- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Sept. 16

Anniston (Alabama) Star on the Affordable Care Act:

Obamacare is working.

If the baseline goal of the Affordable Care Act was to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, then consider it noteworthy progress - along with an asterisk. A reason: too little time has passed since the law extended coverage to millions of Americans at the beginning of this year to pronounce the ACA an across-the-board success.

That day is way down the road.

Nevertheless, statistics from the federal government and independent pollsters reveal a steep reduction in uninsured Americans during the first quarter of 2014. That drop - 8 percent - equates to nearly 4 million fewer people who don’t have health insurance, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

In fact, the director of the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at the Kaiser Family Foundation said the federal and Gallup numbers “drastically understate the effect” of the law. The number may be as high as 8 million to 10 million fewer uninsured Americans. “Regardless of what you think of the ACA, there should be no doubt at this point that the law is increasing the number of people insured,” said Larry Levitt, the program’s director.

This forward step for President Obama’s signature piece of legislation may present Democrats with little momentum for November’s midterm elections. Democrats face the real possibility of losing ground on Capitol Hill, and conservative Americans’ distaste for Obamacare (and the president himself) isn’t likely to be swayed by short-term health-care numbers.

Voter-wise, our state is one of those squarely in the camp of Gov. Robert Bentley, whose view of Obamacare and the law’s Medicaid expansion program is well known. Bentley abhors the law and has thus far refused to expand Medicaid in the state, even though it would help as many as 300,000 Alabamians, many of them the working poor.

The effect Bentley and other like-minded governors are having on ACA statistics is both noticeable and regrettable. States that have expanded Medicaid coverage have enjoyed a larger decrease in the number of uninsured. In that regard, Alabama comes out on the losing end, again.

The Affordable Care Act is neither perfect nor a godsend. The White House’s rollout and implementation of the law has been underwhelming, at best. But it is a worthwhile attempt at bringing health coverage to all Americans. The law’s complexity and the amount of people it affects makes its final evaluation years away. An economist for MIT, Jonathan Gruber, agrees, telling The Times this week that “it is too early” to label the ACA an undeniable success.

That said, strong numbers that trend in positive directions can’t be ignored. Thus far, Obamacare is doing its job.




Sept. 17

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on containing the Ebola outbreak:

The Ebola virus is one of the least understood but most deadly viruses on the African continent, spreading rapidly if not checked in its early stages. The current outbreak threatens to become a continental pandemic.

Initially, health officials thought the outbreak was contained along the Liberia-Guinea border, but with people traveling to escape it or to conduct business, the virus has spread to other regions. Now, African nations are asking for greater assistance from the West.

The United States and United Kingdom are ramping up assistance in the form of medical equipment and military aid, including setting up clinics.

The Obama administration is preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.

The virus’ exact origins remain a mystery, but scientists believe Ebola is transmitted from certain animals, including bats. It is spread among humans by contact with bodily fluids, either through broken skin of mucus membranes.

The symptoms are horrifying: fever, vomiting and massive internal bleeding.

As is often the case in remote areas, Doctors Without Borders has been on the front line trying to contain the outbreak, but the humanitarian aid group has been overwhelmed.

The France-based organization thought the outbreak had been contained early, but the movement of people in the region allowed it to spread. Many African nations have imposed travel restrictions and quarantines in an effort to control it. Part of the U.S. and British military assistance will be in containing movement of people.

Studies show more and more people are migrating globally in search of better lives, and diseases will travel with some of them.

A more coordinated and well-funded response to easily spread diseases is becoming mandatory. The risks of piecemeal responses are too dangerous to consider.

The Ebola outbreak has claimed at least 2,000 lives, and that number is certain to rise.

This is not the first time Ebola has appeared in Africa, and much has been learned about how to contain and treat it. But those lessons are of limited use if the response is not swifter and better coordinated.




Sept. 14

Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News on Obama’s strategy against ISIS:

President Barack Obama now has a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State. Better late than never - to have a strategy, that is. Only time will tell whether it is the correct strategy or not.

The president is probably getting his feet wetter than he would like in the cesspool that is Iraq. But whether he is getting them wet enough will be the question. It’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to dive in head first, but his continued refusal to commit combat troops to the area is indicative of his continued reluctance to fully commit U.S. resources to the battle against ISIS.

Obama’s stubborn insistence on a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq and his refusal to aid rebels fighting against Syria’s oppressive Baathist government created the power vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS. It roughly parallels George W. Bush’s refusal to commit enough troops to do the job in Iraq once the decision had been made to commit.

Bush learned his lesson, and the “surge” of U.S. troops eventually defeated insurgents. Hopefully, Obama has learned not to cling too inflexibly to preconceived notions of what it will take to do the job. Committing the appropriate resources will save lives in the long run.

Obama’s desire to build a broad coalition of nations to combat ISIS is good policy. Other nations in the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia have as much or more at stake than the United States. While the U.S. might have the resources - military at least - to take on ISIS alone, a winning strategy is not all about military prowess and success.

It is absolutely necessary that a group that draws its legitimacy from Islam be confronted by other Islamic nations. Otherwise, ISIS terrorists can claim to the rest of the Islamic world, from which it draws its recruits and funding, that the battle is between warriors of Islam and Christian crusaders.

Obama is at least facing up to the necessity of taking on ISIS. Hopefully, he and U.S. allies will see the job through to its conclusion.



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