KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: New Hurdle For Idaho Medicaid Proposal; Mass. Panel Weighs Price Issues

News outlets report on health care developments in Idaho, Ohio, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Florida, California, Washington, Montana and Alabama.

The Associated Press: Otter's 'Medicaid Gap' Proposal Headed To Tax Committee
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's proposal to provide basic medical coverage to people who fall in the so-called "Medicaid gap" has been split into two separate bills, meaning the plan will have to pass through two separate committees to succeed. The Republican governor's program, if approved, would create a new program to provide basic medical care to nearly 78,000 Idahoans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but also don't qualify for health insurance subsidies. (Kruesi, 1/20)

WBUR: Options Weighed To Address State’s Health Care Price Variations
Variations in prices for the same service at different hospitals in Massachusetts do not reflect different qualities of care and have not evened out over time, according to a Health Policy Commission report released Wednesday. The report found that higher prices “are not generally associated” with better care, and that prices vary across the different types of hospitals — academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, community hospitals — as well as within each individual group. (Lannan, 1/20)

News Service Of Florida: Florida's Medical 'Balance Billing' Proposal Clears House Panel
In an issue watched closely by doctors, hospitals and insurers, a House panel Tuesday approved a proposal aimed at protecting patients from surprise charges when they need emergency care. That can occur, for example, when patients need emergency care and are treated by doctors who are not part of the networks of the patients' insurers. In such cases, patients can get billed for differences between what their insurers pay and additional amounts that are charged. The bill would make insurers responsible for paying for emergency services and would include an arbitration process to resolve differences between insurers and health-care providers. (1/20)

The Associated Press: Ohio's Medicare Counseling Programs Tops National Rankings
An Ohio program designed to help Medicare beneficiaries understand complex health care benefits and options has been named the best of its kind in the nation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rankings being released Thursday show the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program scored best over 54 similar programs in other states and territories. Ohio's program was ranked last four years ago. (1/21)

The Associated Press: Health Department To Close 9 Clinics, Cut Hours At Others
Citing declining patient volumes and a need to save money, Mississippi's state Health Department announced Wednesday that it was closing nine health clinics and reducing the number of days each week the 37 other clinics are open. The clinics do not provide primary medical care but do provide other services, including immunizations and family planning. Spokeswoman Liz Sharlot, though, said clinic usage for major services has fallen 44 percent over the past five years, in part because patients now have other options to obtain services the department has provided, ranging from Medicaid and new federally subsidized health insurance to flu shots at drug stores and supermarkets. (Amy, 1/20)

Los Angeles Times: Health Groups Launch California Ballot Initiative To Raise Taxes On Tobacco, Including E-Cigarettes
Months after California's Legislature failed to act, a coalition of health experts and the state’s schools chief on Wednesday launched a petition drive to qualify an initiative for the November ballot that would raise the cigarette tax by $2 per pack. The measure would reduce smoking and raise money to expand treatment services for Medi-Cal patients, support anti-smoking campaigns and boost medical research, said Tom Steyer, co-chairman of the Save Lives Coalition. (McGreevy, 1/20)

The Associated Press: Poll Shows Support For Raising State Smoking Age To 21
Legislation that would raise Washington’s smoking age to 21 has more support than keeping the legal age to buy tobacco at 18, according to a poll released Wednesday. The survey of 500 registered voters by independent pollster Stuart Elway says 65 percent back hiking the age to 21, while 35 percent oppose it. The survey was taken Dec. 28-30 and had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. (Orenstein, 1/20)

Kaiser Health News: A Lifesaving Flight, With A Price Tag Of $56,000
When patients need an air ambulance, the first priority is getting them the care they need as fast as possible. So, patients don’t always know who is going to pick them up or if the ambulance is an in-network provider. That can lead to surprise expenses if the companies ask patients to pay the bill or any balance left after the insurance plan’s out-of-network coverage is applied. (Cates-Carney, 1/21)

The Associated Press: More Than 1,000 Tested For Tuberculosis In Rural Alabama
Public health officials in Alabama are working to contain a tuberculosis outbreak. They used federal money to pay for tests on more than 1,000 people in one of the poorest counties in America, and found 47 people who are infected and need treatment to keep the disease from spreading. They'll keep using the grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pay people to follow through on recommended chest X-rays. Those who complete the whole course of medication will get $100 each. (1/20)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.