KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Mass. Small Biz Co-Ops Start, Miss. Medicaid Changes

Boston Globe: Small-Business Health Co-Op Will Slash Rates
Thousands of small businesses will be offered discounts of at least 20 percent on health insurance rates under a new group purchasing cooperative, formed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, that will begin enrolling members this week. The co-op is the first permitted to do business under a 2010 Massachusetts law that allows small employers to band together in large groups and negotiate for better-priced health coverage (Weisman, 2/14).

California Healthline: Health Reform Shifting From Planning to Action
[H]ealth reform these days means taking action — actually implementing plans rather than talking about them."Enrollment and eligibility [in the exchange] is where it's at," Kim Belshé, a board member for California's Health Benefit Exchange, said. "This is where the action is. What we aspire to achieve — seamless, coordinated care for millions of Californians" (Gorn, 2/13).

HealthyCal: Riverside County Launches Insurance Plan For Low-Income Families
Riverside County took a first step toward federal health care reform last month with the launch of Riverside County Healthcare, an insurance plan for poor people who don't qualify for Medi-Cal. Some 20,000 people — about 10 percent of the county’s uninsured population — will be covered. ... [T]en California counties, including Los Angeles, Alameda and San Diego, began to expand services to low income people in programs similar to Riverside’s in 2007. Among their challenges was teaching people how to use health insurance (Urevich, 2/13).

California Healthline: Getting a Head Start on Medi-Cal Expansion
For a program no one's really heard of, this one is pretty successful. Counties started enrolling people into the Low-Income Health Program in July 2011, and four months later (at the most recent count in November) about 260,000 Californians were enrolled in it, according to Linda Leu, a health care policy analyst with Health Access California (Gorn, 2/14).

Related, earlier KHN story: The Public Option Did Not Die (Varney, 1/12).

Kansas Health Institute News: Centers Struggle To Cope With New Rules
The system that helps more than 6,000 physically disabled Kansans across the state live in their own homes instead of long-term care facilities is undergoing sweeping changes that have been launched by the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback. Administration officials say the shake-ups ultimately will result in a more efficient and accountable system with potential for helping more people. But those who deliver the services at the local level through the state’s 12 regional independent living centers say they don’t see how those outcomes will be possible (Shield, 2/13). 

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Council on Aging Officials Concerned About Proposed Move Under Department Of Health And Hospitals
[Kathy Kliebert, Louisiana's deputy secretary of health and hospitals, said she understands the anxiety. ... "Right now, about 18 percent of the state's population is over 60. By 2030, it will be nearly 25 percent. We have a critical responsibility to make sure we build an infrastructure of support for this population that is sustainable, coordinated and comprehensive moving forward," Kliebert said (Ross, 2/13).

Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Proposed Medicaid Changes Could Affect Enrollment
Mississippi lawmakers are looking at ways of trimming and cutting the cost of the state's Medicaid program. Currently 1 in 4 Mississippi is on Medicaid. ... At least two bills have been introduced in the legislature, controlling who gets on Medicaid and how they stay on, including one by [state Sen. Chris] McDaniel to test Medicaid recipients for nicotine (Hess, 2/13). 

The Lund Report (Oregon): Republicans Block House Passage of Exchange Bill, Sending It To Budget Committee
The bill allowing Oregon's health insurance exchange was expected to pass easily out of the House today, but House Republicans and one Democrat blocked its passage, instead referring it to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. [Republicans raised] "specific questions" about the state's financial commitments to the exchange, and how the federal government’s $48 million grant currently funding the exchange will work (Waldroupe, 2/13). 

MSNBC/KNBN: S.D. Lawmakers Work To Change Health Care Regulations
A South Dakota House panel says if the new federal health care law is thrown out, the state should start over with its own health care regulations. South Dakota law now says the state handles its own health insurance regulations as long as they comply with the federal law (2/13).

The Sacramento Bee: Darrell Steinberg Wants Probe Of Sacramento County Dental Program
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is calling for a state review of a Sacramento County pilot program that provides state-funded dental coverage for low-income children. ... Steinberg asked the administration to step up its monitoring of dental plans under contract with the program and withhold payments or cancel contracts with plans that fail to provide proper access to care or meet other performance standards (Van Oot, 2/14).

San Jose Mercury News: New Survey About Californians' End-Of-Life Wishes
Fewer than one in four Californians has written instructions about how and where they would like to die — risking the immense emotional, physical and financial burden of end-of-life hospital care. Yet an overwhelming majority of Californians would rather die at home, far from the tumult of a hospital, according to a poll released Tuesday (Krieger, 2/14). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Survey Shows Disconnect On End-Of-Life Health Care 
[The survey] also showed broad public support for reimbursing physicians who take the time to talk to them about their end-of-life options, the very issue that sparked the infamous "death panel" debate in 2009 over President Obama's federal health care legislation (Colliver, 2/14).

Modern Healthcare: R.I. Hospital Agrees To $5.3 Million Settlement
Rhode Island Hospital in Providence has agreed to pay the federal government $5.3 million to resolve allegations that the medical center improperly kept about 260 patients in overnight stays after stereotactic radiosurgery, otherwise known as Gamma Knife treatments. ... The 683-bed hospital stands accused of billing Medicare and Medicaid for the overnight stays, even though the treatments didn't justify the extra expense of hospitalization, the Justice Department said (Carlson, 2/13).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Infection Rate Too High In Seven Georgia Hospitals
Seven Georgia hospitals — including four in metro Atlanta — scored worse than the national benchmark for cases of potentially-deadly bloodstream infections. Emory Midtown, Northside Hospital, Piedmont Henry Hospital and Southern Regional Medical Center all performed worse than their peers for rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections in intensive care units, according to new data released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Teegardin, 2/14).

Related KHN story: Experts Question Medicare's Effort To Rate Hospitals' Patient Safety Records (Rau, 2/13). 

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