KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Policy Cancellations Raising Ire; One Woman’s Story On More Affordable Insurance; Daschle: Democrats Want Deal On Entitlements

The New York Times: A Delayed Deadline Could Disrupt Reform
The insurers have assumed that everyone would be required to have coverage by March 31. If the enrollment period is extended for a significant period, the sickest people are most likely to sign up early and the healthiest will likely hang back, driving up the costs ... there is no need for despair. In the long run, the technical problems can and will be fixed and most Americans will be better off. (10/28). 

USA Today: How HealthCare.gov Can Improve
I feel for the Obama administration's technology team. I've been there. While I was chief information officer for President George W. Bush, the technology team was tasked with redesigning WhiteHouse.gov. ... I know that the Obama technology team had a far larger challenge to create a new health care system from scratch. But once the HealthCare.gov website clears its major technological hurdles, I can offer a few lessons I've learned that might help the Obama administration (Theresa Payton, 10/28). 

The Washington Post: Delaying The Individual Mandate Won't Fix Obamacare
And let’s say, by some miracle, all those people do manage to get into the exchanges just under the wire. What exactly would the Obama administration have accomplished? It would have presided over the massive, chaotic, involuntary transfer of millions of people out of private health insurance they were happy with into Obamacare plans they did not want — all in violation of President Obama’s promise that if you’ve got health insurance you like “you can keep your plan" (Marc A. Thiessen, 10/28). 

Los Angeles Times: Obama's Big Lie
"All we've been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it. ... I'm infuriated because I was lied to," one woman told this newspaper, as part of a story on how some middle-class Californians have been stunned to learn the real costs of Obamacare. And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. president (Jonah Goldberg, 10/29).

Miami Herald: Delay Obamacare? No Way, Say Florida Democrats
It's tough to find an Obamacare success story. But one of them — Plantation resident Carolyn Newman — found her local congresswoman, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz touting her case ... A 50-year-old cancer survivor, Newman got a letter from insurer Florida Blue that informed her Sept. 26 that it was canceling her high-risk plan. But then came the good news, she said: The plan they were offering had more benefits and a significantly lower monthly premium cost, $640.82 — 49 percent less than she pays now (Marc Caputo, 10/27).

The New York Times' Taking Note: Creepy Uncle Sam Is Back, With More Bad Advice
The conservative group Generation Opportunity is back with another creepy Uncle Sam ad attacking the Affordable Care Act. When we last saw the health-insurance-is-evil mascot, in September, he was performing gynecological exams on young women ... In the new, Halloween-themed spot, he’s part of a pressure-campaign — with hints of the movie “Videodrome”— to make a young man sign up for insurance through an exchange. It’s more of the same the-government-is-coming-to-get-you nonsense (Juliet Lapidos, 10/28).

Bloomberg: Dear Obamacare Officials: Fix The [Redacted] Sites!
If we delay the mandate/whatchamacallit, we’re going to be taking a big risk with the budget numbers and the enrollment numbers, and we’ll get even more Tea Party I-told-you-sos (which are already incredibly annoying). We’re in pretty bad shape, but I think we would have to be in even worse shape before we would do that. (Can we maybe get the Republicans to shut down the government again? That was great.) So how do we fix this? Heck if I know. I do political strategy, not computer work. All I know is we’ve got to fix the sites. And maybe start lowering expectations for what the law is going to accomplish. Best, [Democratic Strategist] (Ramesh Ponnuru, 10/28).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Will Survive Its Botched Rollout
[I]t's worth stepping back from the website mess to remember the deeper problems that made this law necessary in the first place -- and, by extension, why the issues with HealthCare.gov, which seem so important today, pale in comparison. ... expanding government-subsidized insurance and standardizing what it means to be covered, along with removing co-pays for preventive care, should start to close the gap in health outcomes between the U.S. and other countries (Christopher Flavelle, 10/28).

The Boston Globe: A Necessary Sense Of Urgency On Fixing Obamacare Website
But vexing as the rollout has been, the problems with the website shouldn't discredit the law itself. The website is a technological means to an end. It is not the end in and of itself. And it is, of course, fixable (10/28).

Fox News: Five Tips For Republicans Questioning Secretary Sebelius About ObamaCare This Week
This is a critical opportunity to get to the bottom of the "fiasco" of the ObamaCare roll out, and just as important, to demonstrate to America that there is a better alternative. ... My advice to the Republicans on the committee -- this is a great opportunity … the seriousness of the moment requires your gravitas, not your rage. Your constituents will get plenty angry on your behalf; you don't have to get angry for them. If you come across as the responsible adults in the room, it will be clear that the other guys are not (Dana Perino, 10/29). 

CNN: GOP's Hypocrisy On Obamacare
I still maintain that the administration has had a failure in management in overseeing and reporting on progress towards October 1. But I'm also sympathetic that they've had a hard job to do. I would like to see this go better. I'd like to see millions more get insurance. I'd like to see the law of the land function as well as it can, and if it doesn't, I'd like to see Congress continue to amend it to make it work better. I'd like a better health care system (Dr. Aaron Carroll, 10/28).

Bloomberg: Obamacare: The Return Of The HMOs
I wrote last week about the "magic pot of money" that everyone thought they had found to fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- money that didn't harm patients or anger important interest groups. One of those magic pots was Medicare Advantage overpayments; it costs more to provide Medicare Advantage (in which Medicare money is used to purchase a private insurance policy) than it does to run patients through traditional Medicare (Megan McArdle, 10/28).

Tennessean: Medicaid Expansion Right Call For TN
The Affordable Care Act changed the way the federal government helps offset the hundreds of millions of dollars of uncompensated care provided to Tennesseans every year. Direct payments to hospitals, called disproportionate-share payments, ended Sept. 30, with the expectation that low-income uninsured patients would be added to an expanded Medicaid program. Without Medicaid expansion, the resulting shortfall threatens the trauma, pediatric and other specialty care we all rely on (Dr. Chris Young and Jill Kinch, 10/27). 

On other health topics -

The New York Times' Taking Note: Replace The Sequester, Not Sebelius
An embarrassing mistake, which should be considered a scandal, has caused the Internal Revenue Service to perform far fewer tax reviews and cut back its fraud investigations, costing the Treasury billions of dollars. Have there been any angry House hearings? No. That same mistake has forced the National Institutes of Health to cut more than 700 advanced research grants, delaying the progress of vaccines and experimental treatments. No hearings. ... That’s because the mistake is called the sequester, and Republicans know what went wrong: they caused it (David Firestone, 10/28). 

Politico: Seize Moment On Entitlement Reform
[A]s legislators and others consider ways to reduce federal spending on entitlements, they have always had only two real choices. They can arbitrarily cut costs of health entitlements and merely shift those costs to others — including states, beneficiaries, employers or providers, as we have done innumerable times in the past. Or they can redesign and improve federal health programs to make them more efficient, with modernized benefits, vastly improved quality of delivery and significantly reduced cost. We know how to do this (Tom Daschle, 10/28).

Los Angeles Times: A Good Day For Texas Women In Judge's Ruling On Abortion Law
In a big win for abortion rights — not to mention common sense — a federal judge on Monday gutted a portion of a new Texas law that would have forced the closure of many abortion clinics by requiring their doctors to have unnecessary admitting privileges with local hospitals. The ostensible point of the law, House Bill 2, versions of which have been successfully challenged in several other abortion-unfriendly states, is to make the procedure safer for women. That's disingenuous. First-trimester abortions are extremely safe. Laws like these are part of the religious right's never-ending strategy to restrict access to abortion in order to end it (Robin Abcarian, 10/28).

The Washington Post: FDA Seeks To Curb Abuse Of Prescription Painkillers
Few blessing of modern science are entirely unmixed, and so it is with the development of powerful synthetic or semi-synthetic opioid analgesics — painkillers such as fentanyl and hydrocodone. Prescribed by the tens of millions in recent years for their power to relieve otherwise crippling pain in the victims of disease and injury, these pills have turned into a $7.3 billion-per-year business. Yet they also pose a major public health risk because of their ready availability and addictiveness to many patients. ... The FDA has struck the right balance, based on its correct assessment that the public interest lies not in more use of pain medicines but in the proper use of them (10/28).

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