KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Law Op-Eds: Obama Must ‘Fire Some People'; The Law’s Many Possible Futures; Obamacare ‘Is A Disaster’

Bloomberg: Obama Needs To Fire Some People
Though the site is working vastly better today than it was two months ago, the debut of HealthCare.gov was a genuine disaster. Specifically, it was a management disaster. CMS’s information technology department botched its job as systems integrator for HealthCare.gov. CMS management botched the job of recognizing that CMS’s IT department was botching its job. The failures cascaded from there, with HHS botching its oversight of CMS, and the White House botching its management of HHS. It wasn’t just the technical challenges of HealthCare.gov that the administration managed poorly. The White House was completely unprepared for the furor over canceled insurance plans; that’s a political problem that [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius, a former insurance regulator, should've seen coming (Ezra Klein, 12/11).

USA Today: Obamacare Remains Worthy: Our View
The last couple of months have been rough for the Affordable Care Act, what with the rollout of a shockingly unready website and President Obama awkwardly scrambling to make good on his ill-advised promise that all people could keep their health plans if they liked them. Unsurprisingly, this slow-motion disaster has soured Americans on Obama and his signature law (12/11). 

USA Today: Obamacare Is A Disaster
Obamacare was created with an ostensibly noble purpose: to expand health coverage to some of the uninsured and to make health care more affordable. Three-and-a-half years ago, perhaps reasonable minds could have differed as to whether it would actually work. Today, there can be no dispute that Obamacare is a disaster (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 12/11). 

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Face A Day Of Obamacare Reckoning
When he was asked last week how much of a political liability ObamaCare will be for Senate Democrats in the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Jeff Gillan of Las Vegas's KSNV, "I think it's going to be good for them." Brave words, but the Affordable Care Act remains very unpopular. And the intensity of feeling is with its critics (Karl Rove, 12/11). 

Fox News: Republicans Can Win In 2014 If They Go On Offense Against Democrats Over ObamaCare
In next year’s midterm elections, Republican candidates in every corner of this country can and should be on offense against their Democratic opponents on the issue of ObamaCare. After all, during the debate over the health care bill four years ago, every single Republican stood unified against this monstrosity, while every single Democrat joined forces to ram the law through Congress against the will of the American people. The bad news is that all the reasons I opposed ObamaCare four years ago, have now become reality (Scott Brown, 12/11).

The New York Times: Obamacare's Many Possible Futures
The latest data on Obamacare signups is yet another rorschach test for the law's supporters and skeptics: The accelerating rate of signups is either evidence that enrollment might yet achieve escape velocity or an indicator (given how low, in absolute numbers, private enrollment remains) that even with a smoother website experience the program is never going to reach its "multiple millions of private enrollees" goal (Ross Douthat, 12/11). 

The Washington Post: In Health-Care Spending, Myths Of The ER
In America's health-care dialogue, emergency rooms have come to symbolize the system's economic and medical defects. To critics, typical ERs are swamped by the uninsured, who — lacking a regular doctor or source of care — go where they will be treated. Performing routine medicine at high prices, ERs are crowded and costly. If the uninsured had insurance, these problems would recede. Better medicine at less cost. Who could oppose that? Well, nobody. It was a selling point for the Affordable Care Act. The trouble is that the story is mostly make-believe (Robert J. Samuelson, 12/11). 

The New York Times' Economix: Health Care Prices Move to Center Stage
But a decade ago most Americans were still well insured by comprehensive coverage with low deductibles and coinsurance, so these stories affected only an easily overlooked minority of uninsured fellow citizens. For the most part, these stories on prices were ignored by the general public, by the rest of the news media and even by most health policy analysts and the sponsors funding them. Things have changed and continue to change. With ever higher deductibles, coinsurance and exclusions from coverage, employers have been shifting more and more of the cost of employment-based health insurance into the household budgets of their employees. The latest move is a shift toward "private health insurance exchanges" (Uwe E. Reinhardt, 12/12). 

Politico: The Left's Reality Problem
The erstwhile reality-based community is having a tough time of it lately, though. Most infamously, Obamacare is foundering on the flagrant deceptions used to sell it, exposed every day by the workings of the law in reality. Many liberals still don’t want to acknowledge the rather straightforward fact that if you mandate more insurance benefits in the so-called Affordable Care Act, insurance will cost more. QED. You might be able to cushion the cost increase for some people with subsidies, but not for everyone, and the underlying insurance is still more—not less—expensive (Rich Lowry, 12/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Junking The Obamacare Stats
Most of Washington seems to have bought the White House claim that the 36 federal exchanges are finally working, and glory, glory, hallelujah. But if that's really true, then what explains the ongoing secrecy and evasion? On Wednesday the Health and Human Services Department continued its Victorian-era strip tease and allowed a glimpse into the Affordable Care Act's "enrollment" for November. Out of respect for a free press, reporters ought to boycott these releases because they're so selective that they reveal little about real enrollment. But we'll try to parse the data as best we can without the White House high gloss (12/12).

The Boston Globe: Case Of Uncle Onyango Shows Obama's Credibility Gap
Whether the deception involves family relationships or health care policy, there's a pattern here. Taken together, it explains Obama's credibility gap. He lets what he believes are the higher political needs of the moment get in the way of truth-telling. And while it's hardly unusual — see Bill Clinton, above — it always ends up hurting more than it helps. It chips away at the public’s perception of presidential integrity, which is key to believing in a president’s ability to lead (Joan Vennochi, 12/12).

The New England Journal of Medicine: Implementing Obamacare In A Red State — Dispatch From North Carolina 
Two Americas have emerged in health care reform: states like California, which have embraced Obamacare, have enthusiastically implemented key provisions, and are intent on boosting enrollment and ensuring its success; and states like North Carolina, whose political leaders oppose Obamacare, resist its implementation, reject Medicaid expansion, and hope that the program collapses. ... Ultimately, Obamacare's long-term success depends on much more than a website fix. Reformers must figure out how to make the ACA work in states whose governments are rooting for and working to ensure its failure (Jonathan Oberlander and Krista Perreira, 12/11).

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