KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Legislatures Contemplate Controlling Costs, Health IT, Prescribing Authority

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kansas and Arizona.

Los Angeles Times: California Health Insurers To Raise Average Rates 8% To 14%
The proposed premium hikes for hundreds of thousands of California consumers with individual coverage would outpace the cost of overall medical care, which has risen just 3.6 percent in the last year (Terhune, 2/23).

Kaiser Health News: Can Massachusetts Lead The Way On Controlling Health Costs? 
As of April 1, base insurance rates approved by the Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's administration for small businesses will increase, on average, 1.8 percent. ... So is health care inflation tamed in the state? We put this question and a few others to four economists: MIT’s Jonathan Gruber. ... Harvard University’s David Cutler, ... Stuart Altman of Brandeis University ... and Meredith Rosenthal (Harvard School of Public Health) (Bebinger, 2/22).

Arizona Republic: Insider: Senator Pierce Eyes Health Care Costs
Look for state Senate President Steve Pierce to tackle health-care affordability. The rising cost of coverage for employers, plus the implications of the federal Affordable Care Act, add up to big dollar signs and big problems for the state, he said (Pitzl, 2/22).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Health Official: Proposed Budget Cuts 'A Recipe For Disaster'
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said Wednesday that Gov. Corbett's proposed cuts for human services would have a sweeping impact on a wide variety of vulnerable populations. Affected by the cuts, Schwarz said, will be people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities; homeless individuals and families; children aging out of foster care; HIV patients needing hospice care; and elderly people in the city-run nursing home (Lin and Hill, 2/22).

The Associated Press/ABC News: NH Expands Fitness Program To Shrink Lifespan Gap Between General Population, Mentally Ill
The average life span for someone with a serious mental illness is 25 years shorter than someone in the general population, a gap that has been largely overlooked even though an estimated 10.4 million American adults — including about 43,000 in New Hampshire — fall into that category, said Dr. Stephen Bartels. He will supervise the program funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (2/23).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Bill Allows Health Care Providers To Charge Copy Fees To Patients In Social Security Disability Appeals
A proposal to let doctors, hospitals and clinics charge a subset of disabled patients for extra copies of medical records stirred up a beehive of opposition during a legislative hearing Tuesday. … According to state law, all patients can get a free copy of medical records to review their current care. But health care providers can charge fees when patients or their attorneys request copies for other purposes (Snowbeck, 2/22).

The Lund Report (Oregon): House Passes Bill Allowing Zoomcare's Physician Assistants to Prescribe
A bill that colloquially became known as "the Zoomcare bill" passed the House with 58 votes on Wednesday, paving the way for the clinic chain's physician assistants to begin prescribing bottled, non-narcotic medication starting in June. ... The bill creates a new category for a "drug outlet," called a "practitioner's dispensing outlet," that would include any ZoomCare clinic that dispenses medications (Waldroupe, 2/22).  

Denver Post: Legislators Balk At Spending Millions More On Troubled Benefits Computer System
A plea for millions of dollars to fix the long-troubled state computer system for Medicaid and food assistance was met with bi-partisan skepticism Wednesday from legislators hesitant to pour more money into a system that has repeatedly failed to improve (Steffen, 2/22).

Denver Post: PERA Retirees Fear House Bill Will Expel Them From Coverage
Thousands of Coloradans who retired with a government pension are terrified that a bill to be heard today will drastically change their health care. ... [Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association] executives believe the bill is written in such a way that about 33,900 retirees and 5,000 of their dependents who are eligible for Medicare would have to be kicked out of its health care program (Bartels, 2/23).

Kansas Health Institute News: Centene And Coventry Get Missouri Managed Care Contracts
Centene and Coventry, two of the five major managed care companies seeking a contract with the Kansas Medicaid program, have landed awards from the state of Missouri, officials there announced today. Today also was the deadline for bids on Gov. Sam Brownback's KanCare proposal. ... The KanCare plan was announced by administration officials in November 2011 and most of the nation's large managed care companies expressed early interest in bidding on it (Shields, 2/22).

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