KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif. Kids’ Care; Mass. Retiree Health Costs; Iowa Nursing Home Inspectors

The Sacramento Bee: Parents Urged To Sign Up Kids Now For Health Insurance
The push is on to enroll thousands of children who previously could not get health coverage or whose parents paid much higher premiums because of their children's pre-existing medical conditions. Under new federal rules that took effect last fall, children with chronic health conditions cannot be denied coverage. California went one step further: Insurers may not charge premiums more than double the rate of covering healthy children. But to qualify for the price protection, parents must sign up before the open enrollment period ends March 1, or wait until the child's next birthday (Calvan, 2/15).

Des Moines Register: State Eliminates 10 Of Its 38 Nursing Home Inspectors
The state agency responsible for protecting Iowa's elderly has eliminated more than one-fourth of its nursing home inspectors. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals will now have 28, rather than 38, inspectors to monitor the care received by 30,000 residents in the state's 442 nursing homes. The reduction comes five months after state officials warned the federal government that a shortage of inspectors had already put Iowa at risk of failing to meet minimum federal standards for overseeing nursing homes. The cuts will result in annual savings of $125,000 in state salaries (Kauffman, 2/16).

Reuters: Mass. Towns Owe Workers $20 Billion For Health Care
Massachusetts' largest 50 cities and towns will owe $20 billion to pay for their public workers' health care, an "exploding" cost that could force them to cut services taxpayers need, a new study said on Tuesday (Gralla, 2/14).

The Boston Globe: Residents Face $20B Retiree Health Tab
Massachusetts residents face potentially devastating tax increases in the coming years to pay health insurance benefits for retired police, firefighters, and other municipal employees. ... The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation study found that virtually no municipality is putting aside nearly enough money to pay the ballooning cost of health insurance promised to their retired employees, as well as those who will retire (Murphy, 2/16).

PBS Newshour: Colorado Clinic Helps Diabetics Avoid Problems With 1-Stop Coordinated Care
Clinica Family Health Services, which treats 1,800 diabetics, that have four clinics provide medical homes for low-income and uninsured patients in Colorado. That means one-stop shopping for patients not only to see doctors, but fill prescriptions and even see a dentist. Those with diabetes regularly get their blood pressure and blood sugar levels tested. They get checked to see if the disease has affected their feet and eyes. And in group sessions, they learn how to live with their illness (Bowser, 2/15).

Georgia Health News: Hospitals Refuse To Hire Smokers
Three Georgia hospital systems have gone one step beyond banning smoking on their campuses. They won't hire people who smoke. The three health systems - Gwinnett Medical Center, DeKalb Medical Center, and Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany - will drop job applicants from their candidate list if a blood test for nicotine comes up positive. ... About 20 percent of American adults are smokers. ... Smokers have higher health care costs and lower productivity, and many employers require workers who smoke to pay a surcharge on health insurance premiums (Miller, 2/15).

The Baltimore Sun: Johns Hopkins, University Of Baltimore Form Medical-Law Center
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Baltimore School of Law said Tuesday that they would forge an unusual formal collaboration aimed at fostering a stronger relationship between doctors and lawyers so they may better understand the evolving health care landscape. With a first-year budget of about $1 million, the schools will open a center in July that will be part academic institution focused on educating practitioners and students of medicine and law, and part think tank aimed at influencing health care policy (Cohn, 2/15).

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