KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Minn. Insurers To Return Extra Profits To The State

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Plans Will Return Extra Profits To The State
In part of the continuing change to Minnesota's business with health insurance plans, the state announced Tuesday that four major health plans agreed to a 1 percent cap on their profits on state business. The one-cap means that the plans -- BlueCross BlueShield, HealthPartners, Medica, and UCare -- will return any profit above 1 percent to the state next April. The change in Minnesota's $3 billion annual health care payments could mean a pay off for the state at a time when its budget is facing a $5 billion deficit. In announcing the deal, the governor's office did not include any estimate of how much money would be returned but noted that one of the plans -- UCare -- had already announced it would give $30 million back to the state this year (Stassen-Berger, 4/5). 

MinnPost: Dayton Announces Profit Cap For Major Health Plans
The four major health plans doing business with the state have agreed to a 1 percent profit cap for 2011, Gov. Mark Dayton announced today. Any additional profits this year will go back to the state, he said. And starting in 2012, the health plans will have to bid competitively for the state's business, a process Dayton imposed earlier this year. The four health plans are: BlueCross BlueShield, HealthPartners, Medica and UCare (Kimball, 4/5). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: New Jersey Assembly Holds Hearing On Plan For Medicaid Cuts
How to trim the billions of dollars New Jersey spends on health care for the poor, elderly, and disabled is one of the biggest challenges for Gov. (Chris) Christie's proposed $29.4 billion state budget. Solutions offered by the administration Tuesday, in the first budget hearing to address health services, attracted little support from some members of the Assembly Budget Committee and other groups (Rao, 4/6).

California Healthline: National Partisan Debate Elbows In On California
A Field Poll on attitudes toward health care reform in California had some interesting results -- including a much more positive feeling about reform among Californians than is found in national polls. One of the main results this year and last, according to Field pollster Mark DiCamillo, is that opinions on health care are highly partisan (Gorn, 4/5). 

Health News Florida: Medicaid Pilot Flaws Ignored?
Florida officials have been exaggerating the costs of the federal health law and downplaying risks in the state's Medicaid managed-care pilot, according to studies by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. ... The state estimated last year that it would cost $6 billion over six years to implement the federal health law – principally the result of expansion of the Medicaid program -- because officials did not take into account offsetting savings.But more realistic figures put the price tag for implementing the law no higher than $1 billion, said Jack Hoadley, co-author of the federal reform study (Davis, 4/5). 

The Texas Tribune: State, Local Government Look to Curb Unfunded Mandates
[Elna Christopher, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of Counties] said that if the state pulls back its funding of community health services, larger numbers of the mentally ill will end up in jail. Not only is it not the best facility for them, but it costs up to $137 a day to care for them there (Gonzalez, 4/6).

The Boston Globe: Patrick Urges Action On Health Bill
Governor Deval Patrick, hoping to propel his proposal to curb medical costs, urged lawmakers and the health care industry yesterday to stop "wringing hands about how complex this is" and move quickly to pass legislation to change how doctors and hospitals are paid. "This is not an option," he told several hundred people gathered at a State House forum where top administration officials discussed health care costs. "We are not going to debate this to death" (Kowalczyk, 4/6).

The New York Times: Inquiry Into Payments By Device Maker
Nevada state officials have begun an investigation to determine if payments to cardiologists there by a little-known heart device company were legitimate consulting fees or inducements to the doctors for using its products (Meier, 4/5).

The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: Ill. Judge Throws Out Rule On Contraception
A judge has ruled that Illinois pharmacists can't be forced to dispense emergency contraception. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz said Tuesday that requiring pharmacists to sell the so-called "morning-after" pill violates state right-of-conscience law (4/5).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Judge: Minnesota 'Inconsistent' On Autism Care
A Ramsey County judge has ruled that Minnesota's Medicaid program has been "inconsistent" in paying for intensive autism treatment for some children while denying it to others. But the ruling stops short of ordering the state to cover the treatment for a low-income child, identified as T.O., who is at the heart of the case. The judge sent the issue back to an administrative law judge for further proceedings. Amy Dawson, the lawyer representing T.O., had sued the state and HealthPartners for refusing to cover the child's bills for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. Dawson argued the state routinely paid those bills for more affluent families under a Medicaid program for disabled children, but refused it to low-income children like T.O., who was enrolled in a Medicaid managed-care program (Lerner, 4/5). 

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Chiropractors Fear Tougher Scrutiny May Hurt Industry
Chiropractors say that changes in payment policies by two major private health-insurance companies could slash their income, reduce patient visits and even force some practitioners out of business. One industry group has funded a lawsuit against the director of the Arizona Department of Insurance that seeks to force the agency to halt what chiropractors describe as insurers' unfair payment practices and different standards for chiropractors compared with medical and osteopathic physicians (Alltucker, 4/6).

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