KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Colo. County May Sue Over No Change To Insurance Ratings

A selection of health policy stories from Colorado, Oregon, Iowa, Connecticut, Minnesota and California.

Health News Colorado: Garfield County May Sue, Accuses State Of Rubberstamping Insurance Lobbyists’ Plan
Enraged that Colorado officials are refusing to change health insurance rating systems for this year or next, Garfield County’s attorney and commissioners are considering suing the state. “They’re violating the law,” said Garfield County Attorney Frank Hutfless. He said the state is discriminating against Garfield County by placing it with the highest-cost resort areas and therefore making it too difficult for people to afford health insurance, which was the primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act (McCrimmon, 2/4).

The Associated Press: Fewer ER Visits For Ore. Medicaid Patients
People on the Oregon Health Plan are making fewer visits to the emergency room and more visits to primary care clinics, according to a new report on Oregon's year-old coordinated care organizations. The Oregon Health Authority says the report shows Gov. John Kitzhaber's overhaul of the state Medicaid program is achieving its goals in reducing unnecessary use of the emergency room (Cooper, 2/4).

The Associated Press: Iowa Universities Refuse To Pay Health Subsidies
A nonprofit that subsidizes insurance policies for Iowans with health risks is suing the state's three public universities, claiming they are refusing to pay millions in legally required fees. The Iowa Individual Health Benefit Reinsurance Association says the universities' nonpayment could lead to higher assessments for other government agencies that are members and higher costs for patients (Foley, 2/4).

Kaiser Health News: A Third Generation Doctor Questions The Profession
Being a doctor in America is changing, in part because of the Affordable Care Act and also because of longer trends in the practice of medicine. Drs. Robert and Michael Sawyer practice at Denver Health, the city's big public hospital downtown. Sawyers have worked or taught here as physicians since the 1930s, so they have a unique perspective on how today's challenges stack up against those that physicians have faced in the past (Whitney, 2/5).

The CT Mirror: Leonardi Cool On Federal Regulation Of Insurance Industry
Connecticut's insurance commissioner told members of Congress Tuesday he has serious reservations about extending federal oversight of the insurance industry. Thomas Leonardi, commissioner of Connecticut’s Insurance Department, was invited by a Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee to weigh in on new federal oversight of the insurance industry, which is largely regulated by the states. At issue is the new Federal Insurance Office that was created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and tasked to report on weaknesses in the insurance industry (Radelat, 2/4).

Minnesota Public Radio: Patients Need An Affordable, Stable Home To Be Healthy
Health care companies are increasingly focused on patients like (Vanessa) Smith, whose housing difficulties can compromise their health. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates a strong link between health and housing. If patients' rent is too high, they might avoid spending money on medications to treat diabetes and other diseases. Frequent moves also can lead to or deepen mental health problems (Baxter, 2/4).

The California Health Report: A Dozen California Hospitals Among Most Expensive In U.S.
When a doctor sees a patient at Olympia Hospital in Los Angeles for a routine, 15-minute consultation, the hospital typically bills Medicare about $1,100 for the service. Two miles away, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center bills the government just under $200 for the same kind of visit. Medicare sets its own rates, so the program ultimately pays both hospitals the same amount, or nearly so, regardless of how much they try to charge. But the huge disparity in billing for the same procedure in the same city raises questions about how hospitals establish their rates, who pays them, and what connection, if any, the charges have to the actual cost of providing care. The mysterious billing practices are fueling a nationwide drive for more transparency (Richard, 2/5).

Salem, Ore., Statesman Journal: Oregon Health Plan Reforms Preventing Costly Hospital Care, Report Shows
Oregon’s new program that is changing how its Medicaid patients are being treated received another positive review in the quarterly report released today. According to the Oregon’s Health System Transformation report, which covers the first nine months of coordinated care organizations’ performance in 2013, emergency visits and spending are down, primary care visits and spending are up and hospital readmissions are down (Yoo, 2/4).

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