KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Florida To Drop 350 Uninsured HIV/AIDS Patients From Drug Program; Ore. And Wash. Set Up Enrollment Periods For Children’s Insurance; Calif. Gets Federal Grant To Update Medicaid Program

The Miami Herald/The Sun Sentinel: "The Florida Department of Health plans to drop about 350 uninsured HIV/AIDS patients from a federally funded program that pays for all or most of their drugs, because of a budget crisis. An additional 2,000 or more HIV-positive patients are at risk of being bumped from the program unless the state can close a $16 million shortfall in the next few months, officials said Tuesday. … In June, the shortfall forced the Health Department to put more than 2,300 patients on a waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. About 1,100 live in South Florida. The program also halted coverage for many drugs that treat HIV-related complications" (Lamendola, 11/3).

The Oregonian: "For kids needing health coverage, insurance companies are enrolling new individual applicants for a limited period" in Oregon and Washington. "The federal health reform law in September prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to children because of a health condition. But some insurance companies -- worried about costs -- suspended sales to individual applicants younger than 19. To smooth the transition, state regulators set rules allowing companies to limit enrollment to short periods: Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 in Oregon and Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 in Washington" (Rojas-Burke, 11/1).

The Los Angeles Times: "The Obama administration Tuesday approved a $10-billion plan to help California modernize its Medicaid health insurance program, pushing the state to the forefront of the national effort to implement the new healthcare law. The administration's much-anticipated decision to grant a so-called Medicaid waiver to California could ultimately help cover more people over the next five years. And state and federal officials hope it will bolster efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of care provided to the state's poorest residents" (Levey, 11/3).

The Los Angeles Times, in a separate story: "When Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross was strangled last month on the hospital grounds, state officials lamented her death as a tragic and rare event, the first killing of a staffer in two decades. … But a Times review suggests safety problems at the facility are neither rare nor so readily fixed. Attacks on staff in the second quarter of 2010, the latest for which information was available, more than quadrupled to about 200 since early 2009 and patient assaults against one another have soared sevenfold to 692, data from the state Department of Mental Health show. Patients also have harmed themselves and threatened suicide at steeply rising rates since January of last year" (Romney, 11/3).

The Salt Lake Tribune: "No one knows how many Utah children remain uninsured after health insurance companies recently decided to stop selling child-only policies. But whether it's two dozen or 2,000, advocates for children want them covered. And they think they've found a way to make it affordable for families while costing the state nothing. It's called a Medicaid buy-in, a program that would allow families with incomes above the usual cutoff limits to enroll their youngsters in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) - as long as they pay a 'premium' to cover what the state would typically pay for their care. Currently, the federal government matches every $1 that the state pays into Medicaid with $3. That money could be used to subsidize families' contributions, keeping the coverage affordable. ... The notion is still in its infancy, with no legislation pending" (Stewart, 11/2).

Fort Worth Star Telegram: "Across North Texas and around the country, consumers who buy their own health insurance are seeing steep hikes in premiums. Over the last decade, premiums have gone up far faster than the rate of inflation, leaving families struggling to make ends meet, said Ethan Rome, executive director of Healthcare for America Now, a national grassroots coalition. … Nationwide, premium increases for individual policies are averaging 20 percent, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Roughly 3 out of 4 people with nongroup insurance report premium increases, the survey found" (Jarvis, 11/2). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.