KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Anti-Health Law Measure Secures Place On Ohio Ballot

Reuters: Ohio Court Says Anti-Obamacare Amendment Can Be On November Ballot
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would block implementation of President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul law can appear on the ballot this fall. The ruling came on the same day that a federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down the requirement in the law that Americans either carry health insurance or face penalties (Ingles, 8/12).

CQHealthBeat: Ohio Heads Toward November Vote On Federal Health Care Law
Ohio voters appear poised to vote this fall on a constitutional amendment blocking the federal health care law's mandate to buy insurance, after the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday turned down a challenge to the petitions filed to put the amendment on the ballot. The court in a 7-0 opinion denied an attempt to kill the amendment by Brian Rothenberg and the liberal group ProgressOhio. The group asked to disqualify 69,000 of the 426,998 petition signatures submitted on behalf of the "Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment," to be voted on Nov. 8 in Ohio. Pushed by the tea party in Ohio, the amendment is known as Issue 3, and would allow Ohio residents to opt out of the requirement in the health care law that all Americans have insurance (Norman, 8/12).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mental Health Reforms Hit Snags
Milwaukee County's efforts to overhaul its troubled and outdated mental health operation have slowed, as hitches in federal funding, disagreement over building a new Mental Health Complex and overlapping planning efforts have cropped up. The months-long transition between the administration of Gov. Scott Walker, who left as county executive late last year, and that of Chris Abele, the new county executive elected in April, also contributed to wheel spinning on mental health reform, according to county officials and reform advocates (Schultze, 8/14).

The Boston Globe: State OK's Modest Hikes To Health Insurance Rates
State insurance regulators have approved health premium base rate increases of under 6 percent for policies renewing in the fourth quarter that cover small businesses and individuals. The increases were the lowest in recent memory, insurance officials said. In addition to base rates, additional charges could be tacked on for many customers depending on factors such as their industry and geography and the age of a workforce. Regulators have been pressing health insurers for more than a year to keep their premium increases moderate after years of double-digit annual increases (Weisman, 8/13).

San Francisco Chronicle: California Spending Billions To Build New Prisons
When the $33.6 million project at the California Medical Facility is completed this fall, prison psychologists and psychiatrists will have private offices to treat their patients, and inmates requiring inpatient care will have individual cells near a nurse's station, as required by law (Lagos, 8/14).

California Watch: Medical Oversight Fines Often Go Unpaid
California dental regulators have collected only about 20 percent of the fines they have levied against dentists in the last four years, a far weaker record than licensing authorities that oversee registered and vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians. That record, revealed in a recent legislative report, emerged as the Legislature is taking a close look at several medical oversight boards whose regulatory powers are set to expire under the law (Jewett, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Ex-HMO Attorney Named Head Regulator Of California Health Plans
A former attorney for one of the nation's largest HMOs has been picked to run the California agency that oversees health plans. Brent Barnhart, 68, was named by Gov. Jerry Brown this week to lead the California Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates HMO health coverage for more than 21 million Californians (Helfand, 8/12).

The Miami Herald: Jackson Health System Cuts Hurt Primary Care For Poor
Leaders of the Reaves center and another Jackson-run clinic - the Dr. Rafael A. Peñalver Clinic in Little Havana - complain that in its financial distress, Jackson has damaged primary care for the poor by cutbacks, elimination of pharmacy services and dental care, and forcing uninsured patients to go to Jackson Memorial to register for discount services before returning to the clinics for treatment. Jackson has also raised fees the poor must pay out of their own pockets for their care (Dorschner, 8/14).

The Connecticut Mirror: New Law Aimed At Helping Cancer Patients Find Bone-Marrow Match
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire all have legislation requiring insurance companies to pay the bone marrow donor testing fee for anyone interested in joining the registry. People searching for a match in Connecticut, however, could only receive coverage to test immediate family members. The test consists of a mouth swab to collect a DNA sample, which requires processing and costs about $60-100 per person (Emma, 8/12).

The Texas Tribune: Texas Lawmakers Give Extra Support To Anti-Abortion Clinics
Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature - including the dramatically reduced budget - take effect. ... Despite making deep cuts across the state's budget, lawmakers increased funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy resource centers. The vast majority of faith-based crisis pregnancy resource centers in Texas go unregulated, but an estimated 26 are affiliated with the state, meaning they receive financial support and oversight from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (Tan, 8/14).

California Healthline: Rate Regulation, Basic Health Headed To Floor?
The state Legislature reconvenes today, starting with a Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing with 167 items on the agenda. The Assembly's Appropriations Committee meets Wednesday, with 184 items to consider. ... Among the bills that still need to clear the Appropriations hurdle is AB 52 ... which is the health insurance rate regulation bill. Also up is the bill to create a Basic Health Program (Gorn, 8/15).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Did Employer Penalties Work In Massachusetts?
Think back, way back, to the last days of winter, 2006: it looked like negotiations around a landmark health care law in Massachusetts might fall apart. The sticking point was whether to include a health insurance mandate for employers and if not, how to make sure they helped cover the uninsured. The deal that broke the logjam was largely symbolic, although lawmakers didn't say that at the time. Now, it's clear to many that the penalties have had little effect on achieving near universal coverage (Bebinger, 8/12). 

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