KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Crack Down On Discount Health Plans

Kaiser Health News: "State regulators are cracking down on a health care product that targets the growing group of uninsured and underinsured Americans: the discount health plan. In discount health plans, consumers pay either a monthly or annual fee to get access to a network that is supposed to offer reduced charges for doctor visits, prescription medication and other medical services, such as eye glasses. Unlike traditional insurance, consumers in a discount plan pay all medical costs up front, minus whatever discount has been negotiated with the plan. The companies often advertise networks that number hundreds of doctors and savings of 10 to 60 percent. To get the discount, patients have to use providers honoring the plan. But advocacy groups say consumers are frequently confused because the discount health plans blur the distinctions between their benefits traditional insurance plan coverage. In addition, some of the discount plans are not legitimate, consumer advocacy groups say" (Mertens, 4/28).

Orlando Sentinel: "Twenty-eight states, including Florida, are pushing to expand the authority and responsibility that nurse practitioners have, due to the nation-wide shortage of doctors. In Florida and Alabama it is illegal for nurses to prescribe controlled substances to patients; the other 48 states have made it legal. Legislation to lift this ban has been filed in Florida for the past 16 years, but the bill has stalled in committee. … In many states, nurses with advanced degrees are also pushing to remove supervision requirements. ... In Florida, these supervision requirements are not as strict as those states. Nurses are simply required to file protocol with the Department of Professional Regulation. … Because of the recent health care overhaul, many nurse-managed clinics are receiving more funding, much to the dismay of the American Medical Association" (Ramiccio, 4/28).

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: "State chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness received several million dollars in contributions from pharma companies in a little less than five years, with big donations from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb, according to a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley. Grassley has made a project out of probing the financial ties of drug makers to nonprofits and academics, and last fall requested that state NAMI chapters disclose their donations" (Hobson, 4/28).

The Associated Press: "The Roman Catholic bishop of Providence has withdrawn two hospitals sponsored by his diocese from membership in a Catholic hospital group that supports health care reform. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed reform legislation because of fears it would allow for public funding of abortion, but the Catholic Health Association disagreed and supported it. Sister Carol Keehan, head of the group that represents about 600 hospitals, met with President Barack Obama at the White House days before the bill passed. The bill was signed into law March 23.The diocese on Wednesday released a letter written March 29 by Bishop Thomas Tobin to Keehan in which he complained that even an association with the group was embarrassing. 'Your enthusiastic support of the legislation, in contradiction of the bishops of the United States, provided an excuse for members of Congress, misled the public and caused a serious scandal for many members of the church,' Tobin wrote" (Smith, 4/28).

The Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer: "A New York assemblyman whose daughter is alive because of two kidney transplants wants his state to become the first in the nation to pass laws that would presume people want to donate their organs unless they specifically say otherwise. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky believes the 'presumed consent' measures would help combat a rising demand for healthy organs by patients forced to wait a year or more for transplants. Twenty-four European countries have such laws in place, he said. If he succeeds, distraught families would no longer be able to override their loved ones' decisions to donate upon their death. And eventually, hospitals would be able to assume the deceased consented to have his or her organs harvested, unless the person refused in writing" (Gormley, 4/28). 

Providence Journal: "Buses delivered several hundred Care New England employees and supporters to the State House on Wednesday to oppose (R.I. Gov. Donald) Carcieri's proposal to reduce what hospitals are paid by RIte Care, the state's Medicaid program. While the cuts will affect all hospitals in the state - particularly those that treat more urban poor - the rally was organized by the hospital network that includes Women & Infants and Kent hospitals, which stand to lose $14 million and $5.1 million, respectively. Both hospitals, which were among the few profitable last year, are facing shortfalls this year" (Salit, 4/29).

The Associated Press: "The Kansas Senate refused on Wednesday to revive a proposed 'Health Care Freedom Amendment' to the state constitution, but backers weren't giving up on challenging the new federal law overhauling health care. The Senate voted 21-19 against pulling the measure from the Judiciary Committee and allowing a debate by the chamber. The proposed amendment is designed to prevent parts of the new federal law from taking effect in Kansas. It would prohibit the state from requiring individuals or businesses to buy health insurance -- conflicting with the federal law's mandate that most Americans buy coverage, starting in 2014" (Hanna, 4/28). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.