KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif. Autism Bill, Kids’ Tanning Bed Ban Become Law

In other state news, Wisconsin last month began scrutinizing health insurance rate increases, Los Angeles County steps in ahead of health law's mandated coverage expansions and a Georgia report notes the state's progress in providing services for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. 

The Associated Press/Denver Post: California Bill Aiding Children With Autism Signed
Health insurance plans will be required to provide coverage for children with autism or other developmental disorders under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday, making California the 28th state to mandate coverage. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said his bill is needed to make sure physicians can provide medical treatment for autistic children. Insurance providers currently can deny coverage of development disorders because they are classified as an education service. Brown said Sunday that he had signed the bill despite concerns about its costs. The California bill will require coverage starting in July 2012 (Thompson, 10/9).

San Francisco Chronicle: Teens, Owners Object To Tanning-Bed Ban For Minors
Tomas Albert, 17, has a problem. Though his skin is naturally pale, he prefers to sport a flush of color - especially when on holiday with family in Sicily….But the sun-kissed glow coveted by many Californians just got a little harder for teens to achieve. Under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday that is now the nation's most restrictive, boys and girls under 18 are banned from using tanning beds as of Jan. 1 (Lee, 10/10).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Effect Of Regulating Wisconsin Health Insurance Rates Uncertain
Last year, when WellPoint's subsidiary in California proposed raising health insurance rates by as much as 39 percent, a natural question was whether its Wisconsin subsidiary had proposed a similar increase. The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, while taking pains not to admit it, didn't know the answer. Wisconsin is among the states that have not regulated - or even tracked - health insurance rates. ... As of last month, however, rate increases will be getting more scrutiny (Boulton, 10/8).

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Expands No-Cost Healthcare
In one of the largest expansions of health coverage to the uninsured, Los Angeles County is enrolling hundreds of thousands of residents in a publicly funded treatment program and setting the stage for the national healthcare overhaul (Gorman, 10/9).

Georgia Health News: Report Notes Progress On Mental Health Pact
The state has made significant progress toward meeting the goals of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to improve services for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, an independent report says. But the Oct. 5 report, by independent reviewer Elizabeth Jones, is critical of some community services and help provided to people with disabilities. It cites health care problems, a lack of day programs, and unsafe medication practices (Miller, 10/7). 

The Sacramento Bee: Long-Term Care -- Many Don't Give It A Thought Until Too Late
Most Californians aren't prepared for a future that requires expensive help if they're too ill to care for themselves. Recent studies show that much of the aging public remains in denial about the potential need for long-term care, which could wreak financial havoc on the baby boom generation's retirement years. … According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 70 percent of people 65 and older will require some sort of long-term care, 40 percent of them in a nursing home setting. That care isn't cheap. … Long-term care insurance advocates say people should consider not only their checkbooks but also their family genetics as they weigh whether to navigate the complexities of long-term care policies (Creamer, 10/10).

The Miami Herald: Daughter's Complaint Puts Focus On Medicare Payment To For-Profit Hospice
When Carol Flatto saw that Medicare was paying $4,500 a month for her father's hospice care on Miami Beach, she was astounded. … After Edwin Flatto died in July, records showed that Medicare had paid Odyssey (Healthcare, a for-profit company in West Dade) $35,043 for his care, including various miscellaneous claims. … Her complaint echoes a stern warning in July from a federal watchdog agency that Medicare is paying far too much for hospice care in nursing homes. Several investigations into Odyssey by the federal government and the states of Texas and Georgia are pending. … The irony is that for years, healthcare policy experts have viewed hospice as the cheaper, more humane alternative to patients spending their last weeks in intensive care units. That has also represented a business opportunity. In the past five years, hospice services have been the fastest-growing Medicare service — climbing an average of 10 percent per year, a Medicare spokeswoman says. Hospice costs in nursing homes have been soaring even faster during that time — up nearly 70 percent — often for care that wasn't provided or wasn't necessary, federal investigators say (Dorschner, 10/9).

The Associated Press/BusinessWeek: Most Ohio Union Workers Affected By Insurance Rule
Employees of more than 550 school districts, townships and other government units across Ohio will see their share of health care costs rise if voters approve a collective bargaining law this fall, state data show. Widespread impact of the provision is fueling arguments on both sides. Supporters say having employees pay a bigger share of their health care costs will bring them in closer alignment with private sector workers and help balance local budgets. Opponents say the data validate that the union-limiting bill will hurt tens of thousands of average workers around the state, who will be required by the law to spend more on benefits (Smyth, 10/5). 

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