KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Deep Flaws In Current Health System Often Overlooked In Obamacare Debate; ‘Missouri Bleeds Jobs’ While Neighbors Expand Medicaid; Budget Debate Is Best Shot At Stopping Health Law

USA Today: Blame Obamacare Confusion On Old System
Americans have had little understanding of the Affordable Care Act since it became law in 2010. With major provisions taking effect in January, half the country still does not know what the law does or what it means for them. While some of the confusion is no doubt due to the law's complexity and the highly charged political environment, a largely ignored but central factor is that people know little about the deeply flawed health insurance system that got us to this place (John Seffrin and Jim Guest, 9/17).

The New York Times' Taking Note: What's More Unpopular Than Health Care Reform?
A new Pew Research Center / USA Today poll indicates that Americans still haven't embraced the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature domestic policy measure. Fifty-three percent disapprove of the law, while 42 percent approve. That's a decline in the level of support since last July, when, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding the law, 43 percent disapproved and 47 percent approved. The big caveat here is that most Americans still don't understand what the law does. ... The other caveat is that, although a majority disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, few Americans support Republican attempts to mess it up (Juliet Lapidos, 9/17).

The New York Times' Taking Note: This Debt Ceiling Fight Isn't About Spending
[Republicans are] not talking about the debt. If they were, the House and Senate might have something to negotiate over. Up to now, the House has refused to even sit at the same table as the Senate and discuss ways to reduce the long-term debt (one of which, obviously, would be higher revenues). No, House conservatives are narrowly focused on achieving one impossible thing: the end of health care reform (David Firestone, 9/17).

Los Angeles Times: The Case For Obamacare, Courtesy Of The Three Stooges
Taking a risk involves making a choice. People don't choose to have preexisting conditions. Parents don't choose to leave their children without a safety net such as health insurance. Beginning in a couple of weeks, people can choose something: They can choose to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare, to put another president's name on it. Obamacare is a long way from charity. It's a commercial transaction. And it's in society's enlightened self-interest that people be as healthy as they can for as long as they can, that we all spend a little on prevention to save all of us the massive cost of heroic medical intervention. It means those who once couldn't afford basic doctor checkups now can keep little health problems from turning into enormously complex and expensive ones (Patt Morrison, 9/17).

The Washington Post: Mental Health Coverage To Get A Big Boost Under Obamacare
When my brother, who had severe epilepsy, died of a massive seizure at 32, I needed to see a grief counselor. I had been his primary caretaker, and his death hit me hard. I was fortunate to have access to workplace insurance that included quality mental-health services. It's a benefit I have come to really appreciate. But many people don't have access to such care (Michelle Singletary, 9/17).  

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Border States Expanding Medicaid While Missouri Bleeds Jobs
As of Monday, 26 states -- one more than half the states in the nation -- are pursuing Medicaid expansion. Missouri, of course, is not yet one of them. ... most Missouri Republicans are so caught up in their jihad against Obamacare that they can't find a way to put the state's best interest above their own narrow political futures. Meanwhile, those neighboring states that get mentioned every time Republicans are worried about jobs hopping across state lines, are pursuing Medicaid expansion to the benefit of both their economies and the health and welfare of their working poor (9/18).

San Jose Mercury News: Expanding Medicaid: A Foolish Way To Improve Health Care Access
Expansion of Medicaid -- the jointly run federal-state health plan for low-income Americans -- has long been an essential element of progressives' vision for health care "reform." But it won't work. Medicaid already suffers from serious problems, including perpetual cost overruns, doctors who increasingly refuse to accept patients covered by the program, and low quality of care. Expanding Medicaid will only exacerbate these issues -- while doing little to improve the health of the people it covers (Sally C. Pipes, 9/17).

Forbes: Will Health Insurance In The World Of Obamacare Be Affordable? It Depends Whom You Ask
There have been a lot of competing headlines lately about whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will actually make health insurance premiums more or less affordable for consumers. It's easy to see why the general public might be confused: we simply don’t know yet (S. Lawrence Kocot, 9/14).

The Fiscal Times: Will Subsidies And Co-Ops Save Obamacare?
For some new policyholders signing up for health plans through the new Affordable Care Act exchanges, subsidies could be the hidden carrot that will bring in millions of buyers. According to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 6.4 million low-income Americans will be eligible to pay $100 or less per month. The lower premiums would be primarily available on "silver" plans, which offer a basic level of services and are the second-lowest cost policies available. Families earning up to 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines -- $94,200 for a family of four -- will qualify for the tax breaks (John Wasik, 9/18).

Fox News: The Best Shot At Defeating Obamacare
Grassroots conservatives who want to stop Obamacare are making their voices heard. There is evidence that their elected representatives are starting to listen, and it is good. When Congress left Washington for its August recess, the voices demanding action to prevent American taxpayers from paying for Obamacare – described by its chief Senate author, Democrat Senator Max Baucus as a 'train wreck' – were faint and few. Senator Mike Lee drafted a letter calling on the Senate to fund everything in the upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR), except ObamaCare (Jenny Beth Martin, L. Brent Bozell III, 9/17).

The Arizona Republic: Medicaid Expansion Good, Unconstitutional
I am in a strange position regarding the Goldwater Institute's legal challenge to the expansion of Arizona's Medicaid program. On the one hand, I believe the expansion is in the best fiscal interests of the state. On the other, I think the institute is right that the Legislature enacted it unconstitutionally. Believe it or not, there are reasons for the institute to legally challenge the expansion other than a hatred of poor people. For fiscal conservatives, there's a vital principle at stake (Robert Robb, 9/17). 

The New York Times: The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis
The overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture has long been known to foster the emergence of germs that are resistant to drugs. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the first solid numbers on the extent of the problem. It said that at least two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, of whom at least 23,000 die from the infections, a very conservative estimate (9/17). 

Los Angeles Times: Hospital Stays: When Less Medicine Is More
This year, 36.6 million people will be admitted to U.S. hospitals. Each patient will stay an average of 4.8 days, and the cost for all those hospitalizations will reach into the billions. Is all that time spent in hospitals good for patients? (Glenn D. Braunstein, 9/18).

Los Angeles Times: Federal Debt Still A Problem, But So Is Poverty
If you're a lawmaker focused like a laser beam on the deficit, the CBO report might make you all the more determined to keep the annual sequester cuts in place while pushing harder for changes to Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) and other federal healthcare entitlements. … The other report came from the Census Bureau, which looked at income, poverty and health coverage in 2012. It provided a statistical picture of what it's meant to be stuck in a weak economy: stagnant wages, sustained high poverty rates, growing income inequality and an increasing number of Americans depending on the government for their health insurance (Jon Healey, 9/17). 

Bloomberg: The Practical Way to Fight Childhood Obesity
Although childhood obesity in the U.S. is a stubbornly difficult problem, some progress is being made. And the new organizations fighting obesity offer larger lessons for national policy (Peter Orszag, 9/17). 

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