KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: Mass. Rate Hikes Approved, Va. Families Wait For Autism Coverage

A selection of health policy stories from around the United States.

Boston Globe: Health Insurers Hold Back On Rate Increases In Mass.
State regulators have approved premium increases averaging 2.3 percent for health insurance covering hundreds of thousands of residents, the most modest hikes in at least a decade and a sign that years of efforts to control costs may be working. The new rates are in Massachusetts’ “small group’’ market, which includes tens of thousands of small businesses as well as self-employed and formerly uninsured individuals (Weisman, 1/21).

Dallas Morning News: Texas' New Insurance Chief Being Closely Watched By Consumers, Lawmakers And Industry
Five months on the job as Texas' top insurance regulator, Houston native and former insurance executive Eleanor Kitzman is under close scrutiny by consumer groups, lawmakers and insurers as she deals with the first major rate filings of her tenure. As head of the agency that regulates the state's multibillion-dollar insurance industry, Kitzman will make decisions that directly affect the pocketbooks of most Texans (Stutz, 1/21). 

The Washington Post: Va. Families Of Autistic Children Still Waiting For Coverage
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed a bill into law last spring mandating coverage, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) determined that the legislation contained imprecise language that legislators needed to correct. Since then, families who expected insurance coverage have continued to pay out of pocket … or forgo treatments they say could help their children learn basic skills such as talking or walking. … a pair of bills are moving through the Republican-controlled General Assembly. But even if they pass, coverage is not likely until the end of the year (Kumar, 1/22).

The Associated Press: Meth Fills Hospitals With Burn Patients
A crude new method of making methamphetamine poses a risk even to Americans who never get anywhere near the drug: It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment — a burden so costly that it's contributing to the closure of some burn units. ... One study found that the average meth patient runs up medical bills of $130,000 (Salter, 1/23).

St. Louis Beacon: Rise In Addiction Spurs Calls To Monitor Prescription Drugs
Many states have turned to prescription drug monitoring to prevent people from abusing and selling pills. Missouri is one of only two states — New Hampshire is the other — without a monitoring program or any laws to establish one (Berger, 1/22). 

The Arizona Republic: Health Care I.T. Demand Heats Up
The Department of Labor expects that health care will add 50,000 jobs as the industry converts to digital medical records. To respond to this expected job demand, the federal government is funding $116 million in workforce training grants to community colleges and graduate-level programs. In Arizona, hospitals have beefed up their health care IT staffs. Some larger physicians practices have hired their own IT workers (Alltucker, 1/21).

The Connecticut Mirror: Community Health Center Launches Telemedicine Program
Community Health Center, Inc., which has sites across the state, on Friday launched an internal telemedicine program aimed at expanding access to specialized care for patients with hepatitis C and HIV. ... CHC serves many patients who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid and have trouble finding a specialist to see them, or getting to specialist appointments (Becker, 1/20). 

The Sacramento Bee: Kaiser Hospital Workers Plan One-Day Strike Tuesday
Thousands of Kaiser Permanente hospital workers and nurses will walk off the job Jan. 31, making good on threats to strike over stalled bargaining talks with the health network. ... Kaiser and the [National Union of Healthcare Workers] – which represents mental health professionals, therapists and optical workers in Northern California – have been in contract negotiations for more than a year over pension benefits, health care coverage and staffing issues (Smith, 1/21).

California Watch: State Hearings Explore Health Of Minority Males
Nationally, Latino boys and young men are more than four times as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder as whites. African American boys are 2.5 times as likely. Today's hearing is being convened by the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California (Yueng, 1/20). 

The Associated Press: Ill. Cracks Down On Abortion Clinics
An increased scrutiny of Illinois abortion clinics in the wake of revelations about a "house of horrors" in Philadelphia revealed that some facilities had gone up to 15 years without inspections, and two now have closed after regulators found health and safety violations (Johnson, 1/20).

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