KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Contraception Conscience Vs. Political Objections; Is The Mandate The ‘Non-Tax’ Tax?

Chicago Tribune: Obama Has It Right On Birth Control
The president's new birth control plan would insure coverage of women's birth control without copayments or deductibles. Sounds fair, especially given that men's anti-impotence Viagra treatments have been covered by insurance plans for years (Rachel Marsden, 2/16).

The Washington Post: Objections Of Conscience? Or Of Politics?
You might think that Sen. David Vitter would observe a lifetime moratorium on public moralizing after his phone number was found in the little black book of a prostitution ring’s madam. But there he was in the House TV studio on Wednesday afternoon, informing a bank of cameras about President Obama’s inferior conscience, as evidenced by a new rule that requires employers to provide birth-control coverage. ... The continuing contretemps concerning contraception offers a reminder that in Washington, the usual laws of physics don’t apply (Dana Milbank, 2/16).

Roll Call: Contraception Mandate Doesn’t Break New Ground
True religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether to use birth control, based on our own beliefs and according to what is best for our health and our families. It fiercely protects the rights of all of us to practice our faith. It does not, however, give anyone, including the bishops, the right to impose their beliefs on others (Sarah Lipton-Lubet, 2/16).

Boston Globe: Blunt Words For Brown
Why would a Republican hoping to be reelected in Massachusetts leap headlong onto Missouri Senator Roy Blunt’s slippery-slope? In case you missed it, Brown cosponsored Blunt’s legislation allowing employers to limit insurance coverage for treatments they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. ... So any Catholic employer could refuse to cover contraception ... A Jehovah’s Witness who believes blood transfusions are against God’s will could refuse to provide coverage for those (Yvonne Abraham, 2/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Meet The ObamaCare Mandate Committee
Offended by President Obama's decision to force health insurers to pay for contraception and surgical sterilization? It gets worse: In the future, thanks to ObamaCare, the government will issue such health edicts on a routine basis — and largely insulated from public view. This goes beyond contraception to cancer screenings, the use of common drugs like aspirin, and much more (Dr. Scott Gottlieb, 2/16).

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare's Non-Tax Tax
The quicksilver qualities of the Affordable Care Act individual mandate penalties — what you pay if you don't buy government approved health coverage — are something to behold. Does the Obama Administration think they're a fine, a tax, or maybe something else? Well, that depends, as revealed in a telling exchange at a House budget hearing Wednesday (2/16).

Boston Globe: The Doomed But Useful Budget
Even before President Obama introduced his 2013 budget on Monday, the condemnatory e-mails from Republicans were rolling in: The budget raises taxes, especially on the rich; it does nothing to rein in entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the biggest drivers of projected future deficits. ... But Obama’s budget is noteworthy nonetheless (Joshua Green, 2/16).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mr. President: Take A Stand On Entitlement Spending
What's really needed is a realistic, long-term approach to the biggest budget-eaters — military spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those four broad categories occupy 68 percent of the space in the federal budget. With more than two-thirds of the federal budget consumed by military spending and insurance programs, cutting spending for everything else - as the GOP candidates propose — doesn't do much to bring budgets under control and harms the nation's well-being (2/14).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Exchanges Will Benefit Maryland families
It's no wonder Maryland families are so hard pressed to find good, affordable health insurance — premiums have outpaced earnings, and the field of insurance options is confusing. … That's why our Health Care for All Coalition is so excited about Gov. Martin O'Malley's health care bill (SB 238). By setting up a competitive insurance marketplace for private health insurance, also known as an exchange, this bill will give Marylanders more choice, more control and more peace of mind about their health care (Vincent DeMarco, 2/15).

The Seattle Times: More Cuts To Home-Care Workforce Will be Costly In The Long Run
As the Legislature considers more budget cuts on top of the more than $10 billion already slashed, a new report, "Why They Leave; Turnover Among Washington's Home Care Workers," shows that further targeting the long-term-care workforce would be costly to the state. One in five of the more than 42,000 people who care for seniors and people with disabilities lives in poverty, making barely more than $10 per hour on average (David Rolf, 2/15).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Bachmann, Cravaak Push For Greater Health Plan Scrutiny
Two members of Minnesota's Republican congressional delegation have joined the push for greater scrutiny of state health plans’ management of Medicaid patients. … Bachmann and Cravaack deserve credit for weighing in on a complicated issue, and their timing couldn't be better. Their concerns should add momentum to efforts underway at the Capitol to increase HMO transparency (Jill Burcum, 2/15).

Houston Chronicle: Texans Need Access to Basic Health Care
You know it's serious when the Harris County Hospital District, which provides more than a million outpatient visits a year in its community health centers, has to turn away at least 340 people a day who request appointments with a primary care doctor. ... We need to support all areas of adequate funding and resources that will enhance Texans' access to primary care (2/15).

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