KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Health Law Rollout Brings Excitement And Concerns; New Disparities Likely In States Turning Their Back On The Law; Is The Coverage Affordable?

The New York Times: Dawn Of A Revolution In Health Care
The United States is embarking on a truly historic journey toward near-universal health care coverage this week. Starting Tuesday, the federal government will make it possible for millions of uninsured Americans who can't get health insurance, or can't afford it, to obtain coverage with the aid of government subsidies. It is a striking example of what government can do to help people in trouble (9/28). 

Los Angeles Times: Finally, The Obamacare Rollout
State insurance-buying exchanges — one of the centerpieces of President Obama's controversial 2010 healthcare law — begin their first open enrollment period Tuesday, an event that both supporters and opponents have been eagerly anticipating practically since the legislation was signed 3 1/2 years ago. For the first time, low- and moderate-income Americans who don't have health benefits at work will be able to sign up for comprehensive coverage at a discount, thanks to taxpayer subsidies that offset much of the costs (9/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Obamacare Arrives
The Affordable Care Act opens for business on Tuesday, a testament to liberal perseverance if not wisdom. The plan was dragged across the finish line in 2010 with only Democratic votes but no democratic consensus, and then survived a wave election, an historic constitutional challenge, the 2012 campaign and durable popular opposition. This half-decade political debate has also been a period of convulsive change for the one-sixth of the economy that the law is supposed to "reform." So ObamaCare's start is a moment to step back from the day-to-day Washington scrum and take stock of American health care as this liberal vision unfolds (9/30).

The New York Times: Is Health Care Reform Creating More Part-Time Work?
Republican critics of the Affordable Care Act often argue that the reform law has caused a big uptick in the number of part-time workers. The A.C.A. requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to those working 30 hours or more a week, or pay a penalty. ... But neither the facts nor logic support [the Republicans'] claim. The recession, not the A.C.A., caused the increase in part-time work, which — besides — largely occurred before the reform law was enacted (Philip M. Boffey, 9/27).

The New York Times: Birth Control And A Boss's Religious Views
The Obama administration's rule requiring employer health plans to cover birth control without a co-payment has given rise to a slew of lawsuits by private companies claiming the mandate attacks religious freedom. Three federal appeals courts have ruled on the issue, with two correctly rejecting that view as without legal foundation. Given the conflicting rulings, it is a good bet the Supreme Court will agree to address this issue in the next term (9/29).

The Washington Post: How The Obamacare Fight Could Create New Health Disparities
Obamacare certainly will increase access to health care across racial and class lines. Yet the program's success relies on the cooperation of two dozen conservative-leaning states that are home to half of the nation’s 50 million uninsured. In many of these states, the public tends to oppose the law, and politicians are doing all they can to undermine it. If they succeed, the dawn of the Affordable Care Act may create new disparities in health coverage between the states that embrace Obamacare and those that resist it (Zachary Goldfarb, 9/27). 

The New York Times: 'Affordable Care' Or A Rip-Off?
As Americans begin signing up this week to buy insurance, they will begin to test the legislation's tantalizing promise to make health financially viable. Will the policies deliver care at manageable prices, or will "affordable" seem like a hollow promotion? That probably depends a lot on patients' needs, where they live and — importantly — their preconceptions of what health insurance is supposed to do, experts say (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 9/28). 

Reuters: Obamacare's Threat To Healthcare Innovation
The Obama administration is now characterizing October 1st as the beginning of a "soft launch," during which federal and state officials will work out various kinks. And though this might sound like just another bureaucratic foul-up, the success of the exchanges in these first few months will have enormous implications for the ultimate success of Obamacare (Reihan Salam, 9/27).

Politico: Despite Claims, Obamacare Gives Congress No Special Treatment
Some health reform opponents claim the Obama administration is giving members of Congress and their staffs special treatment under the Affordable Care Act. The claim, which a number of media stories have repeated uncritically, is simply false: Although they will be required to enroll in health plans offered within the new health-insurance exchanges established under the law, members of Congress and their staffs will not receive extra financial help to pay for their medical care (Robert Greenstein, 9/29).

USA Today: Obamacare Vs. Affordable Care Act
A recent CNBC poll found more Americans oppose Obamacare than oppose the Affordable Care Act. But more Americans support Obamacare than the Affordable Care Act. Confused? That would be understandable given that these are two names for the same law (Jonah Goldberg, 9/29).

St. Louis Beacon: Obamacare: Less Choice, Higher Taxes, Slower Economic Growth
The time for enrolling in health exchanges is now upon us. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the health care law — the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare — enacted in 2010. But how many of us really understand what we can expect and what we will pay for this "affordable" health program? The simple fact is that most of us are just plain bewildered, not knowing how the controversial law will affect us (R.W. Hafer, 9/30).

DesMoines Register: Arrival Of Affordable Care Act Is Good News
Though Obamacare is complicated, the most important aspect of the law is simple: Americans will finally be able to buy insurance regardless of their health history or employment status. Premiums for coverage in new insurance exchanges will be based on age, smoking and where an applicant lives. An Iowan cannot be denied coverage, charged more because he has diabetes or excluded from certain benefits because he incurred a back injury 20 years earlier (9/29).

Reuters: The Flimflam Of This Week' Obamacare Numbers
At midweek, the Department of Health and Human Services released its report on the health plan choices and insurance premiums available under the Affordable Care Act, which opens for enrollment on Oct. 1 in 36 states. … The reporters who filed squishy reports, or led with squish, are only partly to blame. According to Politico, the HHS distributed the report to reporters under embargo — which essentially places blinders over their eyes, plugs in their ears, and socks in their mouths (Jack Shafer, 9/27).

Salt Lake Tribune: Time To Stop Dithering And Expand Medicaid In Utah
When both a warm heart and a cold calculation lead to the same conclusion, a desire to do something different can require a great deal of rationalizing. Such thinking was on display in large measure Thursday when Gov. Gary Herbert hosted a his annual day-long Health Summit in Salt Lake City. Much of the program was devoted to trotting out alternatives to the best next step in health care reform, the one that would help low-income people and save the state millions of dollars. That step would be the full expansion of Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (9/28).

Bloomberg: A National Family-Leave Law? It’s A Start
Democrats are about to try, and almost certainly fail, to secure paid parental and family leave for most American workers. That could still be an achievement, if it starts a conversation about how to provide American workers with the flexibility they need to manage family needs (9/27).

Bloomberg: Worried About Cancer? Get Married
Controlling for demographic factors such as age, race, education and household income, researchers who analyzed records of more than 730,000 cancer patients found that married patients did significantly better than single people. They lived longer, received better treatment and were more likely to be diagnosed before metastatic cancers developed. ... "The most likely reason," the authors conclude, "is that married patients have better adherence with prescribed treatments than unmarried patients." They have someone to watch over them (Virginia Postrel, 9/29).

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