KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Employer Mandate: Suspension Of Law Or Bump In Road?

Columnists and editorial boards examine the implications of the postponed employer mandate deadline.

Chicago Tribune: It's Obvious: Dump Obamacare 
In a nutshell, the administration could not figure out how to make sure that businesses with more than 50 full-time employees are providing a minimum level of health insurance. So the administration decided to violate the law by putting off the requirement until 2015, instead of next year. Why? Because the administration couldn't come up with a workable, straightforward, timely and affordable way for companies to report whether they were complying with the law (Dennis Byrne, 7/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Suspends The Law 
President Obama's decision last week to suspend the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act may be welcome relief to businesses affected by this provision, but it raises grave concerns about his understanding of the role of the executive in our system of government. ... The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act contains no provision allowing the president to suspend, delay or repeal it (Michael McConnell, 7/8).

Sacramento Bee: Bump In The Road For Health Reform But Not A Detour
Of 210,000 businesses in the United States with more than 50 employees, only 10,000 don't offer coverage. Should they be let off the hook? On the other hand, many observers believe that, over the long run, we'd be better off with a system in which people could buy insurance on their own – with a menu of choices in the state exchange and continuing coverage as they change jobs – rather than obtaining insurance through an employer. ... A one-year delay on the large-business requirement is a bump in the road, not a detour down a wrong path (7/9).

The Washington Post: Everyone Now Agrees: Obamacare Can't Be Implemented
If the president wants “fixes,” let him spell them out. And Republicans should get off their duffs and come up with their proposal to replace Obamacare. Since everyone agrees the current law is unworkable, the entire measure should be held in abeyance until the president and Congress can revamp the legislation to meet the president’s original promises — it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit, allows Americans to keep their insurance, and expands affordable coverage. The current version doesn’t do that (Jennifer Rubin, 7/8).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Just Got Easier To Implement, Not Harder 
[T]he thinking among health-care experts is closer to the precise opposite of [Jennifer] Rubin’s bombastic headline: The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year (Ezra Klein, 7/8).

Baltimore Sun: Obamacare On The Ballot Is Bad News For The President
The political football of health insurance, supposedly taken off the playing field in 2012 by the Supreme Court decision declaring the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional, is being kicked around again. ... As voters contemplate the future of Congress in the 2014 midterms, the president can't afford to have Obamacare revived as a central issue if he hopes to complete his presidency with Capitol Hill in more cooperative hands (Jules Witcover, 7/8).

The Washington Post: The Insiders: Obamacare And The Growth Of Part-Time Jobs 
The number of part-time employees is now at an all-time high of more than 8.2 million. To put that number into perspective, that’s equal to the entire population of the state of Virginia. It appears that employers were already preparing for Obamacare by working to reduce the number of full-time employees they would have had to buy health-care insurance for. Maybe the White House knew for certain what the rest of us just suspected, or the administration had a sneak peek at the June data and realized that the need to delay the Obamacare employer mandate was urgent (Ed Rogers, 7/8).

Some news outlets had opinions on other issues - 

Los Angeles Times: Night Terrors Of The Uninsured 
So I'm out of work. Again. And because healthcare in this country is tied to employment, we are out of luck. Again. I had cancer. My daughter was hit by a car and got a concussion and a fractured ankle. I know bad things can happen to me, to my family. We have to have health insurance. And we have to pay for it ourselves. And that keeps me up at night. I was excited when the Affordable Care Act was introduced. ... It's a step in the right direction, but for people like my husband and me, who make a pretty good income, it's unlikely to give us any kind of break. We'll still have to pay for our insurance entirely ourselves, and I'm not optimistic the price will go down (Diana Wagman, 7/6).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Who Is To Blame For Rising Health Costs?
Employer passivity has supported an opaque and chaotic pricing system, inappropriate incentives, rampant medical inflation, waste and lagging quality. Employers pay the largest portion of the ever-increasing premiums, and forgo profits. Consumers fund much of the waste through increased prices, and employees pay the rest through lost pay raises as dollars are diverted in inefficient delivery systems (Robert Smith, 7/8).

Los Angeles Times: Catholic Bishops Cry Wolf 
[T]he health insurance rules draw a distinction between churches and other houses of worship, which are totally exempt from the contraceptive mandate, and religiously affiliated schools and charities that serve and employ people of all faiths. Even then, the administration has taken pains to spare the latter from directly paying for contraceptive services. Instead, employees will receive contraception coverage from an insurance company or, if the employer is self-insured, from a third-party administrator. That's a fair concession (7/8). 

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