Viewpoints: 'Middlling news' on enrollment; 'secret mandate exemption;' Obama's surprising appearance between two ferns

Bloomberg: February's Middling News For Obamacare
By the beginning of the month, 4.2 million people had selected a plan. But that doesn't mean they have insurance. Reporters on a conference call asked about the number who had paid, and the administration's representatives said they don't know. They didn't dispute estimates from surveys that showed about 20 percent are not paying. But they didn't confirm them, either. If the 20 percent attrition rate holds, then as of March 1, about 3.4 million had actually paid for insurance. That would put the administration about 2.3 million behind their September projections (Megan McArdle, 3/11).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Enrollment Proves Whatever You Want It To
The worst-case scenario for Obamacare enrollment isn't that premiums go up because the risk pool was worse than expected. Rather, it's that Democrats overestimated the demand among Americans, and particularly young Americans, for insurance coverage that's both less generous than employer-based plans and more expensive than the plans prohibited by the law. ... But after five months of open enrollment, the level of demand among young Americans to buy subsidized health insurance remains unclear (Christopher Flavelle, 3/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Obamacare's Secret Mandate Exemption
ObamaCare's implementers continue to roam the battlefield and shoot their own wounded, and the latest casualty is the core of the Affordable Care Act-;the individual mandate. To wit, last week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty. This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn't think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead, the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don't comply with ObamaCare benefit and redistribution mandates. Our sources only noticed the change this week (3/11). 

Los Angeles Times: Obama Stumps For Obamacare 'Between Two Ferns'
Is Barack Obama the nation's first hipster president? Obama appeared Tuesday in an episode of "Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis," a recurring comedy sketch on the Funny or Die website. Maybe it was just good prep work by his aides, but Obama's grasp of the "Two Ferns" conceit -; the mutual antagonism between host and guest -; suggested that he was actually familiar with the cringe-worthy series (Jon Healey, 3/11). 

Los Angeles Times: Obama & Galifianakis: Not A Yuck Fest, But That Wasn't The Point
Here's the thing about President Obama's decision to appear with Zach Galifianakis on Funny or Die's "Between Two Ferns," one of the funniest faux-interview series you will ever see on the Web or off. It's not that Obama was particularly funny (his jokes seemed strained). Or that Galifianakis was at his offensive best (I'd save that praise for his interview with Justin Bieber, though asking whether Obama was going to put his presidential library in Hawaii or Kenya was pretty funny). But right now, with the end of the first enrollment period looming, the president is looking for ways to goose the enrollment of young adults in Obamacare. Appearing on "Between Two Ferns" is a sure-fire way to get the word out. Will it generate any sign-ups? That remains to be seen. But everyone's talking about it (Robin Abcarian, 3/11). 

The Washington Post: President Obama's Unbecoming Appearance
The president, a.k.a. the leader of the free world, appeared on the show allegedly to pitch health care to the demographic worshiped by producers and presidents alike -; Young People. This is because young people rule and, specifically, they rule over the success or failure of the Affordable Care Act. If the young and healthy don't buy insurance to help cover the sick and elderly, the plan could collapse. ... What better time for the president to kick back and be a comic foil in service to the greater good of universal health care? Health care is important, of course, but, I repeat, he's the leader of the free world, parts of which are under siege (Kathleen Parker, 3/11). 

USA Today: Contraception Mandate Doublecross
As a member of Congress, I was proud to vote for the Affordable Care Act, providing 32 million Americans with access to quality, affordable health care. I was eager to see many of the reforms in the act, including its provision to lower health care costs for women by increasing access to affordable preventive care. Today, as a private citizen, I'm proud to stand with the Green and Hahn families and their corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, in seeking to uphold our most cherished beliefs that we, as American citizens, should not be required to relinquish our conscience and moral convictions in order to implement the Affordable Care Act (Bart Stupak, 3/11). 

Los Angeles Times: High Deductibles And Obamacare Derangement Syndrome
We've remarked before on the tendency of businesses and others to use the Affordable Care Act as a scapegoat for changes in their healthcare benefits or in the healthcare landscape that have other causes -- such as their own greed or long-term trends. Galen Benshoof, a guest contributor at, identifies a good case of what we might call Obamacare derangement syndrome -- the conviction that everything that happens in healthcare today must have been caused by the ACA (Michael Hiltzik, 3/11). 

The Fiscal Times: Application Sets Off Privacy Alarm Bells
I am now among the more than 4 million who've accessed to review and select policies. The experience was disconcerting. Although I know a bit more about insurance than most Americans -; I've been writing about it for more than quarter century -; the process still raised some palpable privacy concerns. Actually picking a policy is also daunting; the government isn't providing enough help online to make it any easier (John F. Wasik, 3/12). 

The Washington Post: McAuliffe's Defining Moment
Terry McAuliffe may face his defining political moment earlier than any Virginia governor in the modern two-party era. He confronts a General Assembly deadlocked on the budget, solely due to disagreement on McAuliffe's position regarding Medicaid expansion. The new governor favors the "full monty," demanding that Virginia add 400,000 needy residents to the traditional Medicaid rolls. Virginia Republicans, led by the GOP's huge House of Delegates majority, oppose any such expansion as unaffordable and threatening to the state's AAA bond rating. New governors usually get more time before having to pass such a legacy-making test (Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman, 3/11). 

Kansas City Star: The Cost Of Kansas' Medicaid Expansion
There's no such thing as "free money," right? Those who support Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid in Kansas think there is. According to them, expanding the low-income health care program will give Kansans the coverage they need at no cost to our state. It's the best of both worlds -; and it's too good to be true. If Kansas expands Medicaid under Obamacare, we'll actually find that what we were promised can't be delivered, and both Medicaid recipients and the middle class will pay the price (Steve Anderson, 3/11).

Kansas City Star: Thanks To Obamacare, There Are Many Ways To Get Health Coverage
People may choose to go uninsured and pay a relatively small fine imposed by the IRS, and accept that remaining uninsured is risky. There are some exemptions to paying that fine, but there are no exemptions for what is owed for medical bills. If you or an immediate family member becomes ill or is injured, you are responsible for paying for all the necessary medical care. Non-payment of medical bills is the most common reason for declaration of bankruptcy. You may decide that Obamacare is socialized medicine, and that a requirement to be insured violates your freedom of choice. But in fact, Obamacare uses private insurance companies, free markets, and freedom of choice to provide coverage (Steve Luptak, 3/11).

Salt Lake Tribune: Flexible, Utah-Specific Solution Best For Medicaid
Our community will be healthier and financially stronger as we utilize available federal dollars to provide access to health coverage for the poorest among us. This is both the right thing for our citizens most in need and the right thing for our economy. We should pursue all available federal dollars to develop a flexible solution that strengthens a competitive, private insurance market, promotes individual accountability by those receiving assistance, and prevents the state from being left on the hook for providing additional ongoing benefits if the federal government becomes unable or unwilling to hold up its end of the bargain(Marc Bennett and Andrew Croshaw, 3/11).

Bangor Daily News: More Dependency Or Opportunity: What's At Stake In Maine's Medicaid Expansion Debate
After all Maine's budget and economy have been through at the hands of Medicaid over the years, it is shocking that Democratic politicians would propose a new, record expansion of the state's medical welfare program under Obamacare. Their proposal comes just months after finally paying off our state's massive debt to its hospitals -; debt racked up by the very program they want to expand. It comes just as we're trying to patch an $80 million hole in the state budget caused by -; you guessed it -; the very program they want to expand (Speaker of the Maine House Kenneth Fredette, 3/11).

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: For The Love Of God, Leave The Almighty Out Of Medicaid Debate
Yet in Tuesday's letters to the editor, one reader objected to a column I wrote on the failure of the General Assembly to complete its business on time. This person echoed what some liberals - oops, progressives - have been saying about the expansion of Medicaid. "It's the Christian thing to do." Good Lord. Why is it that some of the same folks who become apoplectic when conservatives invoke Christianity to argue against abortions and gay marriage use similar language when they want to justify bloated government programs? (Kerry Dougherty, 3/11).

Digital First Media: How Surprising Are The Obamacare Studies? 
Whatever else it does, the 2010 health care law has been a boon for researchers. Wall Street analysts, college professors and think tank staffers have all taken a crack at understanding how Obamacare is affecting American health care (Teague Beckwith, 3/11).

On other health care issues -

The Wall Street Journal: How Attention-Deficit Disorder Went Global
In March 2013 the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that 11% of school-age children in the U.S.-;an astonishing 6.4 million kids-;had received a medical diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a 41% increase in the past decade. Over two-thirds of kids with an ADHD diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin. The data sparked a much-needed debate about whether American children were being overdiagnosed and overmedicated for ADHD (Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler, 3/11). 

WBUR: Storytelling For Health: Doctor Promotes Intimate Patient Narratives
My experience in the health care system -; both as a physician and as a patient living with multiple sclerosis -; has convinced me that the current practice of medicine squeezes out what is a most essential element of healing: the stories of peoples' lives. In response to this void, I started collecting patient's stories in 2010, and these pieces have been featured here on CommonHealth, as part of the Listening to Patients series. Through these deep connections, I've seen firsthand that there is tremendous healing power in stories -; for both the storyteller and for those listening (Dr. Annie Brewster, 3/11).

WBUR: Project Louise: Sometimes It's Just Plain Hard
You know what? This is really hard. ... Even with great support, even with a trainer at the ready and a terrific strategy coach and friends cheering me on, even with wonderful guidance on changing my eating habits and practicing new exercise routines and being kinder to myself – even with all that, I am just not changing as fast as I want to. Or, more to the point, as consistently. Yeah, I'm eating better. Most of the time. But I am really, really not getting to the gym. And I can't quite figure out why (Louise Kennedy, 3/11).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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