Viewpoints: High Court Weighs Home Health Care Workers' Union Rights; Abortion Protections Becoming 'All But Meaningless'

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Aligns Against The Have-Nots
On Tuesday, the justices were presented with a golden opportunity to further increase inequality. The court heard arguments in Harris v. Quinn, a case testing whether home-care providers who work under a union contract with the state of Illinois can avoid paying dues that support the union's collective-bargaining work. (Under the law, they already can decline to pay the share of dues that goes to the union's political work.) Home-care workers are hired by aging or disabled individuals and their families, some of whom are eligible to have the expense picked up by Medicaid. That arrangement means the home-care workers' pay levels are set by the states — making both the state and the individual a worker's employer of record (Harold Meyerson, 1/21). 

USA Today: Abortion Rights A Tale Of 2 Countries: Our View
Precisely 41 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that women have a constitutional right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb. In a later decision, the justices held that states must not place an "undue burden" on that right. Today, in too many places for too many women, those protections are becoming all but meaningless. Abortions are fraught with so many restrictions that they are hard to obtain in a growing number of states and almost impossible to obtain in a few (1/21). 

USA Today: Protect Unborn Children All Over: Opposing View
Abortion is not the only matter on which laws have differed greatly among states. For many years, the freedom of choice to own slaves was strongly protected in some states, but restricted and even prohibited in others where abolitionists had the political power to "impose their morality." ... Today, the right-to-life objective is to achieve protection for unborn children everywhere, but our challenge is a similar one. How do we enlighten the blindness of those who adamantly exclude children not yet born from the protected human family? (Mary Spaulding Balch, 1/21). 

Bloomberg: Cut Medicare Subsidies
Health insurance companies have started a campaign to protect the government payments they get for operating private Medicare plans. Anybody who wants to see the U.S. rein in its bloated and inefficient health-care system, and keep the Affordable Care Act affordable, should hope they fail. The program at issue here is Medicare Advantage, which pays private insurers to provide Medicare health benefits (1/21).

Tampa Bay Times: For Best Trauma Care, Volume Tops Location
In all my years working for hospitals, I've never seen anything as misleading and inflammatory as the advertising campaign being waged against trauma centers like Tampa General. ... Here's a simple question: Would you rather go to a trauma center that is convenient, or one that treats so many of these cases that it improves your chances for a better outcome? Multiple studies have shown that patients have better outcomes at high-volume trauma centers like our Level 1 facility. When it comes to trauma, closer isn't always better. ... The recent ad campaign by a third-party group that attacks TGH and other safety-net hospitals employs a simple formula — instill fear in the public to get what cannot be justified legally or supported by science (Jim Burkhart, 1/21).

Des Moines Register: There Is Some Iowa Health Reform Good News
Fortunately, business looks promising so far for one Iowa insurer. CoOportunity Health, which offers policies in Iowa and Nebraska, saw its business grow from 2,000 members at the end of November to 35,000 members at the end of December. It signed up twice as many Iowans as projected by the end of 2013 and has already surpassed its enrollment projections for 2015.  ... Also, to the pleasant surprise of actuaries, the youngest customers who are generally healthier and use less health care are buying more expensive plans with richer benefits. If you look at all the policies sold by CoOportunity, the age of new enrollees is evenly divided (1/21).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Obamacare: Uninsured Americans Still Staying Away So Far
It's been a while since we checked in on Obamacare. The number of technical glitches is down -- though there are still important shortfalls, such as the website's lack of security -- and now the problems are, as expected, focusing more on the product itself. The worst news of late comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports perhaps only one in nine people who have bought health insurance under the law so far didn't have insurance before (Kyle Wingfield, 1/21). 

The Fiscal Times: My Obamacare Policy Comparison Was a Breakeven Deal
Those who didn't have health insurance prior to the Obamacare rollout don't have an easy way to compare the costs of the new marketplace plans to existing ones. But for those who already had individual policies, there is a viable means of comparison. Count me in that boat (John F. Wasik, 1/22).

The Oregonian: We Won't Know How Good Obamacare Is, A Cancer Survivor Says, Until The Health Crisis Is Upon Us
For six years, Chris Carvalho paid from $3,274 to $5,452 annually in premiums on a catastrophic-care insurance policy. Then he had a catastrophe. An exhausting battle with colorectal cancer that reframed Carvalho's understanding and appreciation of the Affordable Care Act and the fractured health-care system it has replaced. "The conversation we're having on health care is focused on these warring ideologies and people nitpicking the computer systems," says Carvalho, a 54-year-old freelance nature photographer. "The real issue? People get sick. And as a society, we need to decide how we're going to handle that. ... But there are a lot of people walking around right now who don't know how endangered their financial well-being is because they haven't tested their insurance policy" (Steve Duin, 1/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rate Increase Predictions For Obamacare Are Premature
Yes, fewer young people have signed up for Obamacare so far than hoped. And, yes, the mix of young, healthier people in the health care exchanges is a critical piece of information for companies providing coverage as they set rates. But it's way too early to make predictions at this point — it's like trying to predict the final score of an NBA game at the end of the first quarter. Good luck with that (1/21).

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