KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Cities, States Spending Nearly 32% Of Budgets On Health Care

A selection of health policy stories from Michigan, New York, California, Wisconsin, Maryland, Georgia, Colorado and Mississippi.

The Washington Post: Health Care Spending Still Rising For States And Cities
The Affordable Care Act, President Obama pledged, would stem the rapidly rising cost of health care. Early indications suggest it has: The growth of total U.S. health care spending ebbed in 2012 to just 4 percent. But for state and local governments, bending the cost curve hasn’t happened. In fact, a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows health care spending is consuming a greater percentage of state and local government budgets than at any time since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began collecting data. State and local governments spent 31.5 percent of their budgets on health care costs in 2012, according to CMS and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (Wilson, 1/31).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Detroit, Retirees Reach Agreement On Health Insurance
The city of Detroit and its retirees have reached an agreement in a health insurance dispute that may end a lawsuit against the city. Retirees filed suit in November to stop the city from shifting them to Medicare and giving those under age 65 a $125 monthly stipend to buy their own insurance. The parties reached an agreement in principle Thursday night covering benefits through the end of 2014, mediators in Detroit's bankruptcy said Friday in a statement. Some features of the deal include the increase to $300 in the monthly stipend for retirees over age 65 who aren't eligible for Medicare. The stipend for retirees under age 65 will be increased to $175 if the household income is less than $75,000 and the retiree acquires insurance under a health care exchange (1/31).

The Associated Press: NYC, Calif. Bills Show Fight To Protect Caregivers
If you don't get a job because you're a woman, or you get fired because you're black, or you get transferred to the night shift because you're gay, there's a law for that. But if you're punished at work because you need time to take your child to the doctor or talk to your confused elderly mother, you might be out of luck. In most places around the country, there's no specific safeguard against employment discrimination based on a worker's status as a caregiver. Connecticut and the District of Columbia are exceptions. Legislation that would change that is pending in New York City and California, but business interests have objected (Fitzgerald, 2/3).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bill Would Strip Milwaukee County Board Of Mental Health Care Oversight
After decades of missed opportunities and ignored pleas to build a better system, legislation will be introduced Monday to strip the Milwaukee County Board of its oversight of mental health care. The measure would instead place control of the county's fractured mental health system in the hands of a board appointed by the governor and made up primarily of medical professionals. The change effectively aligns the county with the rest of the state where professionals trump politicians (Kissinger, 2/2).

The Baltimore Sun: Nurse Questions All Female OB-GYN Practice
Bruce Wheatley was considering coming back to the Towson area where he grew up when he saw an advertisement for an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Columbia that pitched an all-female staff. As a nurse, he was dismayed enough to complain to St. Agnes Hospital about the affiliated office, but the hospital defended the hiring practice (Cohn and Walker, 2/2).

Georgia Health News: Piedmont Reaches Last-Minute Deal With Insurer
Just hours before their current contract expired, Piedmont Healthcare reached agreement with Aetna/Coventry on a new three-year deal. The agreement, announced Friday, means that many Aetna and Coventry members can still receive in-network rates from the five Piedmont hospitals, its outpatient centers and physicians. If the contract talks had collapsed, many patients would have had two less-than-ideal choices: 1) find a new doctor, or 2) continue to get services from Piedmont’s hospitals or doctors, but on a more costly, out-of-network basis (Miller, 1/31).

Georgia Health News: Patient Classification Is Complex, But Also A Big Deal
Last month, the wife of a retired Atlanta physician got a stunning lesson when her husband spent some time in a hospital. “We realized there might be a problem when he was not served breakfast along with the other patients,” she said. That was when they were told he had not actually been admitted to the hospital. “But he’s in a hospital bed, and he’s here in the hospital,” responded the wife (Miller, 2/2).

Health News Colorado: Controversial Health Rating Areas Won’t Change For 2015
Despite furor from members of Congress and residents in ski resort areas who face high health insurance costs, Colorado will not change its geographic ratings for 2015. And Colorado’s Insurance Commissioner, Marguerite Salazar, said there is nothing she can immediately do to lower rates or alleviate sticker shock for residents from mountain communities in Summit, Garfield, Lake, Eagle and Pitkin Counties. “It’s a really, really hard thing. I wish we could have come up with something,” said Salazar who plans to announce next week that her office has not proposed any changes to the geographic ratings (McCrimmon, 1/31).

(Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger: MHA Pans Medicaid's Managed Care Proposal
The Mississippi Hospital Association has come out against a state Division of Medicaid proposal to increase participation in managed care programs. Last week, David Dzielak, executive director of the Division of Medicaid, told members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee that he wants to expand managed care beyond the 45 percent of recipients allowed now by law. He said he believes it would save the state up to $40 million, but Mississippi Hospital Association president Timothy Moore expressed doubt on the figures and said going to managed care could take additional money away from hospitals, which are expected to lose money because the state didn’t expand Medicaid (Gates, 2/1).

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