened by the launch of Obamacare, the health-care business is doing pretty well. Stocks of health-care companies are up almost 40 percent this year, the strongest performance of any sector in the S&P 500. This is despite, for insurers, new regulations on the "medical loss ratio" which require them to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health care -- in practice, capping their profits and administrative expenses such as advertising at 20 percent (Evan Soltas, 12/3).

And on other issues --

Los Angeles Times: ACLU Sues Catholic Bishops Over View That Abortion Is Evil
Everyone knows that Catholic hospitals don't perform elective abortions. Incomprehensibly, Catholic hospitals even fall afoul of the church if they perform an abortion to save a mother's life. But are they negligent if they fail to merely inform a pregnant woman that abortion is the safest option when her health is in danger and her fetus faces certain death? And that if she wants an abortion, she should seek help elsewhere? (Robin Abcarian, 12/3).

The Washington Post: Eradicating AIDS
On March 24, 1987, the activist group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) gathered in front of Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City for its first ever demonstration. ... When ACT UP took to the streets three decades ago, AIDS was a death sentence. ... Today, that is no longer the case. We have cutting-edge drugs that keep people alive. We have evidence-based models for prevention. We have global awareness of the epidemic. What we lack is the political will and compassion to reach out to the most marginalized among us and make sure that they have equal access to prevention and care. Ending AIDS is no longer a matter of science — it’s a matter of justice (Katrina vanden Heuvel, 12/3).

USA Today: Obama's Disappointing Surgeon General
In all the talk about the relaunch of HealthCare.gov, Americans might have missed President Obama's nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to be our next surgeon general. With the nomination of the self-described "passionate entrepreneur" — a 36-year-old part-time physician and full-time businessman — to be "America's Doctor," Obama has upendeded the tradition of promoting those who have focused their careers on healing, teaching and research (Dr. Bruce L. Davidson, 12/3).

Bloomberg: Cloudy, With a Chance of Flu 
Researchers, at last, have come up with a flu-forecasting system that works like the weather report. If used well, the information could mobilize health measures when and where they are needed. Many lives are at stake: Flu kills from 3,000 to 49,000 people in the U.S. every year. ... The next step is for public health authorities to use the information. Ensuring sufficient stocks of vaccines and anti-flu treatments would prevent the kind of shortages that hit some communities last year (12/3). 

Bloomberg: The Failed Promise of 23andMe
Genetics is more complex than scientists imagined. ... This hasn’t prevented companies such as 23andMe Inc. from selling direct-to-consumer genetic testing, with claims that it offers beneficial health information. Debates about the information these companies are providing boiled over last week after the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring that medications, medical devices and tests are safe and effective, sent a letter to 23andMe, demanding that the company stop selling its $99 genetic test kit.... Given the stakes involved, the FDA should take stronger action to protect consumers from the risks associated with direct-to-consumer testing (Robert Klitzman, 12/3). 

 

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