KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Setting Up Health Insurance Exchanges; Community-Based Clinics Cuts; Autism Legislation; End-of-Life Care

California Healthline: Filling Out the Powerful Exchange Board
The board of the Health Benefit Exchange is going to be small and mighty. ... This exchange will concentrate the health insurance buying power of millions of Californians, and will be the central force in implementing national health care reform in California (Gorn, 2/4).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Health Care Law's Opponents: State Should Create Insurance Exchange
Even as the court battle to undo the health care overhaul builds momentum, Georgia should create its own health insurance exchange rather than let the federal government take control, opponents of the controversial law say. States that are moving forward will have a leg up when the dust eventually settles, U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said at a Georgia Public Policy Foundation luncheon Friday (Williams, 2/4).

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Some Insurance Companies Pushing Plans With Mayo Clinic Out Of Network
Bloomington-based HealthPartners last year started marketing health plans that feature a network of hospitals and doctors that doesn't include the Mayo Clinic. In exchange for not having access with low co-payments to the iconic Rochester, Minn., clinic, subscribers pay lower premiums when they select a HealthPartners plan with Mayo as an out-of-network option. ... Mayo has been celebrated nationally for providing high-quality and low-cost health care, but health insurance brokers say the local reputation is different as far as cost goes (Snowbeck, 2/5).

The Texas Tribune: Jail Officials: Mental Health Cuts Hurt Everyone
Slashing funds for community-based mental health care will hurt taxpayers and degrade the quality of life for thousands of mentally ill Texans and their families, Harris County Jail officials told Texas budget writers today in written testimony for the Senate Finance Committee.Current budget proposals would cut more than $1.1 billion from community-based mental health programs (Grissom, 2/4).

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Medical Fees Law Falls Short
A new law intended to provide better information on physicians' fees and the prices for hospital services offers consumers nothing of value so far. The Health Care Transparency law, which took effect Jan. 1, provides no information that consumers might actually want, such as what health plans pay hospitals on average for a normal birth or an angioplasty or to repair a rotator cuff. Nor does the law, at least initially, provide accurate information on physicians' fees (Boulton, 2/5).

The Washington Post: Autism Legislation Advances In Virginia
Virginia appears poised to join at least 23 states that mandate insurance coverage for autism. On Wednesday, the Republican-led House gave final approval to a bill that would require insurers to provide limited coverage for autistic children. The Senate, whose Democratic majority has backed more expansive versions of the bill in previous years, will probably debate the measure Monday (Kunkle and Kumar, 2/5).

Solutions, a Colorado Health News Service: 'Death Panels' Deconstructed: High Quality End-Of-Life Care Bolsters Patients, Saves Money
While politicians parry and thrust, on the ground many doctors continue to spend hours counseling their patients about end-of-life choices regardless of whether they are paid. ... Communities with strong hospice programs, like Grand Junction, spend far less on Medicare than communities where patients routinely spend their final days receiving aggressive medical care in hospitals. ... Rather than giving medication to prevent disease, palliative care focuses on active management of current symptoms ranging from pain to depression to poor appetite and shortness of breath (McCrimmon, 2/2).

The Sacramento Bee: California Taxes Parents Who Add Adult Children To Workplace Health Policies
Thousands of California parents leaped at the chance to provide health coverage to their grown and uninsured children when a provision in the federal health care law took effect last fall. Now some of those parents, such as Barry Demant of Folsom, are finding a hidden cost to the new benefit: a bigger tax bill. A loophole in California's tax law requires the state to levy income taxes on the premiums employers pay to provide health insurance to the non-dependent children of their workers (Calvan, 2/7).

Denver Post: Program That Gets Care To Mentally Ill Offenders Cuts Costs Of Justice System
The program, a collaboration between the staffs at Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network and the 18th Judicial District, diverts the mentally ill away from prison. The goal, those behind it say, is to shut the revolving door that moves the mentally ill in and out of jail or prison but rarely addresses the disease at the root of their crimes (Auge, 2/7).

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