KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Lawmakers To Consider Health Insurance Market Rules

A selection of health policy stories from Florida, California, Colorado, Oregon and Arizona.

Modern Healthcare: HHS Lets Fla. Proceed With Managed-Care Push
The state of Florida won a second victory from HHS that will help the state introduce a statewide Medicaid managed-care program. The agency notified the state that it would grant its request for a medical assistance waiver -- a decision that comes just weeks after the department granted Florida's first request for a waiver for its long-term-care program. The waivers allow the state to enroll virtually all Medicaid beneficiaries into the managed-care program, including elderly and disabled beneficiaries currently in nursing homes. However, HHS noted in a letter that the agency will work with the state's Agency for Health Care Administration to ensure a "robust independent consumer support program" to help address beneficiary concerns (Kutscher, 2/20).

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers To Consider Rules For Health Insurance Market
Lawmakers are set to consider new rules for California's health insurance market on Wednesday, including a requirement for insurers to cover consumers who have preexisting medical conditions, and limits on how much they can charge based on age (Mishak, 2/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Payroll Taxes Would Fund Universal Health Care Proposal
Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, plans to introduce a bill on Friday seeking universal health care in Colorado. Under her plan, employers would pay a 6 percent payroll tax for each worker while employees would pay a 3 percent share. Self-employed people and investors would pay a 9 percent tax on income and capital gains. In exchange for those costs, all Coloradans who have lived in the state for at least one year by the beginning of 2016 would become part of a statewide health care "co-op" and would get "platinum-level" health plans, the most generous package of essential benefits under the Affordable Care Act (Kerwin McCrimmon, 2/20).

The Lund Report: House Health Committee Votes For Better Data Amid Talk Of Cultural Competency
The House Health Committee has taken up a pair of bills that aim to more effectively provide services to ethnic minorities, one by gathering more specific data about ethnicity and another requiring that health professionals to be trained in cultural competency if they want to be licensed in Oregon. "We're tired of being invisible. Our children need to be seen," testified Alberto Moreno, the executive director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition (Gray, 2/20).

HealthyCal: Mobile Health At The Market
When it comes to getting her kids the health care she needs, Monica Villalobos faces many challenges. A single mom with three kids under five, she doesn’t have a car, works long hours and shares parenting with her mom, who speaks very little English. But it was easy for her to find her way to the Healthy Steps Medical Mobile Unit from the San Ysidro Health Center -- they set up a mobile services truck in the parking lot of her grocery store on Thursdays. The grocery store parking lot is across from the mobile home park where her family lives (Graham, 2/20).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Panel OKs Violence-Prevention Bill
A bill intended to help prevent mass shootings like Tucson and Newtown by requiring Arizona's teachers and health care workers to notify police if they believe someone could become violent passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday. But several lawmakers expressed concerns that the measure was too broad and, though well-intentioned, could sweep troubled kids and adults who aren’t a real threat into the criminal-justice system (Reinhart, 2/20).

Kaiser Health News: In Arizona, Poorest, Sickest Patients Get Coordinated Care
Can for-profit health insurance companies be trusted to take care of the nation's sickest and most expensive patients? Many states, under an effort supported by the Obama Administration, are planning to let the companies manage health care for those elderly and disabled people covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Patient advocates have warned that private health insurance companies are ill-equipped to provide the complex medical care and at-home services many of these people need to survive. It turns out that Arizona, a state that has been known to resist federal health programs, has been doing just that for many years (Varney, 2/20). 

California Healthline: Deadline Set To End Federal High-Risk Pool
Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board officials yesterday outlined plans to deal with the federal announcement that the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan will not accept new applicants after March 2. The federal PCIP program will continue to provide coverage for enrollees through the end of the year. The program will no longer be needed in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act provision that insurers may not deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions takes effect (Gorn, 2/21).

California Healthline: Higher Cost, Inferior Care: Dental Health In Emergency Departments
Each year, nearly one million U.S. residents visit hospital emergency departments seeking treatment that EDs are not equipped to provide: dental care. Most people seeking dental help at EDs have low incomes and receive health benefits through Medicaid. They often resort to emergency care because few dentists are willing to treat the program's beneficiaries. The outcome, observers say, is inadequate dental services for those patients and hundreds of millions of dollars added to U.S. health care spending. … In California, the number of ED visits for preventable dental conditions is growing at a rate faster than the state's population, according to a 2009 report by the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline (Wayt, 2/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Gun Rights Advocates Want Control Of The Mentally Ill, Not Firearms
The debate over what’s to blame for gun violence -- easy access to guns or lack of access to mental health care – ensued in earnest Tuesday night, with intense partisans from both sides in the audience erupting in applause frequently throughout a forum in Denver. It’s unlikely that many minds were changed by the time the 90-minute standoff ended in what appeared to be a draw. But the debate highlighted the heated controversy that is being played out across the country as states and the federal government consider gun control bills and mental health care measures in the wake of the slaughter of 20 children and six adults in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. (Carman, 2/20).

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