KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: February 5, 2014

Today's headlines include stories detailing a new Congressional Budget Office report that found 2 million people who relied on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for a job because of new benefits from the health law.

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Expansion Only A First Step To Better Health In Troubled W.Va. Communities
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: “It was a frosty December afternoon in downtown Williamson, with hot tomato and beef soup on the menu at Jacobs Well. Ronald Washington warmed up at a long wooden table. The 58-year-old security guard, wearing a striped winter hat and brown jacket, came during his lunch break for one of the free meals that the faith-based mission provides” (Rao, 2/5). Read the story and the related sidebar, A Small West Virginia Town Rallies For Better Health (Rao, 2/5) .

Kaiser Health News: A Third Generation Doctor Questions The Profession
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in partnership with NPR, Eric Whitney writes: “Being a doctor in America is changing, in part because of the Affordable Care Act and also because of longer trends in the practice of medicine. Drs. Robert and Michael Sawyer practice at Denver Health, the city's big public hospital downtown. Sawyers have worked or taught here as physicians since the 1930s, so they have a unique perspective on how today's challenges stack up against those that physicians have faced in the past” (Whitney, 2/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: CBO Reports That Health Law Provision Called ‘Bailout’ By GOP Will Raise $8B
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: “New findings from the Congressional Budget Office may make it harder for Republicans to portray a provision in the health law designed to limit insurers’ losses and gains as a ‘bailout’ for the industry” (Carey, 2/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: Poll: 51% Disapprove Of Obamacare
In a Gallup Poll, released Tuesday, 51 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the Affordable Care Act and 41 percent say they approve of the law. Nevertheless, these numbers are a slight improvement from Gallup’s previous poll released last month, which showed 54 percent disapproval and 38 percent approval. Additionally, the poll released today is consistent with the pollster’s Dec. 13 poll, which showed identical approval numbers (McCalmont, 2/4).

The New York Times: Health Care Law Projected To Cut The Labor Force
A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday predicted that the Affordable Care Act would shrink the work force by the equivalent of more than two million full-time positions and recharged the political debate over the health care law, providing Republican opponents fresh lines of attack and putting Democrats on the defensive. The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated. Congressional Republican leaders called the findings “devastating,” “terrible” and proof that the health care law was a job killer (Lowrey and Weisman, 2/4).

NPR: More Access To Health Care Means Millions Can Quit Or Cut Hours
What might have been a routine update on the state of the federal budget Tuesday instead became the newest front in the ongoing political war over President Obama's signature health care law. At issue: a revised estimate about how many people would voluntarily leave the workforce because they can get health care without necessarily holding down a job (Date, 2/4).

Los Angeles Times: Affordable Care Act Will Prompt Some To Work Less, Report Says
President Obama's healthcare law will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 13 million this year and 25 million once it is fully phased in, but will prompt some people to work less because of the availability of insurance subsidies, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. The latest projections by the nonpartisan budget analysts inspired new talking points for both sides in the deeply polarized debate over the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare (Lauter, 2/4).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Will Prompt Over 2 Million To Quite Jobs Or Cut Hours, A CBO Report Says
More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday. The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revived a fierce debate about the impact President Obama’s signature health-care program will have on the U.S. economy (Goldfarb and Goldstein, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law To Cut Into Labor Force
The agency also said the rough launch of the health law's online insurance portals shrunk its estimates of the number of people who will get coverage in 2014. It said six million people would obtain private coverage through the exchanges and eight million people would sign up for Medicaid, compared with its earlier estimates of seven million and nine million, respectively. The report, part of the budget office's annual economic and budgetary outlook, provides the agency's most detailed analysis yet of the ways in which the law is expected to change incentives in the workplace as it takes full effect. The report indicates that, in effect, some workers will either leave the workforce entirely or cut back on hours because the law lets them get coverage on their own without regard to their medical history, in some cases with a subsidy (Radnofsky and Paletta, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: CBO: Medicare Growth to Remain ‘Slower Than Usual’
The Congressional Budget Office, in its new economic outlook report released Tuesday, said the recent slowdown in the growth of Medicare costs has been “broad and persistent,” prompting a projection “that growth will be slower than usual for some years to come.” Total spending for Medicare is projected to grow about 6% per year over the next decade because Medicare case loads are expanding as baby boomers become eligible for benefits at age 65. In 2013 there were about 51 million Medicare beneficiaries and that number is expected to climb to 71 million by 2024 (Corbett Dooren, 2/4).

USA Today: Health Law Could Mean Fewer Full-Time Workers, CBO Says
Workers eligible to buy cheaper health insurance or receive financial incentives under the Affordable Care Act may choose to work fewer hours, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday. Those choices, the report said, may cut the number of full-time workers by 2.3 million people by 2021. CBO originally had estimated that 800,000 people may make those choices (Kennedy, 2/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Web Site Woes Will Reduce Health Care Enrollment
Website woes have largely cleared up, but the nonpartisan analysts said Tuesday they expect 1 million fewer people to sign up through the new insurance exchanges, for a new total of 6 million in 2014. They predict enrollment will pick up and top 20 million in 2016. CBO also revised its Medicaid projection down by 1 million, for a new total of 8 million (2/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care law Will Mean Fewer People On The Job
Republican lawmakers seized on the report as major new evidence of what they consider the failures of Obama’s overhaul, the huge change in U.S. health coverage that they’re trying to overturn and planning to use as a main argument against Democrats in November’s midterm elections (2/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Five Takeaways On New Health-Care Projections
There is plenty of material in today’s Congressional Budget Office report about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Here are five key takeaways (Radnofsky, 2/4).

Politico: White House Pushes Back hard Amid CBO Fallout
The White House pushed back hard Tuesday on the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that the Affordable Care Act will cut labor supply by the equivalent of two million full-time jobs, contending that the law is a good thing because it gives Americans “choice” on how much they’ll work. While the CBO “consistently does outstanding work,” Council of Economic Advisers chairman Jason Furman said at the White House press briefing, its findings in Tuesday’s report can be “subject to misinterpretation” (Epstein, 2/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Administration Drills Down To Find Uninsured
Uninsured Americans are still procrastinating about President Barack Obama’s health care law. With less than 60 days left to enroll, can the administration find the millions of customers needed to sustain new insurance markets? Geography could hold the answer, according to a study conducted for The Associated Press. It found the uninsured aren’t scattered around the country willy-nilly; half live in just 116 of the nation’s 3,143 counties. That means an outreach campaign targeted to select areas can pay off big (2/5).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Enrollees Hit Snags At Doctor’s Offices
After overcoming website glitches and long waits to get Obamacare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor's office. A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business (Terhune, 2/4).

The New York Times: WellPoint, A Onetime Critic Of Health Law, May Yet Profit
In the midst of the sweeping transformation taking place in health insurance, the company that served as an illustration of why an overhaul was necessary could end up benefiting most from the new federal health care law. Just a few years ago, the health insurer WellPoint outraged its customers — and regulators — by proposing an increase of nearly 40 percent in some of its annual premiums. Now, WellPoint has captured a large portion of the government money being spent on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, and can gamble on the new insurance marketplace because of protections offered by the federal government in the early days of the law’s introduction (Abelson, 2/4).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obama Faces Fresh Democratic Pressure On Health Care
Some Democratic lawmakers intensified pressure on President Barack Obama Tuesday to take actions he has been resisting when it comes to health care and the nation’s energy supply. Mr. Obama hosted a private meeting at the White House for House Democrats. Both sides afterward described the session as productive and friendly. But Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D., N.H.) told Mr. Obama at one point that some people should have left their jobs over the flawed rollout of the health-care law that is the centerpiece of his domestic legacy (Nicholas and Hook, 2/4).

Politico: GOP Weapon 2: Hit Obamacare Over ‘Insurer Bailouts’
The last thing Democrats want to do, with a law as complicated and full of moving parts as the Affordable Care Act, is explain what the law actually does. And yet, they’re going to have to come up with something to answer the Republicans’ latest line of attack. The program that’s causing all the trouble is supposed to help insurers get through the first few years of Obamacare if their costs are higher than they thought. And it’s not an emergency measure — it was built into the law all along (Nather, 2/5).

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Criticize Surgeon General At Senate Hearing
President Obama's choice to become the next surgeon general spent much of his confirmation hearing Tuesday deflecting criticism from Republicans, who attacked him for his political activism, ties to the president and relative inexperience. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, who at 36 would be one of the youngest surgeon generals, was chided for advocating gun control in the aftermath of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and for backing the Affordable Care Act as a co-founder of Doctors for America, formerly Doctors for Obama (Clozel, 2/4).

The Washington Post: Republicans Question Surgeon General Nominee Over Advocacy For Health-Care law
Murthy, 36, who would be the first Indian American to become chief U.S. doctor, works at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. If confirmed, he will take over for acting surgeon general Boris D. Lushniak, who stepped in when Regina Benjamin left the post in July (Hicks, 2/4). 

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