KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Health Law Could Be Critical For Miss.’s Poor; Colorado Passes End-Of-Life Care Laws, Penn. Details Plan For High Risk Pool

The Los Angeles Times: The health care overhaul, which "provides hundreds of billions of dollars to help states expand medical insurance for the poor," could prove critical for Mississippi, which "has the highest poverty rate in the nation and some of the sickest people, with the country's highest rate of heart disease and the second-highest rate of diabetes. For every dollar the state spends to expand healthcare for the poor, it stands to get as much as $20 from Washington. But state officials have been making it harder, not easier, to enroll in government-backed healthcare programs. Republican Gov. Haley Barbour campaigned on a promise to cut the healthcare safety net to balance the state budget. Shortly afterward, Mississippi began requiring Medicaid recipients to submit to in-person interviews once a year, making it the only state with such a sweeping rule" (Levey, 6/3).

The Denver Post: "A host of new Colorado laws intended to expand hospice care and make it easier for people to communicate their dying wishes will push the state to the forefront in end-of-life care, say advocates who asked for the reforms. The legislature rewrote Colorado's Living Will Act so it will apply to those who are in a persistent vegetative state resulting from a terminal illness or a traumatic brain injury. Lawmakers also adopted a standard 'medical orders' form ... intended to follow a person from a house to a nursing home to a hospital and back. And the state passed a law to allow the dying to receive insurance-covered hospice care at an earlier stage - when a doctor says they have nine months to live, not just six. The law change needs federal approval before taking effect" (Brown, 6/3).

Kansas City Star/The Wichita Eagle: "Federal health reform will likely increase overall annual health care spending in Kansas by about $150 million, to $13.6 billion overall, according to a report developed by the Kansas Health Policy Authority, a state agency. The report showed Kansas' share of Medicaid spending dropping by about $33 million to $35 million when the reforms are fully implemented in 2014. … Over time, the federal government would scale back its share of Medicaid. ... The study also found that employer costs are projected to fall overall while individual spending would depend on the person's circumstances" (Koranda, 6/1).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Pennsylvania's Insurance Department announced Wednesday that it had submitted a plan to achieve one of the provisions of the new national health-overhaul legislation: creation of a special insurance program for people who can't buy insurance because they're already sick. People with preexisting conditions such as heart disease, cancer, or major mental illness would be able to buy into the proposed high-risk insurance pool for about what healthy people would pay, up to $5,616 a year. The problem is that those payments, plus $160 million in federal funding through 2013, can provide insurance for only about 5,100 people in a state where 800,000 are uninsured. … The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said it would decide by July 1 whether to approve the plan, said Shelley Bain, policy director for the department" (Burling, 6/3).

The Des Moines Register: "Congressman Bruce Braley says that despite skepticism from the New York Times, Iowa will come out a winner in a plan to help hospitals in states historically shortchanged by Medicare. The Times' story says New York hospitals would gain the most from the two-year, $400 million fix offered by the White House. The measure was championed by Braley, D-Iowa, and other representatives from rural states. They pointed out that hospitals in their states have received much lower Medicare payments than their counterparts in more populous states" (Leys, 6/1).

The Associated Press/Brainerd (Minn.) Daily Dispatch: "The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether student doctors are students or employees when it comes to collecting Social Security taxes. The high court will hear an appeal from the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minn., and the University of Minnesota, which says the IRS shouldn't have made it collect the taxes. Medical residents, who are studying to be doctors, routinely work in hospitals and pay income taxes. But Mayo Clinic officials say residents fall under a Social Security tax exemption for student employees whose work is part of their education. The Treasury Department changed its rules to take away the student exemption for medical students who work more than 40 hours per week. The Obama administration said that Social Security taxes for medical residents can be as much as $700 million a year" (6/3). 

Providence Journal: "Health insurers Thursday decried increasing a state tax on insurance premiums to provide $20 million for struggling Landmark Medical Center to bring to the table in its proposed merger with Caritas Christi Health Care, a Massachusetts hospital chain. The burden, they told members of the House Finance Committee, would fall on small and medium-size employers and their employees who would be hit with the higher premium tax. Most large companies would be spared because they are self-insured. ... The bill would raise an existing 2-percent tax on insurance premiums by a quarter-percentage-point-but only for four years. It would generate $5 million a year, to be provided annually to Landmark" (Salit, 6/3).

Detroit Free Press: "The Detroit Medical Center has extended for 10 days a self-imposed deadline to complete its sale to Vanguard Health Systems, a Nashville investor-owned health care company, the health system said today. In a media statement, DMC said that while it had hoped to finish the deal by today, 'the amount of detail needed – including archival document searches and review for some of the DMC properties – requires this mutually agreed upon extension. Both parties consider this a routine but necessary extension to complete the extensive legal work required'" (Anstett, 6/1). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.