KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Policies Being Canceled Were Once Considered Substandard; That Insurance ‘Was Working For People’

Los Angeles Times: Remember When People Hated Their Health Insurance Plans?
The weirdest thing about the ongoing conniption about the cancellation of people's health insurance plans -- supposedly as a result of Obamacare -- is the notion that these are plans people liked, even loved. When did that happen? It wasn't so long ago -- months, even weeks -- when the health insurance companies were being roundly cursed for their ruthless mistreatment of individual health plan customers. Constant rate hikes. Cancellations after policyholders got sick. Endless hoops to jump through to file a claim or appeal a rejection (Michael Hiltzik, 10/31). 

Los Angeles Times: The Good Reasons Behind Those Obamacare Policy Cancellations
One of the (many) criticisms being leveled at the 2010 healthcare law is that it has caused insurers to cancel the policies covering thousands of Americans. The two main themes here are that President Obama lied when he said people would be able to keep their health plans, and that many insured Americans are being forced to trade low-cost policies for expensive ones. Little is being said, however, about why those policies are being canceled and whether that's a good thing (Jon Healey, 11/1).

The Wall Street Journal: A President Manqué
Some of us have been saying for years that the law was a bad idea in part because it was designed to force the cancellations of millions of insurance policies. This has now turned out to be true. And in Massachusetts Mr. Obama tweaked his former unqualified promise to say that his guarantee applied only to "the vast majority of people," adding that the terminations were "a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning." ... But the insurance was working for people, which is why they bought the policies. If the federal exchanges really were better, Mr. Obama wouldn't have needed to outlaw the old product and compel everyone to buy the new, government-approved version (10/31).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Laid Bare
Every disaster has its moment of clarity. Physicist Richard Feynman dunks an O-ring into ice water and everyone understands instantly why the shuttle Challenger exploded. This week, the Obamacare O-ring froze for all the world to see: Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters went out to people who had been assured a dozen times by the president that "If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan. Period." The cancellations lay bare three pillars of Obamacare: (a) mendacity, (b) paternalism and (c) subterfuge (Charles Krauthammer, 10/31).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Debate: Will Costlier Insurance Plans Hurt The Middle Class
Forget Obamacare's website glitches. The outrage over the bungled Healthcare.gov launch has given way to sticker shock over the new insurance plans that force individuals to pay significantly more for comprehensive coverage (Alexandra Le Tellier, 10/31).

Los Angeles Times: Inept Techies And Sneaky Insurers Are The Bane Of Obamacare
In their quest to gut Obamacare, Republicans have been given a big boost by two groups that were supposed to provide the new healthcare exchange a proper rollout: the contractors who built healthcare.gov and the insurance companies who still dominate the American healthcare system (David Horsey, 10/31). 

The Washington Post: There's Time To Fix The Affordable Care Act
It takes chutzpah, or perhaps just an extraordinary lack of self-awareness, to argue vehemently that a program should not be implemented — and, when it is, complain it isn't being implemented well enough. But that seems to be the new Republican position: We want the Affordable Care Act, and we want it now (Eugene Robinson, 10/31).

The Washington Post: Obama Switched Stories To Sell Obamacare
For several days it's been bugging me. Didn't the president once argue with Republicans about the point now at issue, namely that his bill would force individuals out of the plans they wanted to keep? Maybe I had imagined it. Then it hit me — the 2010 health-care summit! Yup, there it is in the archives of the White House Web site (Jennifer Rubin, 10/31). 

The Washington Post: What Obamacare Has Cost Democrats
In one of the few political jokes attributed to a physicist, Ernest Rutherford once described a public official as being "like a Euclidean point: he has position without magnitude." With a change of pronoun, he could have been describing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who ignored internal warnings about flaws in HealthCare.gov, botched its rollout, minimized her involvement and blamed her contractors. Now, in congressional testimony, she has accepted responsibility without the inconvenience of accountability or the demonstration of competence (Michael Gerson, 10/31). 

The Baltimore Sun: Obama, And Obamacare, Falter Under Divided Government
It turns out that many private insurers have notified their purchasers they will be losing their existing plan because it didn't meet the new federal law's requirements. President Obama accused them of "being grossly misleading" if they were "peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people's plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans" with the same or another carrier at the new public marketplaces, sometimes at cheaper prices. That contention is not likely to assuage the hordes of previously insured Americans who took at face value President Obama's categorical assurance that no one would take away their plan "no matter what." Once again, a politician's campaign promise will have fallen flat to those ears (Jules Witcover, 11/1).

USA Today: Dems May Have To Admit Obamacare Tax Increase
Ten Senate Democrats, all in vulnerable seats, have proposed extending the healthcare law's enrollment period because people still can't sign up at Healthcare.gov. More precisely, they seek to delay collecting the tax penalty for failing to buy insurance under Obamacare's individual mandate. However, this congressional retreat raises a difficult political question for the president and congressional Democrats: They must now admit that Obamacare's individual mandate is actually a tax, something they've resisted doing in public for years (Randy Barnett and Josh Blackman, 10/31).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Opposition To Affordable Care Act Could Have Consequences For Millions
National and, more important, state opposition to the ACA has led to implementation roadblocks, limited outreach and education and a health-insurance coverage gap that will leave more than 5 million Americans under the federal poverty level without health insurance. Access to health care and the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act for many Americans could be determined by which state they live in – and the degree to which it worked to implement the ACA (Bob Semro, 10/31).

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