KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

News Roundup: Plans To Transform Hospital, Doctor Payments Is On Hold In Mass., Thousands Of Uninsured Virginians May Go Without Free Dental Care In Va.

The Boston Globe: "The state's ambitious, first-in-the-nation plan to transform how hospitals and doctors are paid is on hold, at least for this year, largely because of disagreements among key officials, legislators, and providers over how best to control health care spending. Senate President Therese Murray, a leading advocate of payment changes, said in an interview that she will not file legislation to change the system this year, as originally planned, because of the logistical and political complexity of changing a system that has been in place for decades. The current payment system - in which doctors and hospitals are typically paid a negotiated fee for every procedure and visit - is also profitable for many providers" (Kowalczyk, 7/4).

The Boston Globe, in a separate story: "Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has struck a deal with state regulators to voluntarily limit its insurance rate increases for individuals and small businesses, a move the Patrick administration held up as evidence its bold campaign to hold down health costs is working. The settlement was a surprise, coming just a week after an insurance appeals panel overturned a cap on Harvard Pilgrim's rates imposed by the state Division of Insurance. The state agency deemed the increases proposed by Harvard Pilgrim and other insurers to be excessive. Other insurance carriers continue to appeal rate caps on their policy premiums" (Weisman, 7/3).

The Washington Post: "Advocates for uninsured Virginians say slow action from state and federal officials means that thousands of residents who could have received free dental care this summer will go unserved unless Congress intervenes. Virginia received authorization from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use money from the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to provide dental care to uninsured residents." But the approval came too late to set up appropriate clinics before a Sept. 30 legislative deadline to use the money, advocates said (Lucas, 7/6).

San Jose Mercury News: "In an urgent attempt to maintain universal health coverage for children in Santa Clara County, community leaders are organizing a campaign to rescue one of the region's landmark programs for working poor families. Their goal is to win broad support for a November ballot measure that would pump $13.5 million per year into the Healthy Kids program through a $29-a-year parcel tax on county property owners. County leaders recognize the challenge: Asking voters in a down economy to assist other families who can't afford insurance for their children" (de Sa, 7/6).

The Sarasota, Fla., Herald-Tribune: "Health care has emerged as a major issue in Florida's gubernatorial race. ... Whether a state can block enforcement of a federal law is questionable, but that has not stopped Republicans Bill McCollum and Rick Scott from making their opposition a central part of their campaigns. … Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink supports the law and has raised concerns about McCollum's challenge of the measure. Independent candidate Lawton 'Bud' Chiles opposes the repeal of the law, supports some provisions in it but also has concerns about some of the mandates" (Dunkelberger, 7/5).

Kansas Health Institute: "A little more than three months ago, a Prairie Village policeman shot and killed a 47-year-old woman who a split second earlier had thrown a butcher knife at him. Prairie Village Police Chief Wes Jordan said Susan Stuckey was mentally ill, noting that officers had been called to her apartment eight times that month. … The shooting coincided with legislators approving deep cuts in the state-funded grants that community mental health centers use to underwrite services for people like Stuckey. … Directors at the state's 27 community mental health centers say the gap between needs and services is sure to widen in the coming months" (Ranney, 7/5).

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune: "[T]he underlying debate in the recent legislative session was really about how the state would prepare for the 2012 budget that begins next July. It's being called 'The Cliff.' Under current projections at the division of administration, state and federal revenues for that year will be $2 billion less than what it costs the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations and run the government at the same level of services. Due largely to anticipated reductions in federal stimulus and health care dollars, a shortfall of that size would require dramatic changes in programs or policy" (Scott, 7/5).

Baton Rouge's 2theAdvocate: "As the state's Medicaid rolls continue to climb, Louisiana's health agency will have $280 million less in this new budget year to cover the cost of care for patients. That fact spells trouble, according to Louisiana's health chief and officials of physician as well as hospital groups. The Medicaid budget for the fiscal year that began last week stands at $6.5 billion - down from $6.78 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The budget requires reduced payments to physicians, hospitals and other 'providers' of health care for the 1.28 million residents enrolled in Medicaid, the state and federal government's partnership that provides health care for the poor and uninsured." Rate reductions go into effect Aug. 1 (Shuler, 7/6).

The [Fort Wayne, Ill.] Journal Gazette: "Indiana last week modified its law restricting a popular cold medication often used to make methamphetamine. It's the first change to a law that has not drastically reduced the number of meth labs since taking effect several years ago. But there's a growing movement that believes the only step that will make a difference is making it even harder to buy pseudoephedrine – by requiring a doctor's prescription." Pseudoephedrine is "a popular, legal decongestant sold by itself or often contained in antihistamines such as Claritin D, Zyrtec D and generic equivalents. Instead of 3 grams a week, consumers can now buy 3.6 grams a day" (Turner, 7/6). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.