KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: N.Y. Health Insurers Seek To Keep Premium Memos Secret

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The New York Times: In Seeking Rate Increases In New York, Health Insurers Fight To Keep Secrets
Major health insurance companies seeking steep premium increases in New York have submitted memos to state officials to justify the higher rates. Now they are fighting to keep the memos from the public, saying they include trade secrets that competitors could use against them (Bernstein, 10/11).

Los Angeles Times: Free Clinic Plagued By Red Tape
After more than 6,600 people overwhelmed volunteers at a free mobile health clinic in Los Angeles last year, California legislators passed a law making it easier for out-of-state medical personnel to assist with future events. But just over a week before the massive clinic returns, the state has failed to adopt regulations needed for the additional volunteers to participate. As a result, only medical personnel licensed in California will be able to treat patients and some people could be turned away (Gorman, 10/12).

Modern Healthcare: Groups Praise New Calif. Telehealth Law
The California Telemedicine and eHealth Center, Sacramento, praised California Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of the Telehealth Advancement Act of 2011 (PDF). The act, signed Oct. 7 by Brown, loosens requirements about who can provide care using telehealth—expanding eligibility to all licensed healthcare professionals—and makes it easier to provide such care through the state's Medicaid program and under certain circumstances for patients who have private insurance. Hospital credentialing for telehealth also was made easier, according to a CTEC news release. The law drops the term "telemedicine" in favor of "telehealth" (Barr, 10/11).

Boston Globe: Blue Cross to Remain Nonprofit Public Charity
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has decided to remain a nonprofit public charity after examining whether it should seek a different legal status given its extensive business operations as the state's largest health insurer. The inquiry was spurred by outrage over Blue Cross's $11 million payout to its former chief executive, Cleve L. Killingsworth, and the five-figure annual fees paid to members of its board of directors. The controversy raised the question of whether an organization that rivals some of the state's biggest companies in revenues should be considered a public charity (Weisman, 10/12). 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Report: Work Remains, But Georgia's Mental Health Overhaul Significant
Georgia has made significant strides in moving the developmentally disabled and mentally ill out of state mental hospitals and into community settings -- despite notable gaps in care, a new report shows. No longer admitting the developmentally disabled into state institutions marks a "landmark accomplishment" for Georgia, according to the report by Elizabeth Jones, an independent reviewer appointed to track the progress of a five-year agreement between the state and U.S. Department of Justice. Over the past eight months, the state's efforts include placing 192 developmentally disabled people -- who have lifelong mental or physical impairments that often prevent them from living on their own -- into homes with no more than four people (Williams, 10/11).

The Associated Press/Houson Chronicle: W.Va. Lawmakers Urged To Target Chronic Illness
With chronically ill West Virginians accounting for at least three-fourths of health spending in the state, coordinating their care can do much to ease the rise in such costs, an Emory University professor told a House-Senate committee studying the issue Tuesday. Kenneth Thorpe, chair of Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, also recommended expanding a diet, exercise and lifestyle program that he said has prevented adult-onset diabetes and can provide similar results against other chronic illnesses (Messina, 10/11).

San Francisco Chronicle: Autism: Law Make Insurers Cover Therapy—For Now
Parents of children with autism lauded the governor's decision to sign into law a bill that requires health insurers to cover behavioral health treatments for their kids, but questions linger about the therapy and whether the coverage will continue after the main provisions of the federal health law go into effect in 2014. The law, Senate Bill 946, will be in effect only from July 1, 2012, through July 1, 2014. After that, either the requirement will be covered under the federal law or the state will have to decide what to do next (Colliver, 10/12).

The Connecticut Mirror: Project ECHO Brings Faraway Specialists Close To Home
The patient said she was committed to getting treatment for her hepatitis C, but she'd been missing appointments and doses of medication. Amanda Swan, the nurse practitioner caring for her at Community Health Center, Inc., sat in a conference room, preparing to get guidance on the case from 2,100 miles away….The consultation was part of the weekly hepatitis C clinic run by Project ECHO--Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes--which provides guidance for primary care providers to handle care that would otherwise require a specialist (Levin Becker, 10/11).

The Associated Press/Anchorage Daily News: Davis Continues Push for Expanded Health Care
An Anchorage Democrat plans to again push for expansion of a health insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women. Sen. Bettye Davis' proposal would raise the income eligibility threshold for Denali KidCare from 175 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Davis says she's trying to work with the Parnell administration to see whether she can make the expansion acceptable to Gov. Sean Parnell (Bohrer, 10/11).

Kansas Health Institute: Political Fight Continues Over Mid-Level Dental Practitioners
Fort Hays State University is ready to launch a new degree program to train registered dental practitioners, if the Legislature will agree the technicians can be licensed to work in Kansas. FHSU President Ed Hammond told a legislative committee today that the new training program would help solve the shortage of dental providers in rural Kansas and that he was certain he could raise private funds to launch it. His testimony ... made FHSU a new ally to a coalition that since last year has been trying to persuade lawmakers that they need to allow licensing of a new type of dental technician, essentially a better-trained hygienist who could perform a number of additional routine procedures that currently only dentists are allowed to perform (Shields, 10/11).

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