KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Calif. Wrestles With Prison Health Costs; Texas Legislator Challenges GOP Thinking; Mass. Gov. Seeks Remedy For Municipal Workers’ Health Expenses

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers Express Frustration Over Excessive Outlays For Prison Health
Amid California's budget crisis, the receiver put in charge of the prison health system by a federal judge has spent $82 million on blueprints for medical facilities that have been largely scrapped, more than $50,000 a month on an architectural consultant and millions hiring medical professionals - more per inmate than in many other states (Dolan, 1/27).

Health News Florida: Hospitals Want To Take On HMOs -- With Legislature's Help
With an expansion of Medicaid managed care appearing inevitable, Florida's hospital industry pressed Tuesday for legislative action to allow it to compete with HMOs (Saunders, 1/26).

Texas Tribune: John Zerwas: The TT Interview
No one questions state Rep. John Zerwas' conservative credentials. Which is why the Simonton anesthesiologist and three-term Republican has gotten away with filing the House's first bill to implement a key piece of the federal health-care reform law (the health insurance exchange) - and being the first in his party to openly suggest that dropping out of Medicaid wasn't such a great idea after all (Ramshaw, 1/27).

Texas Tribune: Texas Budget Cuts Could Shrink Mental Health Help
[Andrea] Richardson [who directs a community mental health and mental retardation center in central Texas] said that while benefits from mental health services may be hard to quantify in a budget, the effect of budget cuts is an easy equation. "In 2010 we served almost 16,000 persons. For the next biennium what we've determined from those numbers is that we're going to be able to serve 3,400 persons fewer than we did in 2010," she said -- 1,900 adults and 1,500 kids cut loose (Philpott, 1/27).

The Boston Globe: Patrick's Health Care Proposal Praised
Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to provide cities and towns relief from escalating health insurance costs is drawing a positive reception from officials in communities north of Boston. The proposal would require cities and towns to bargain with unions to come up with a health plan equivalent in cost and value to the state health plan provided through the Group Insurance Commission (Laidler, 1/27).

The Boston Globe: Hospitals, Poor Patients Face New Costs
Payments to hospitals and other health care providers would be slashed and low-income patients served by Medicaid would have to pay higher copayments under the spending plan Governor Deval Patrick proposed yesterday for the next budget year. But the biggest savings in the $10 billion program that serves 1.2 million residents would come from revising and rebidding Medicaid contracts to encourage health care providers to work together to drive down costs (Lazar and Smith, 1/27).

Kansas Health Institute News: Changes To Kansas High-Risk Pool Recommended
A Senate committee today endorsed three proposed changes to the state's high-risk pool, a subsidized insurance program for people with pre-existing medical conditions who otherwise could not find or afford coverage (Cauthon, 1/26).

Star Tribune: Minnesota Health CEOs Taking A Whack At Medicaid
Concerned that the Legislature and governor might get it wrong, CEOs from seven major health plans and providers have drawn up their own plan to streamline Minnesota's massive Medicaid program -- and carve $1.8 billion from the projected $6.2 billion deficit (Wolfe, 1/26).

Los Angeles Times: California Parents Urged To Enroll Children For Health Insurance
State officials on Tuesday urged parents to sign up their children for health insurance during an ongoing enrollment period established by a new state law that requires private insurers to offer children's coverage under all their policies (Ceasar, 1/27).

The Baltimore Sun: Lawmakers Consider Barring Gifts To Physicians
Maryland lawmakers are again considering legislation to bar gifts from companies to health care providers in the wake of allegations that a Towson cardiologist was "indirectly influenced" to perform unnecessary stent procedures by device maker Abbott Laboratories. Vermont and Massachusetts have recently enacted similar laws, considered the most restrictive in the nation, that significantly limit the items sales representatives can offer to physicians, prohibiting trinkets, trips and most meals. They also require public disclosure of certain financial transactions (Bishop, 1/26).

CT Mirror: Declining Government Payments Strain Hospital-Insurer Relations
Cigna and The Hospital of Central Connecticut say they could sever ties next month if they can't reach a new contract agreement--the latest in a string of public contract disputes between hospitals and insurers (Levin Becker, 1/26).

California Healthline: Medical Loss Ratio Threshold Goes to 80%
The Department of Insurance already regulates a 70% medical-loss ratio on insurers of individual health plans so it was not a huge leap to bump that limitation to 80%, given the new federal standard at that level, according to Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner of health policy for the DOI (Gorn, 1/26).  

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