KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Senate’s GOP Health Plan Could Have Enabled Bipartisan Compromise–In 2009; Sen. Cruz On Obama’s ‘Imperial Presidency’

The New York Times: Comparing Obamacare To Its Alternative
From the moment the ink dried on March 23, 2010, Republicans said they intended to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. They have voted more than 40 times to wipe the law from the books. But Republicans have never gotten around to describing, in detail, the set of policies they believe should replace Obamacare. That is, until yesterday. ... Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr and Orrin Hatch deserve credit for developing this plan. Putting together a proposal to reform the American health care system is hard and politically courageous. And while it is lacking in important details, this plan contains some interesting ideas that might have enabled bipartisan compromises had they been offered in 2009 (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 1/28). 

The New York Times' Taking Note: Looking Callous At The SOTU
Discussing health insurance reform, Mr. Obama said at one point: "Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she's a woman." Democrats stood and cheered. Republicans sat in stony silence. House Speaker John Boehner grimaced on the podium behind Mr. Obama, as he did several times during the portion of the speech dedicated to the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives felt they had to convey their disapproval of the law — no surprise there — but in the process they seemed uncaring of the very real ways in which it's helping real people (Andrew Rosenthal, 1/28). 

The Washington Post's Post Partisan: What Obama Didn't Say On The Affordable Care Act
Obama's health-care reform can significantly expand access to decent health-care coverage without blowing up the health-care system to which most Americans are accustomed. It sets out to accomplish an important social goal in a way that majorities in Congress could accept — though just barely. Republicans profess to favor many of the ACA's outcomes. "No, we shouldn't go back to the way things were," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said in Tuesday night's GOP response. But despite the usually small-ball GOP proposal here and there, the party still has not coalesced behind an approach that has the potential to extend good coverage to as many people and pass Congress. The president was right to take credit for threading a pretty tight needle, and he was right to stick up for a policy that could still do a lot of good in the coming years, particularly for the uninsured (Stephen Stromberg, 1/29).

The New York Times: Roadblocks On Health Reform
Onerous restrictions imposed by Missouri on federally approved counselors who help people understand and enroll in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act have rightly been blocked by a federal district judge in Kansas City. Although the ruling by Judge Ortrie Smith applies only to Missouri, its reasoning applies to similar laws or regulations adopted by more than a dozen Republican-led states that are doing their best to sabotage health care reform (1/28). 

The New York Times' Economix: She's A 29er
Part-time employees do not create a health-insurance requirement or a penalty for their employer, which gives large and small employers an incentive to reduce at least some employees' hours to 29 hours. A number of employers plan to do exactly this. But the incentives are not limited to penalty avoidance by employers, and began this month. Employees in families with income of less than 400 percent of the poverty line will lose access to generous federal subsidies if they make themselves eligible for employer health coverage by working full time at an employer that offers coverage to such employees. In other words, employees may have something to gain, or less to lose than they did before this year, by limiting themselves to a 29-hour work schedule (Casey B. Mulligan, 1/29). 

The Wall Street Journal: The Imperial Presidency Of Barack Obama
There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or nonenforcement—of the president's signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama has repeatedly declared that "it's the law of the land." Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare's statutory text (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 1/28). 

Bloomberg: The Vital Medical Research Obama Isn't Pushing
The growth in Medicare costs continues to be slow, in what is perhaps the most encouraging fiscal development for the U.S. in decades. If the health-care system is to continue to provide better value for Americans, policy makers need to seize this moment. Sadly, they are instead largely sitting on the sidelines. The sluggish activity at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute provides a vivid illustration. It is simply not possible to make health care more efficient without knowing how treatments stack up against one another (Peter Orszag, 1/28).

The San Francisco Chronicle: The State Of The Affordable Care Act Isn't Healthy
I contacted some readers who had written to me about Obamacare for their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's State of the Union address. Most of these correspondents were unhappy because their insurers had cancelled their private plans, while others faced cancellations but welcomed the chance to buy policies available to all. One reader, not a happy camper, told me he wouldn't be watching because he couldn't "think of anything that Obama might say that wouldn't have me lobbing projectiles at my TV" (Debra J. Sanders, 1/28).

And on other issues -

Los Angeles Times: That Crowd In The Emergency Room? Kids, Shot By Guns. Why We Need To End This.
No matter how you count up the disparate numbers about the effects of some of our fellow Americans' infatuation with guns, the answer is the same: Our laws are killing and maiming us. The medical journal Pediatrics this week reported that, based on the most recent data from 2009, children are hospitalized for gunshot wounds at a rate of 20 a day, or one child every 72 minutes, for a total of 7,391 hospitalizations in 2009. Nine of 10 wounded kids are male, and disproportionately African American, which focuses the problem even more (Scott Martelle, 1/28).

JAMA Internal Medicine: A Consumer's Pursuit Of Health Care Outcomes: Daunting Even With A Guardian Angel!
One would think, given the huge amount of health care information available today, that by practicing proper due diligence we should be able to make reasonable and rational informed decisions about care options. ... Even the best guardian angel, however, would struggle to find information on all relevant hospitals and physicians, encountering different and confusing methods and limited details. ... So what is the solution? First, it is incumbent on medical professionals to keep striving to make medical decision-making information tools readily available and transparent to the public (Dr. Michael Mack, 1/28).

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