KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Mass. Hospitals Turn Away Mentally Ill Kids, Anthem Braces For Rate Hearings, Other State News

The Boston Globe reports that children with mental illnesses are "increasingly being turned away from some Massachusetts hospitals' psychiatric wards, a problem the hospital industry acknowledges and blames on insufficient insurance payments to cover treatment of such sick children. … Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the state's health and human services secretary, said yesterday that hospitals licensed to treat mentally ill children must provide that care if they have sufficient staffing and beds, regardless of the reimbursement rates" (Lazar, 10/27).

The Hartford Courant: "Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield hasn't submitted its 2011 rate requests yet, but it already faces a public hearing on the issue. State Insurance Commissioner Thomas Sullivan announced plans for the rate hearing for the state's largest health insurer on the same day that he faced new pressure from activists upset over Anthem rate increases for the remainder of 2010 - which Sullivan's department approved without holding hearings." Some rate hikes - some as high as 47 percent - were approved for Anthem last month for people on the individual insurance market (Sturdevant, 10/26).

The New Mexico Independent: "New Mexico threw open the doors of its high-risk pool to youngsters upon learning that the insurers were, in effect, largely walking away from writing new child-only insurance policies. … The board for the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool voted to waive a rule requiring applicants show proof, usually in the form of rejection notices, that they are uninsurable. The action was taken to ensure the children get coverage, Deborah Armstrong, the pool's executive director, said Monday" (Jennings, 10/26).

The Associated Press/The Greeley (Colo.) Tribune: "[T]he hottest political question for many here is whether to ban commercial marijuana sales. Aurora is one of more than 40 Colorado jurisdictions considering local rules on medical marijuana this election. Thanks to a new state law allowing local governments more leeway in regulating pot, voters across the state will consider proposed bans on dispensaries or commercial pot-growing operations. Others are being asked on Nov. 2 to set new tax rates for medical pot" (Wyatt, 10/26).

The (New Jersey) Star-Ledger: "New Jersey doctors who began enrolling some of their sickest patients in the state's medical marijuana program today found they must agree to tell the patients there's a 'lack of scientific consensus' the drug works and that it could even hurt them. … State health spokeswoman Donna Leusner described the statement as 'reasonable'" (Livio, 10/26).

The (Fort Wayne, Ind.) Journal Gazette: A new Milliman actuarial analysis of what the health overhaul will cost Indiana came in about $1 billion lower than an initial projection. The projection now estimates the health law will cost Indiana $2.6 billion over 10 years. The initial estimate "assumed the Medicaid program would enroll all eligible Indiana residents – federal estimates project only about 80 percent – and that they will drop existing private insurance through employers and other means for the government coverage. In May a new report was issued assuming less growth in Medicaid enrollment and estimated Indiana costs at $2.9 billion over the next decade. … The latest change is because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in late September changed its interpretation of the law regarding a prescription rebate program" (Kelly, 10/26).

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