KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.Y. Psychiatrists Sue Insurer Over Parity

News outlets cover health care developments in California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri and New York.

MPR News: N.Y. Psychiatrists Group Sues UnitedHealth
A group representing psychiatrists in New York state is suing Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group for violating laws requiring parity in mental health coverage. The complaint filed in New York federal court accuses the giant health insurer of limiting, delaying and denying mental health treatment. The New York State Psychiatric Association alleges UnitedHealth systematically refused to cover mental health services where the provider was not part of UnitedHealth's network. The suit says the insurer routinely blamed a failure to respond to United's requests for additional information, but the psychiatric association contends the health insurer never made those requests (Stawicki, 3/11).

Los Angeles Times: LA Population Will Be Much Older, More Settled, Study Says
Seventeen years from now, senior citizens will make up nearly one-fifth of the county population, almost twice as many as at the start of the millennium, say Dowell Myers and John Pitkin of the USC Population Dynamics Research Group. ... The predicted result is fewer young workers to care for the growing ranks of the elderly – a trend that could pinch pocketbooks for families and the government. The study predicts that over the next two decades, Los Angeles County will gain 867,000 senior citizens and lose 630,000 people younger than 25. A similar trend is underway nationwide but Los Angeles stands out because the shift comes after its earlier explosion in immigration and growth, Myers said (Alpert, 3/12).

Los Angeles Times: Parents Of Prescription Overdose Victims Plead With Legislators
After hearing emotional testimony from parents whose children died of drug overdoses, lawmakers in Sacramento called Monday for the Medical Board of California to mine a statewide database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who recklessly prescribe narcotics (Girion and Glover, 3/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Veterans Administration Says Its Mental Health Counselors Won't Obey NY Gun Reporting Laws
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday its mental health professionals won't comply with a new gun law in New York that requires reporting the names of patients they believe likely to hurt themselves or others. That provision is set to take effect Saturday. Several veterans and their advocates warned it would deter many from seeking counseling and medications to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological issues (3/11).

The Associated Press: Mo. House Endorses Health Care Conscience Measure
Missouri health care workers could refuse to participate in procedures and research that run afoul of their religious, moral or ethical beliefs under legislation given first-round approval Monday by the House. Physicians, nurses, medical researchers, and certain others involved in health care could not be discriminated against for refusing (Blank, 3/11).

The Associated Press: Iowa Lawmakers Ponder Paying For Own Health Plans
After losing his effort to get state workers to pay a portion of their health care costs, Gov. Terry Branstad called on lawmakers Monday to start contributing to their own plans. Branstad said legislators should pay 20 percent of their health care premiums. Currently, lawmakers, like state union workers, don't have to pay a health care contribution (Lucey, 3/11).

The Associated Press: Hospital Debt Debate Gets Hotter
As a legislative committee took up competing plans to pay Maine's $484 million debt to the state's hospitals for past Medicaid debts, Gov. Paul LePage on Monday signaled for the first time a willingness to discuss expansion of Medicaid under the national health care law. But LePage rejected Democratic efforts to link Medicaid expansion with paying the debt to Maine's nearly 40 hospitals (Adams, 3/12).

Kansas Health Institute: The Whirl Of Hospital Revolving Doors Appears To Be Slowing
Is the whirl of hospital revolving doors slowing? Federal health officials are now reporting that the rate of preventable and costly hospital readmissions is down for the first time in more than five years, which meant about 70,000 fewer hospital returns nationally in 2012 for the Medicare program alone. ... The readmission rate in Kansas was already lower than the national average, but recent numbers show even that somewhat lower rate has dropped (Shields, 3/11).

California Healthline: Geographic Rating Regions Amended
The Assembly and Senate last week introduced amendments to SBX1-2 by Sen. Ed Hernández (D-West Covina) and ABX1-2 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), which change the geographic rating regions for the individual and small health insurance markets in California. The amendments establish the 19-region plan, the same regions adopted by the Legislature last year for larger-market insurers. The state's health benefit exchange, Covered California, favored the 19-region plan in part because it mirrors last year's large-market legislation and could avoid consumer and industry confusion (Gorn, 3/11).

California Healthline: Inland Empire Provider Positioning For Growth In Reform
Marking yet another step in the steady expansion of its reach in the Inland Empire, Loma Linda University Health is planning to construct a medical and educational complex in San Bernardino that could serve up to 250,000 patients each year. Experts said the expansion is likely part of the health system's strategy to better position itself for changes to health care reimbursement and hospital patient volume expected as a result of the Affordable Care Act. In recent years, Loma Linda University Health has undertaken a number of construction projects in San Bernardino County, where its main medical campus is based, and in Riverside County (McSherry, 3/11).

Bloomberg: Uninsured Americans Get Hit With Biggest Hospital Bills
By the time Astra Augustus left Virtual Memorial Hospital in New Jersey after the last of four surgeries, she’d run up about $255,000 in bills. … Hospitals' fast-rising sticker prices are adding to the financial burdens of the 49 million Americans without insurance, more than 20 million of whom won’t be covered under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Babcock, 3/11). 

Los Angeles Times: Survey: Kaiser Tops In Customer Satisfaction For Health Insurance
For the sixth consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente ranked highest in customer satisfaction for health insurance among California policyholders, according to ratings firm J.D. Power and Associates. Anthem Blue Cross, the state's largest for-profit health insurer, and Woodland Hills insurer Health Net Inc. scored the lowest on customer satisfaction among seven California health plans (Terhune, 3/11).

Georgia Health News: Kaiser Wins Regional Patient Satisfaction Survey
Kaiser Permanente again ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction among health plans in the three-state region that includes Georgia, according to a newly released 2013 study by J.D. Power and Associates. It's the fourth straight year the nonprofit health plan gained the top ranking in the South Atlantic region, which also includes North Carolina and South Carolina. Kaiser has 240,000 members in Georgia. It does not operate in the Carolinas. Second in the region was Cigna, followed by UnitedHealthcare; Aetna; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia; Coventry; and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina (Miller, 3/11).

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