KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Ill. Prepares High Risk Pool; Calif. Residents Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs

The New York Times: "At first glance, the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan ... sounds like welcome relief for jobless Illinoisans who have serious medical issues and are struggling with the loss of employer-financed health care. The federally financed $5 billion plan - $196 million of which is earmarked for Illinois - provides an affordable health insurance option to people who previously were limited to the far more expensive, state-run Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan. Under the federal plan, which is administered in Illinois by Health Alliance Medical, enrollees pay about $200 a month, compared with $600 for comparable I.C.H.I.P. coverage. … Applicants for the federal program must be American citizens, and they must have a medically documented pre-existing condition that has disqualified them from private coverage. But the I.P.X.P. is available only to individuals who have not had 'creditable' health insurance coverage for the past six months" (Reaves, 9/9).

Los Angeles Times: "California Medical Assn. officials announced Thursday that they had sued Blue Shield of California alleging that the health insurer's new online doctor rating system is inaccurate and misleads consumers. Blue Shield's Blue Ribbon Recognition Program ... analyzed about 6,000 doctors statewide and posted blue ribbons on its website next to the names of those who met national standards for quality care. The medical association ... alleges that the ratings fail to take into account information from patient medical charts, patient outcomes and previous treatment, in part because the program relies only on a few years of claims data from five insurance products sold by three large health plans (Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross and UnitedHealthCare)" (Hennessy-Fiske, 9/10).

Des Moines Register: "Gov. Chet Culver proposed Thursday to increase the number of clinics that take patients enrolled in a state insurance program for poor people and expand mental health services covered by health insurance policies. Culver, a Democrat seeking a second term, also used his campaign's health care policy announcement to accuse Republican Terry Branstad of supporting cuts to the state health insurance program for children. … However, aides to Branstad said the Republican former governor did not support changes that would force children off the state's health care rolls or threaten Iowa's federal health care funding" (Beaumont, 9/10).

San Diego Union Tribune, on rising health care costs for prescription drugs, hospitals and insurance rates in California: "The cost of brand-name prescription drugs - which account for 78 percent of drugs sold - continues to rise. A recent study by AARP of the 217 most widely used brand-name prescription drugs shows retail prices increased an average 8.3 percent in 2009. … Hospital costs, which account for the largest chunk of insurance expenses, are continuing to go up. California Association of Health Plans president Patrick Johnston said hospitals have increased rates by up to 10 percent this year. Blue Shield of California spokesman Tom Epstein put the jump at closer to 20 percent. … Epstein said health care reforms are not reflected in the new insurance premium rates. He said the increase is due to hospital cost increases of nearly 20 percent, prescription drug increases of about 15 percent and physician cost increases of 9 percent to 10 percent" ( Lavelle, 9/9). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.