KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Consumers Oppose Ga. Request To Ease Insurer Profit Rules

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

Georgia Health News: Bid To Ease Reform Insurance Rule Draws Fire
The state's request to ease new federal restrictions on health insurer spending would cost Georgia insurance policyholders an estimated $34 million in rebates, consumer advocacy groups say. The consumer groups sent a letter Friday urging U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to reject Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens' request for a waiver on rules governing how insurers can spend money. The restrictions come under a broad category called "medical loss ratio" (Miller, 9/20).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Consumer Groups Oppose Waiver On Health Insurer Rule
State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said he was looking out for consumers when he asked the Obama administration to delay a requirement that health insurers spend 80 percent of the money they collect from customers on claims, as opposed to salaries, marketing and other overhead. But 17 Georgia consumer organizations have objected to Hudgens' request, saying that giving insurers more time to comply with the federal rule will rob Georgians of the value they should be getting from their health plans. Most Georgia insurers would not meet the threshold based on data submitted by the insurance commissioner's office (Teegardin, 9/21).

Related, earlier KHN story: States Seek to Soften Rule on Insurers' Profits, Millions Of Dollars In Consumer Rebates At Stake (Appleby, 5/16).

The Seattle Times: County Expects To Save Millions On Health-Care
King County employees are getting healthier, and that will save the county money — big money. Costs are so much lower than expected that the county says it will be able to save $23 million in this year's budget and will spend $38 million less than planned in 2012, County Executive Dow Constantine said Tuesday. That could save jobs in other parts of county government, including sheriff's deputies and nurses, Constantine said (Gilmore, 9/20).

The Texas Tribune: Watson Outlines Plan for Medical School in Austin
In a much-anticipated speech this afternoon to the Real Estate Council of Austin, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, outlined his plan for the development of a medical school in Austin. "This is the moment," he said. Such an institution could bring jobs, improved health care and a better quality of life to the region, but previous efforts have struggled to get off the ground (Hamilton, 9/20).

Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. Health Care System Changes Way Care Providers Are Compensated
One major Minnesota health care system has changed the way primary care providers are compensated. Fairview Health Services has moved the emphasis from patient volume to quality outcomes and satisfaction. MPR medical analyst Dr. Jon Hallberg calls the change a "dramatic shift" (Crann, 9/20).

Kansas Health Institute News: Summary Report Submitted On Medicaid Makeover Ideas
The consulting firm Deloitte LLP has submitted its summary of suggestions collected by the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback from interest groups and members of the public after the administration announced it intended to remake the state's Medicaid program. ... "We heard repeatedly from stakeholders about the need to integrate care around the whole person, and this (Deloitte) report brings that into sharp focus," said Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (9/20). 

HealthyCal: Elder Abuse Bill Would Regulate Signature Stamps
Liz Sanders' elderly mother had a $20 signature stamp that she used for her banking, but that little stamp ended up costing more than $700,000 after a dishonest caregiver got her hands on it. ... A bill awaiting the governor's signature will regulate the way California banks issue such signature stamps and offer new protections against financial abuse (Freeman, 9/20). 

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: In Pennsylvania, It May Really Pay To Be On Medicaid
Pennsylvania is considering paying Medicaid recipients – in some cases as much as $200 – as an incentive to visit higher quality and lower cost hospitals and doctors. Experts say the strategy has never been tried by other states (Galewitz, 9/20).

ABC: Fresno's Illegal Needle Exchange Program Booms Despite Law
Prejudice and shame dissuade many addicts from receiving standard care, [Dr. Marc] Lasher said, and his belief in providing compassionate and respectful care while attempting to curb the transmission of deadly bloodborne illnesses, including HIV and hepatitis C, is enough to keep his mission going, despite the roadblocks that he has experienced in recent days. While the program is technically illegal because it provides drug paraphernalia to the public, three years ago, Lasher and his crew struck a deal with Fresno government officials that allowed the needle exchange program to receive immunity from drug paraphernalia laws and provide care to addicts who needed it (Conley, 9/21).

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