KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Opinions On Shutdown: Using Obamacare Is A Sham Cause; GOP Isn’t Crazy; What’s The Endgame?

Los Angeles Times: The GOP's Shutdown Sham
House Republicans' irresponsible brinkmanship may finally lead to the government shutdown that some of its members have been coveting since they took control of that chamber in 2011. This time, though, the fight hasn't been a battle over spending on federal agencies. It's been a symbolic one over the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. And it's been a sham. The inconvenient truth for the GOP is that "defunding Obamacare," as the House tried to do, wouldn't stop most of the major provisions of the health care law, some of which have already gone into effect. That's because the new insurance rules, premium subsidies and many other features of the law don't rely on discretionary dollars; they're on fiscal autopilot (10/1).

The New York Times: Those Banana Republicans
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Why is it that the Republicans in Congress seem so determined to prove this maxim? Let's start with the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. The exchanges that are at the heart of Obamacare — making it possible for people who are currently uninsured to buy health care — open for business on Tuesday. Ever since the Republicans took control of the House, they have held vote after vote to roll back the law, even while ignoring important business like, say, fixing the Postal Service (Joe Nocera, 9/30).

The New York Times' Taking Note: Obama's Message To The Middle
It won't take more than 15 Republican defectors to stop Speaker John Boehner’s latest exercise in face-saving pride: a demand that the individual mandate of health care reform be delayed a year in exchange for keeping the government open. (He also wants to end insurance subsidies for members of Congress, their staffs, and political appointees around the executive branch.) Already, there are signs that some moderates, from the northeast and elsewhere, are disgusted with this intransigence and may vote against it tonight. "We have to end this process," Peter King, Republican of Long Island, told CQ Roll Call. "I don't want to facilitate a process that’s doomed." It is doomed, obviously (David Firestone, 9/30).

Los Angeles Times: Pingpong Over Obamacare, Government Shutdown Continues   
It's worth noting what's really going on here. Republicans don't have the votes to repeal the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). Their best hopes had been to have the law thrown out by the courts (which failed when the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional in 2012) or to gain the power to change the law by taking control of the Senate or the White House in the 2010 and 2012 elections (which they didn't). That leaves them trying to extract concessions on the law by threatening not to pass other measures that Democrats badly want to pass (Jon Healey, 9/30).

Los Angeles Times: GOP Will Stop At Nothing To Deny Obama His Due On Healthcare Reform
This is crunch time. Republicans know that once people get a taste of the benefits they'll receive under the Affordable Care Act, there will be no turning back. So the GOP is working overtime to misinform, frighten and dupe people into keeping their distance. Think that's an exaggeration? Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said the Affordable Care Act must be repealed "before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens." Literally. Kills. Children (David Lazarus, 9/30). 

Los Angeles Times: Government Shutdown: Newt Gingrich Has Terrible Advice
[Former House Speaker Newt] Gingrich conveniently forgets that Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, and that senators have continued to block the Republican-dominated House's attempts to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year, setting up a shutdown of many government functions and programs that could begin as early as Tuesday. As House of Republicans are on the verge of forcing the nation to relive its disastrous shutdown, Gingrich has conveniently developed a case of historical amnesia (Robin Abcarian, 9/30).

Bloomberg: The Republicans Fighting Obamacare Aren’t Crazy
But there’s nothing wrong with continuing to resist Obamacare even though it has been on the books for three years. What would be strange is if Republicans ended their opposition to it. The law was, after all, passed over almost-unanimous Republican objections. Other large government programs haven’t seen as sustained a campaign against them, but they had more bipartisan support at the outset. Obamacare was unpopular with the public when it passed, and it has only become more so. Republicans generally think it will have bad effects on the economy and on health care. And it isn’t yet entrenched. Why wouldn’t they keep opposing it? (Ramesh Ponnuru, 9/30).

Bloomberg: Don't Expect a Shutdown To Change Much
With a government shutdown upon us, it's worth pondering this drama's endgame. Does anyone seriously think Democrats in the Senate or the White House will abandon the president’s signature legislative accomplishment in order to appease a few dozen congressional Republicans with an appetite for hyperbole? Hands? Anyone? Didn’t think so. So, after some to-be-determined period of political squirming, Democrats and Republicans will reach a deal to fund the government at more or less current levels for either a shorter or a longer duration. The result will be a continuation of the current government by sequestration, itself a product of extreme dysfunction (9/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Peggy Noonan: Delay Obamacare For A Year (Video)
Declarations columnist Peggy Noonan explains why the president’s wisest move may be to compromise with Republicans (Noonan, 9/30).

USA Today: The Shutdown Party: Our View
This shutdown is not the result of the two parties acting equally irresponsibly. It is the product of an increasingly radicalized Republican Party, controlled by a deeply disaffected base that demands legislative hostage-taking in an effort to get what it has not been able to attain through the electoral process or the judiciary. Republicans in the House are making demands that are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters. In return for keeping government running (and, even more ominously, for paying its bills), they want President Obama to undermine the health care law that he ran on in 2008 and 2012, and now considers his signature domestic accomplishment (10/1).

USA Today: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: It's Up To The Senate
We have arrived at the moment of a government shutdown because the Senate has refused to make the tough decisions. They've refused to accept anything other than a clean spending bill. They've refused to consider any reforms or changes to the status quo. And they've refused to listen to the millions of individuals who are struggling because the president is rationing costs and limiting access (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., 10/1).

The Washington Post: The Tea Party's Revolt Against Reality
During the Obama era, Republican ideological conflicts have intensified. The latest round began with a typical, largely healthy revolt against leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who were viewed as tired and uncreative (though easier to criticize than replace). The young guns — including Reps. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor — would finally take on Medicare reform and push big questions about the role of government in American life. This involved political risk but had the virtue of intellectual seriousness. Tea-party populism, however, moved quickly beyond this point. We are no longer seeing a revolt against the Republican leadership, or even against the Republican "establishment"; this revolt is against anyone who accepts the constraints of political reality (Michael Gerson, 9/30).

The Washington Post: What The GOP Has Missed On Obamacare
Say what you want about Republicans' obsession with destroying Obamacare. One thing they can't be accused of is acting in calculated, partisan self-interest. If all the GOP cared about was hurting Democrats, Republicans might support the health-care law — because it threatens a core Democratic Party constituency: organized labor (Charles Lane, 9/30).

The Washington Post: Federal Workers Deserve Better Than Congress's Disregard
However the antics over a federal shutdown turn out, they have made depressingly clear why so many talented Americans disdain the idea of working for their government. Who would want to work for an employer so dismissive of its employees that it would heedlessly play games with their livelihoods? People in the employ of their country deserve better than the disregard — even contempt — demonstrated by Congress in its irresponsible brinkmanship. ... How rich is it that members of Congress — who have proved woefully inept at their job — would get paid but not the scientist at the National Institutes of Health working on cancer research; not the congressional staffer assisting constituents with problems; not the attorney with the Department of Housing and Urban Development cementing a deal to build housing for the low-income elderly; not the janitor sweeping out a restroom on the Mall? (9/30).

The Washington Post: Fox News Has Utterly Lost It On Obamacare
As uninsured Americans find themselves on the eve of getting brand-new options to secure health care, desperation at Fox News is surfacing. It has been fighting this law from the start, highlighting any bad news related to the Affordable Care Act and suppressing the good news. The tone has been uniform; the skepticism has spread across most time slots; and the inspiration comes from on high, as Fox News chief Roger Ailes has made public his disregard for Obamacare. Let the record show that Fox News, in its assault against Obamacare, has moved from attacking legislation to attacking Q and As (Eric Wemple, 9/30). 

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