KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Combat Health Costs, Workforce And Safety Issues

The Associated Press/Boston Herald: "The Massachusetts Senate is weighing a bill aimed at curbing soaring health care costs for individuals and small businesses. Senate President Therese Murray says the bill will ease market instability, smooth out annual fluctuations in premiums and require insurers [to] offer affordable small business plans" (5/18).

Omaha World-Herald: "Mayor Jim Suttle's plan to require retired city workers to pay for their health insurance has gained traction with City Council members. ... The city pays 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for most of Omaha's 1,100 retired police, firefighters and civilian employees. Some retirees pay modest premiums. Last month, Suttle proposed a plan that would require retirees to contribute to the cost of health insurance as a way to save money" (O'Brien, 5/18).

Texas Tribune/Star-Telegram: Newly licensed doctors enlisting to treat the state's Medicaid and Medicare patients are more likely to have been trained at international medical schools, according to a review of state medical licensing data. Of the roughly 1,500 doctors who have received fast-tracked licenses in the last three years in exchange for agreeing to treat the state's neediest patients, nearly 40 percent were trained at international schools, everywhere from India and Mexico to Uzbekistan and Rwanda, and a quarter were trained in Texas" (Ramshaw and Stiles, 5/17).

The Sacramento Bee: "More than one in every three people hospitalized in California winds up being readmitted within a year – a revolving-door pattern that adds billions of dollars to health care costs, according to state data. Many of those readmissions could have been avoided, said researchers at the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, which issued a study Monday using 2005-06 data" (Calvan, 5/18).

Los Angeles Times: "Southwest Healthcare officials announced Monday that the Riverside County hospital system has reached an agreement with federal regulators that will allow them to keep their Medicare funding past June 1. The agreement comes a month after state officials announced a $100,000 fine after multiple determinations that the hospital system's two facilities had put patients at risk of death or serious injury" (Hennessy-Fiske, 5/18).

Chicago Tribune: A growing body of research has convinced [a Chicago physician and hospital executive] that many infections can be prevented if proper procedures are rigorously followed - evidence he's using to reduce higher-than-expected infection rates at his own institution. The research is prompting a wave of improvements in hospital ICUs, and patients are starting to benefit: At many hospitals, the rates of some common infections have been cut in half or more, saving lives and money and preventing medical complications (Graham, Tsouderos and Shelton, 5/16).

Kansas Health Institute: "The likely consequences of federal health reform for Kansas are detailed in a new report scheduled for public release Tuesday during a meeting of the Kansas Health Policy Authority board. The analysis, prepared for the board by schramm-raleigh Health Strategy, Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based consulting firm, includes projections about how many of the state's approximately 335,000 uninsured will gain coverage under the new law, the cost to the state of expanding Medicaid and the likely impact on employers and insurance companies" (McLean, 5/17).

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