KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Medicaid Spending Growth Slows; New Laws On Breast Screening Irk Some Doctors

Kaiser Health News: Medicaid Spending Growth Drops As Enrollment Slows
In a sign of the improving national economy, Medicaid spending growth this year slowed to 2 percent as enrollment in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor also slowed for the third consecutive year, according to a report released Thursday. In 2011, Medicaid spending soared by nearly 10 percent, which helped put the entitlement program in the crosshairs of politicians looking to lower the federal deficit and ease pressure on state budgets. The increase this year is the smallest since 2006, said the report, based on a 50-state survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) (Galewitz, 10/25).

The New York Times: New Laws Add A Divisive Component To Breast Screening
In a move that has irked medical groups and delighted patient advocates, states have begun passing laws requiring clinics that perform mammograms to tell patients whether they have something that many women have never even heard of: dense breast tissue. Women who have dense tissue must, under those laws, also be told that it can hide tumors on a mammogram, that it may increase the risk of breast cancer and that they should ask their doctors if they need additional screening tests, like ultrasound or M.R.I. scans (Grady, 10/24).

CT Mirror: Roraback Pledges To Offer Breast Cancer Proposal Challenged By Some Medical Groups
The first bill Republican Andrew Roraback says he'll introduce in Congress is a version of a Connecticut law that's already been proposed by members of the other political party. "I want women in Connecticut to know that what they have the benefit of today is something that every woman in America should have the benefit of," he said Wednesday, explaining his support for a measure that would require women to be notified if they are found through mammograms to have dense breast tissue. The condition can make it more difficult for the tests to detect cancer. Roraback said he also wants to require insurers to pay for follow-up screening (Becker, 10/24).

USA Today: School Meals Combat Obesity
Nutritional improvements made in the foods served at schools could help reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic -- and the first evidence is in places that have implemented changes early. Childhood obesity rates have declined slightly in several cities and states that are tackling the issue including Mississippi, California, New York City, Philadelphia, El Paso and Anchorage, according to two groups that are tracking the trend (Hellmich, 10/25).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): ER Use Up, But Uninsured Aren't 'Frequent Fliers'
More Coloradans are using ERs, but people with Medicaid and Medicare use them the most, not the uninsured, according to a new analysis of the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). That finding surprised policymakers from The Colorado Trust and the Colorado Health Institute, who today released a new study on ER use in Colorado. High ER use among Medicaid patients will also become a focus of debate about whether Colorado should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Analysts think the uninsured may seek less ER care in part because many of them are young and relatively healthy (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/24).

California Healthline: How To Deal With Remaining Millions Uninsured
Health care experts gathered in Sacramento this week to take on the thorny issue of what to do about the estimated 3.1 million to 4 million Californians who will remain uninsured after five years of implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The symposium, held on Monday and sponsored by the Insure the Uninsured Project, focused on what to do about the new estimate of uninsured in California (Gorn, 10/25).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Whooping Cough Epidemic Triggers More Than 1,000 Cases
Colorado’s whooping cough epidemic has now triggered 1,090 cases of the highly contagious disease, making 2012 the worst year for the disease since 2005 when the state recorded 1,383 cases. Other states that have declared epidemics are Washington and Wisconsin. In 2010, 10 babies died in California from an outbreak there. So far, no one has died from the illness this year in Colorado, but Dr. Rachel Herlihy of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said there have been several close calls with infants who often get the most severe cases of the disease (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/24).

Modern Healthcare: St. Luke's, Three Systems Form Partnership
In an effort to reduce healthcare costs, St. Luke's Health System, Kansas City, Mo., has formed a partnership with three other systems that will cover three states and about 30 hospitals. Known as the BJC Collaborative, the partnership will also include BJC HealthCare, St. Louis; CoxHealth, Springfield, Mo., and Memorial Health System, Springfield, Ill. The four not-for-profit systems, which will remain independent, have combined annual revenue of almost $7 billion, according to a news release. The release pegged healthcare reform as inspiring the deal, which will allow the systems to take advantage of cost savings and operational efficiencies as well as share clinical expertise (Kutscher, 10/24).

The Oregonian: Oregon Delegation Raises Concerns About Proposed Changes To Military Health Care Program
Reacting in a quick and unified way, Oregon's entire congressional delegation on Wednesday asked the Pentagon to soften changes to a popular health care program for veterans that lawmakers said would pose unfair and excessive burdens on patients living in Oregon. The request came in a letter to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathon Woodson after the Pentagon announced last week that it would provide Tricare Prime only within 40 miles of military treatment facilities. Because Oregon is barren landscape when it comes to defense installations that change would present an unreasonable hardship to veterans and their families who use Tricare Prime (Pope, 10/24)."

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