KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Connecticut Has Especially High Insurance Hikes, Disability Advocates Worry About Medicaid Cuts In Tennessee

The Hartford Courant: "With average rate hikes at 13 percent or more this year for most plans, Connecticut health insurance premiums appear to be rising faster than the nation's. A typical family plan in Connecticut sold through an employer costs about $14,500 -- an estimate based on the Kaiser Family Foundation's report on 2009 prices and this year's rates of growth. That's fueling outrage here and elsewhere, especially since rates for individuals -- people who buy coverage on their own rather than through employers or other groups -- have seen their rates explode by 50 percent over three years, in many cases. ... At issue is whether the state rules that are used for setting rates in Connecticut and across the nation are too weak and narrow" (Sturdevant, 2/24).

The Louisville Courier-Journal: The Kentucky "House Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would allow county jails to require state prisoners they house to make co-payments for medical care. Sen. John Shickel, R-Union, said Senate Bill 47 is meant to plug a hole that was created when concerns were raised about jails charging the fees. More than one-third of the state's 21,000 prisoners are housed in county jails, rather than in state institutions such as the Kentucky State Penitentiary or the Kentucky State Reformatory" (Gerth, 2/24).

Nashville Public Radio: "Advocates for disabled citizens argued Wednesday against cuts in TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. They say the cuts will force many of them into nursing homes and mental institutions. ... Advocates fear the nursing assistance will be cut. A limit to outpatient services and lab work is already slated to occur, and advocates fear those cuts will disrupt the lives of people who can currently live on their own. The Tennessee Disability Coalition says the state should find new ways to raise funds to match federal Medicaid dollars, including a new fee proposed by the Tennessee Hospital Association. ... The Tennessee Disability Coalition argued against TennCare cuts including a $10,000 cap on hospital stays, and limits on out-patient visits" (White, 2/24).

Business Week: "Cutting health care programs to help close Arizona's budget deficit would inflict pain on more state residents than the nearly 400,000 people who stand to lose Medicaid coverage or other services, Arizona hospital officials said Wednesday." The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association "said the proposed cuts in health care programs would result in 42,000 fewer jobs throughout the economy, and they would burden individuals and businesses with higher health care costs, clog emergency rooms, and generally make the state an unattractive place for people to live and businesses to locate" (Davenport, 2/24).

Casper Star-Tribune: "Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Wednesday gave another plug to a health insurance pilot project bill that is moving through the Legislature. The bill, Senate File 61, sponsored by Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, already has passed the Senate. It is scheduled to be heard this morning in the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee." Freudenthal "pointed out the pilot project is designed to get people back to work if possible and contributing to their own health insurance. It also will get them off the Medicaid program, which is financed 100 percent by state and federal dollars. The pilot project would help up to 500 low-income working residents and identify chronic conditions that can be controlled early on at lower cost" (Barron, 2/25).

The Tallahassee Democrat: "Two House members announced plans Tuesday to make all state employees, including legislators, pay for health insurance. The proposal could save the state about $56 million a year. Nearly 35,000 employees in upper and middle management, legislative and other payroll classifications now receive paid-up coverage as a job benefit. The bill by Reps. Marlene O'Toole, R-Lady Lake, and Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, would rescind the state-paid coverage of about 17,000 state employees who were forcibly removed from a premium-paying job category eight years ago. But O'Toole said the tradeoff made at the time - losing job security in return for no-cost health coverage - was not a permanent promise" (Cotterell, 2/24).

The Associated Press/Miami Herald: "With Medicaid costs now consuming 26 percent of the state budget, the issue seems primed for an overhaul during an upcoming session of the Florida Legislature. But legislators will tackle the issue amid a foundering pilot program and a class-action Medicaid lawsuit that could cost the state millions, all while waiting to see if a federal health bill will affect the state. Reining in the program for low-income and disabled patients has been discussed, with little change, for years. But with Florida's sour economy driving Medicaid enrollment to an all-time high, lawmakers say they have no choice this session. The state expects to pay $17.9 billion to serve 2.6 million recipients -- one out of every seven residents -- and an 11 percent increase from last year" (Kennedy, 2/24).

The Providence Journal reports on what might happen in Rhode Island if national health care reform does not happen: "Many observers think that, on its own, Rhode Island can accomplish a great deal, if not everything that's needed. ... The state cannot provide the subsidies that, in the federal program, would enable people to buy insurance they could not otherwise afford. And it cannot do anything that would affect Medicare payments, which account for 40 to 50 percent of hospital revenues. But the state can make changes in the health-care system that would help patients and reduce costs." Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts "said, bills in the current legislative session would expand a pilot program that helps patients manage chronic illness, eliminates co-payments for primary care visits, and creates a mechanism for overseeing hospital costs" (Freyer, 2/25).

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