KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif. Weighs Bill To Curb Premium Increases

A variety of state health policy issues are in the headlines.

The Sacramento Bee: Health Insurance Rate Hikes Draw Scrutiny At California's Capitol
Assembly Bill 52 … would give the state the authority to approve, deny or modify excessive health insurance rate hikes – much as regulators do now with auto insurance. The bill is a lightning rod for many of the Capitol's most influential interest groups, pitting consumer, labor, small business and health care advocacy groups against the California Chamber of Commerce and hospital, physician and health insurance associations. State regulators already have authority to assess whether proposed rate hikes are reasonable, but the process has no teeth because insurance firms can impose them regardless (Sanders, 7/4). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Innovative Public Health Program Faces The Ax
In just two years, the Statewide Health Improvement Program has attacked obesity and tobacco use among Minnesotans with more vigor and focus than any state program in the past decade, supporters say. Now, the initiative called SHIP could become a casualty of the state budget battle (Smetanka, 7/3).

Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal: 2011 Legislative Highlights 
Lawmakers approved an electronic marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance coverage, starting by 2014. They also approved an effort to overhaul state-supported care for the more than 500,000 recipients on the Oregon Health Plan. Medical providers will see state reimbursements cut by an average of 11.5 percent in the first year. Cuts could be bigger - or people dropped from state coverage - if savings do not materialize in the second year (7/3). 

The Baltimore Sun: More Homeless Veterans Getting Dental Care In Maryland
The Department of Veterans Affairs … has been stepping up a dental care program for homeless vets. The idea, VA officials say, is to alleviate pain, improve health and boost self-esteem. … The dentistry program for homeless veterans was launched almost 20 years ago, but the need has been so great recently in the region that officials at the VA Maryland Health Care System reached out to the Maryland dental school for help. Since late 2006, students, residents and faculty have answered 1,110 referrals for vets, or close to half of the total treated through the program locally (Cohn, 7/4). 

Denver Post: Colorado Hospitals Hiring In-House Doctors To Bolster Health Care Integration
Denver-area hospitals are hiring doctors by the hundreds as in-house staff, promising quality care and cost savings, but critics warn the direct-employment trend threatens patient choice and monopoly pricing from mega-hospitals. Hospitals say their ballooning rosters of staff doctors will allow them to compete for "accountable care" contracts with Medicare under health care reform, which promises profit-sharing to groups that save the government money and deliver quality care (Booth, 7/5). 

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