KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: California Becomes Ground Zero For Insurance Mega-Merger Scrutiny; Kansas Insurer To End Prior Authorization For Mental Illness Care

News outlets report on health care developments in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Washington, Chicago, West Virginia, Texas and Ohio.

Los Angeles Times: California Regulators Are Urged To Scrutinize Health Insurance Mega-Mergers
California is becoming a battleground state in the fight over health insurance mega-mergers. Consumer advocates are putting pressure on regulators in California and a dozen other key states to scrutinize the deals amid concerns that consumers will be left with fewer choices and higher costs. There's a lot at stake for families and employers if the deals go through and leave three health insurers in control of nearly half of the U.S. commercial insurance market. (Terhune, 1/11)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Insurer To End Prior Authorization On Mental Health
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas won’t require customers who need mental health services to get prior authorization going forward, but it can recoup payments from providers if their treatment is significantly different from that of their peers. Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, said the change brings the insurer’s mental health policies in line with its policies for other types of medical care and with mental health parity laws. Eliminating prior authorization also will reduce paperwork for providers, she said. (Hart, 1/8)

The Associated Press: Washington Lawmakers Try To Hike Legal Smoking Age To 21
A new push is on by Washington lawmakers to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. An effort to raise it last year didn’t gain traction despite publicized support from state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, but lawmakers filed a new bill in advance of the legislative session that begins Monday. (Orenstein, 1/8)

The Chicago Tribune: Cigarette Tax Plan Brings Applause, Concern
State Rep. Ed Soliday's big proposed legislation for the year is intended to raise money for roads, but a portion of it has health advocates cheering and smokers concerned. Soliday's proposed bill is aimed at raising more revenue to take care of roads and transportation at the state level. Part of that includes diverting all of the gasoline sales tax revenue from the general fund to roads. (Schultz, 1/8)

The Associated Press: West Virginia Attorney General Sues Drug Wholesaler
West Virginia's attorney general has accused one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical drug wholesalers of flooding the state with tens of millions of prescription pills in violation of state law. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Friday announced a lawsuit against San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges violations of state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. (Raby, 1/8)

The San Antonio Express News: Where Do You Go For Emergency Healthcare?
Urgent care centers, such as the San Antonio-based Texas MedClinic chain, usually are staffed by physicians trained in emergency medicine and provide walk-in care seven days a week, sometimes 24 hours a day. They often have their own labs and X-ray equipment, accept a range of private insurance and are very visibly located along major highways and, increasingly, in neighborhood shopping centers. (Marini, 1/10)

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