KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Braces For Budget Cuts; Mass. Weighs Premium Freeze

News outlets examine a variety of state health policy issues.

San Francisco Chronicle: California Won't Be The Same Under New Budget
Poor people will receive less medical care and welfare, disabled people will see fewer services, state parks will close and public university students will pay more in California under the budget that takes effect Friday. But also Friday, the state sales tax will decrease from 8.25 percent to 7.25 percent and vehicle licensing fees will drop by almost half. Combined with the taxes that expired in January, an average California family will pocket about $1,000 this year (Buchanan, 6/30). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Medi-Cal Cuts Sought As Stimulus Funds Run Out
Billions of federal stimulus dollars that boosted Medicaid programs for the past two years will run out Friday, while at the same time California is trying to get approval for a series of cuts to the health program for the poor. It could be a one-two punch for more than 7 million Californians enrolled in Medicaid, known here as Medi-Cal (Colliver, 6/30).

Boston Globe: Freeze Sought On Health Insurance Rates
As lawmakers and industry leaders toil over plans to fundamentally change how health care is paid for in Massachusetts, two leading consumer groups are asking them to give ratepayers a one-year reprieve from premium increases. At a noontime rally at the State House today, Health Care for All and the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization plan to call for a 2012 freeze on base premium rates that have jumped sharply in the past decade. The idea is to pressure decision makers, particularly insurers and hospitals, to hash out a long-term plan at a quicker pace. The Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, president of the interfaith group, said he expects industry leaders to say a freeze is impossible (Conaboy, 6/30). 

WBUR: A Call To Freeze Health Care Premiums
Sarah Higginbotham has a health insurance story that is becoming all too familiar. ... "My paycheck has dwindled to $164 every two weeks," she said with a look that shows she still can't quite believe it. "Basically I'm working for my health insurance here." ... To share the pain, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and Health Care for All are proposing what they call a bold step: They want a one-year statewide freeze on the cost of health insurance (Bebinger, 6/30). 

Denver Post: 9 Named To Board Overseeing Health-Insurance Exchange
Colorado took another step Wednesday toward full compliance with the new federal health care law, naming a nine-member board to oversee a health-insurance exchange that is a key component of the law. The board members, the majority of whom cannot have "direct affiliation" with the insurance industry, will hire the exchange's executive director (6/30). 

Connecticut Mirror: Malloy Seeking Legislation To Reduce Employee Benefits
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today he intends to ask the General Assembly to pass legislation changing the way state employee pensions are calculated, reducing their sick days and freezing longevity payments--relatively modest first steps in narrowing collective bargaining for union workers. ... But (Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor's senior adviser) said the governor felt obliged after the rejection of the labor savings deal, a significant portion of which were directed at long-term changes in health and retirement benefits, to seek legislation that he believes is necessary to stabilize the state's benefits structure (Pazniokas and Phaneuf, 6/29). 

Hartford Courant: Malloy To Legislature: Let Me Cut Budget, Privatize Services, Lower Tax Credit
Malloy's proposals for Thursday's special legislative session are intended to close a projected $700 million state budget gap before the fast-approaching fiscal year that starts Friday. ... Malloy will attempt to make changes for state employees that include trying to decrease the number of accrued sick days from 15 to 10 a year as union contracts expire. (Keating and Lender, 6/29).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fewer Wisconsin Jobs Offer Health Insurance Benefits, Study Finds
An estimated 37% of Wisconsin employers with fewer than 50 people offered health benefits in 2008-'09 - down from 49% in 1998-'99. At the same time, the percentage of Wisconsin's population under 65 that gets health insurance through an employer fell to 71.5% in 2008-'09, down from 78.9% a decade earlier, according to a study by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Boulton, 6/29). 

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