KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif. Settles Suit On Kids’ Mental Health Services

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Arizona Republic: Prison Inmates In Arizona Crying Foul Over Medical Care
To stave off a lawsuit, Arizona's Department of Corrections has agreed to investigate scores of complaints by inmates that they are routinely denied medical care for weeks or months even for severe, life-threatening conditions. Inmates who have lost sight, had body parts amputated or been severely disfigured, among other gruesome examples, say proper medical care could have prevented needless suffering. Based on those allegations, a legal coalition has accused the state of chronically and systemically denying medical and mental-health care to inmates, violating state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution (Ortega, 12/5).

The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle: Calif. Settles Lawsuit Over Child Mental Health
A Los Angeles judge has approved a settlement that will provide mental health services to foster children and at-risk children under Medi-Cal. U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz approved the settlement Monday, bringing to a close a longstanding complaint that was filed in 2002. Advocates had alleged the state failed to provide mental health services to children in foster care or at risk of being removed from their families (12/5).

California Healthline: Dual Eligibles A Tricky Population To Manage
The state Department of Health Care Services wants to integrate care for about 1.1 million dual eligibles in California — people eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal services — by moving them to managed care plans. "These two insurance programs don't necessarily work well together," according to Neal Adams, deputy director of the California Institute for Mental Health. ... Adams was part of a stakeholder summit convened last week by DHCS to discuss the dual eligible demonstration (Gorn, 12/6).

The Record (New Jersey): N.J. Saves Little On Reform Of Health Benefits
Governor Christie's health care reforms will save less next year than expected after fewer than 1 percent of workers chose cheaper insurance options — just as new figures show the cost of providing benefits continues to spike. Nearly all of the 397,809 eligible government workers chose to stick with familiar health plans and their higher premiums, Treasury figures from November enrollment show. Reluctant enrollees largely skipped the new choices Christie put forward, which would have reduced the premium cost shared by each worker and their government employers. Actuaries had predicted 2 percent of workers would make the shift this year (Fletcher, 12/5).

Bloomberg: Medicare Pre-Payment Plan Limited To Florida
A program to pre-approve Medicare hospital payments for pacemakers and joint replacements is limited to Florida, a U.S. doctor's group said. Hospital and medical device stocks tumbled on Dec. 2 after a report said Medicare, the U.S. health plan for the elderly and disabled, won't pay for a range of heart and orthopedic procedures in 11 states until contractors confirm the care was appropriate. Shares rebounded today, led by HCA Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. hospital operator (Cortez and Wayne, 12/5).

The Kansas City Star: In Defending Abortion Restrictions, Kansas Rings Up Big Bills
The legal cash register is starting to ring up big numbers as Kansas defends new laws aimed at restricting abortion. After about six months, the state has tallied $392,520 in legal bills stemming from attempts to restrict abortion that were pushed during the legislative session earlier this year. The state spent $237,834 on private lawyers defending efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of federal family planning funds. It has laid out $94,380 defending new rules for abortion clinics. And it has amassed $60,306 in legal bills over a new law that bars insurance companies from providing elective abortion coverage as part of their comprehensive plans (Cooper, 12/5).

Kansas Health Institute News: Major Insurance Companies In The Hunt For Kansas Medicaid Contracts
Twelve companies have formally expressed interest in bidding on a Kansas contract to provide Medicaid managed care services, according to state procurement officials who have refused to identify the firms. However, it is no secret that among the 12 are some industry giants in what has become one of the fastest-developing sectors of the health care industry (Shields, 12/5).

The News Journal (Delaware): Children's Health Insurance Program Carries High Cost
As Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware's merger with Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark progresses toward an expected approval, one loose end stands to gain some attention today: a program to provide health coverage for thousands of uninsured Delaware children. State lawmakers passed legislation last summer calling on Highmark and Blue Cross to provide affordable coverage for Delaware families whose incomes are too high to quality for the state's children's health insurance program, or CHIP. ... But, behind the scenes, proposed costs of the Blue Cross program have become a big enough sticking point that some political leaders think high costs could undermine the program (Starkey, 12/5). 

The Sacramento Bee: Disabled Penryn Care Home Resident's Pregnancy Being Investigated
Placer County sheriff's detectives and state regulators are investigating how a severely retarded, seriously disabled woman who lives in a Penryn care home has become pregnant, officials confirmed Monday. The woman, 34, lives in a small "intermediate care facility" in the community, which is northeast of Rocklin. She is mentally retarded, legally blind and unable to feed or care for herself, police confirmed. The Bee is not identifying the facility or the woman because of the sensitive nature of the case (Hubert, 12/6).

California Healthline: Inland Empire Readies Low-Income Health Plans
San Bernardino and Riverside counties are poised to launch two new Low-Income Health Programs as a precursor to wider expansion of health insurance under the federal health reform law in 2014. ... San Bernardino County's program, called Arrowcare, and Riverside County's plan, called Riverside County Healthcare, both will cover low-income residents who don't qualify for Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (McSherry, 12/5). 

The Lund Report: Mike Shirtcliff Committed To Health Care Transformation
More expensive technology is saving peoples' lives at the end of life and leaving more people behind who need basic health care services. That has to change, according to Mike Shirtcliff, who's focusing his energies on transforming Oregon's health care system. "We waste money on things that don't matter," said Shirtcliff, the CEO of Advantage Dental Plan, which provides dental coverage to 189,000 Oregon Health Plan members in 33 Oregon counties (Lund-Muzikant, 12/5).

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