KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif.’s Central Valley Facing Health Problems

Modesto Bee/California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting: Health Care At Crisis Status For Many In California County
A health care crisis is sweeping the Central Valley, devastating middle-class and poor families and threatening to overwhelm the region's fragile safety net. The deep recession has pushed the ranks of the uninsured here to unprecedented levels. At the same time, a dire state budget deficit has forced lawmakers to drastically scale back or eliminate key health care programs for the state's poorest residents (Wiener and Carlson, 5/9).

The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Launches Effort To Improve Worst Health Problems
Faced with an array of intractable health problems that are prematurely killing Baltimore's residents, city leaders plan to unveil Tuesday an ambitious plan targeting HIV infection, heart disease and other serious ailments in the top 10. Health officials will for the first time map out specific and comprehensive goals, such as reducing smoking rates by 20 percent and the number of obese adults by 15 percent - all by 2015 (Cohn, 5/10).

The Boston Globe: Ensuring Coverage For Youngsters
Thousands of Massachusetts children remain without health care coverage despite the state's universal insurance law, a chasm that is prompting the launch today of a campaign by state leaders and consumer advocates to get all youngsters enrolled. This month, teams of workers from a consortium of hospitals and community health centers, armed with fliers and posters in eight languages, will redouble efforts to search out uninsured children and sign them up, said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All, a Boston-based consumer group that is leading the initiative (Lazar, 5/10).

KQED/The California Report: Challenging 'Unreasonable' Insurance Hikes
This month, 120,000 Anthem Blue Cross customers begin to brace for their insurance rates to rise an average of 16 percent. The company says an independent actuary found the increases were "not unreasonable or unjustified," even though state regulators are dubbing the hikes unreasonable now. The state's insurance regulators have no authority to block increases simply for being "unreasonable." However, a bill moving through Sacramento would change that (Varney, 5/9).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Patrick To Doctors: I See Your Winks And Nods
(Mass.) Gov. Deval Patrick sounded a bit peevish at one point today when he spoke to more than 200 doctors who'd come to the State House to lobby their legislators. He'd just laid out his determination to proceed with the next, cost-containing stage of health care reform, despite the great complexity of the challenge. ... Then he told the doctors that he saw them exchanging looks across their tables, "the furtive glances you're casting, winks and nods. Let me tell you, we are going here, to integrate accountable care organizations, we are going there together" (Goldberg, 5/9).

The Connecticut Mirror: Unspent Funds In DSS Programs Draw Sharp Questions
In a tough budget year, some agencies might win praise for underspending their budgets - but not the Department of Social Services, which is nearing the end of the fiscal year with large surpluses in programs for a range of vulnerable populations. ... [Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven, the co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee] said she will be seeking answers today from the department's new leadership about why DSS failed to spend tens of millions in funds budgeted for subsidies of elder home care, child care and services for the homeless. Last week, the Department of Social Services won permission from the Finance Advisory Commission to use $196 million in unspent funds to make up deficiencies in other programs, with all but $2 million going to Medicaid (Pazniokas, 5/10).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Carlson Chides GOP On Health Care
Former Gov. Arne Carlson chided fellow Republicans Monday for advancing legislative proposals that would cut and privatize a subsidized health care program he helped start in 1992 for low-income working people who couldn't afford insurance. "The need for MinnesotaCare hasn't changed. Let's get real. This [proposal] isn't about health care. It's about money, about cutting health care to cut the budget," Carlson said. He spoke at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul in a talk sponsored by the Minnesota Hospital Association (Wolfe, 5/9).

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