KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Conn. Mental Health Parity; Insurance Premium Increases In Iowa, Fla.; Calif. And Health Reform

Des Moines Register: Actuaries: Wellmark Proposed Premium Too High
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's proposed 11 percent health insurance premium increase is excessive, two experts have concluded. The company, which insures three-quarters of Iowans who buy their own policies, already raised premiums on those plans an average of 18 percent last spring. Wellmark sparked outcries when it announced in November that it wants to raise those rates again in order to keep up with rising prices and increased use of medical care (Leys, 1/7).

Health News Florida: Small-Group Rate Hikes Over 10%
Most policies for individuals and small groups in Florida had double-digit rate increases last year, according to a study released today. That level would be considered unreasonable under a proposed federal rule.The double-digit increases were reviewed and approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Of the 28 approvals, according to an analysis by consumer group Florida CHAIN, only three were below 10 percent (Gentry, 1/6).

Health News Florida: State Fines HMOs $4M
Two HMOs have been hit with nearly $4 million in fines after a long-running dispute about whether they improperly denied or reduced speech-therapy services for children in Florida's Medicaid program. The state Agency for Health Care Administration imposed fines of $2.655 million on Amerigroup Community Care and $1.305 million on United Healthcare of Florida … AHCA found that Amerigroup inappropriately denied or reduced services to 531 children and fined the company $5,000 in each case. It targeted 522 violations by United (Saunders, 1/7).

NPR/KQED: California Embraces New Health Care Law
[California's] congressional delegation and new crop of state leaders, including new California insurance chief Dave Jones, are not only embracing the law, they are championing it. ... To wit: Jones' first act was signing an emergency order expanding his powers to enforce the federal law (Varney, 1/7).

KQED: Health Insurance Reform Will Cover Millions More
A new article in the journal Health Affairs estimates that 3.4 million additional Californians will have health care coverage as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act in the coming years. We talk with Peter Long, the study's co-author, and president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the health insurer Blue Shield (1/6).

Conn. Mirror: Advocates Trying To Spread The Word On Mental Health Parity
The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was largely overshadowed by federal health reform, but it provides what Victoria Veltri, general counsel for the state Office of the Healthcare Advocate, described as 'probably the most consumer-oriented regulations I've ever seen.' At its core, the law prohibits insurance plans from placing limits or costs on mental health and substance abuse services that are more restrictive than those imposed on medical and surgical services (Becker, 1/6).

The Texas Tribune: Will Money Woes Force Closing of DADS Facilities?
Disability rights advocates try year after year to convince lawmakers to close Texas' state-supported living centers - the large, institutional-care settings that have been targeted by the U.S. Justice Department for dangerous conditions. Every time, their efforts are rebuffed ... This session, advocates say they have a big plus in their column: the state's giant budget crunch. They are hoping lawmakers, facing an estimated $18 billion to $25 billion shortfall, will have no choice but to shutter some of the facilities, which cost Texas a combined $500 million to operate every year (Ramshaw, 1/7).

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