KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Highlights: High Colo. Insurance Rate Changes; La. Hospital Plan Rejected; VA Delays In Care

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

Health News Colorado: Rate Relief Is Sight For Mountain Resorts
Fending off a potential lawsuit from angry western Colorado residents who face the highest insurance premiums in the nation, Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar on Friday announced she supports a new health insurance rating map for the state. Salazar unveiled the plan and will review comments on it before deciding by next Friday which health insurance rating map will apply for 2015. Colorado currently has 11 rating areas across the state: seven in metropolitan areas and another four that group rural counties together. The new plan would group all the western Colorado counties together — except for Mesa County, home to the City of Grand Junction. It would also group together all the counties on the Eastern Plains and in rural parts of southern Colorado (McCrimmon, 5/2).

The Associated Press: Louisiana: Hospital Plan Rejected
Federal officials have rejected financing plans by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration for privatization deals involving six state-run hospitals. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told the state on Friday that the deals do not meet federal Medicaid guidelines (5/2).

USA Today: VA Treatment Records Falsified, Probe Finds
A VA investigation of one of its outpatient clinics in Colorado reveals how ingrained delays in medical care may be for an agency struggling to rapidly treat nearly 9 million veterans a year amid allegations that dozens have died because of delays. Clerks at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation (Zoroya, 5/4).

The Arizona Republic: Second VA Doctor Blows Whistle On Patient-Care Failures
Late on Sunday night, Dr. Katherine Mitchell said she received a phone call from a fellow employee at the Phoenix VA hospital who needed advice on how to handle a sensitive situation. Her co-worker explained that patient appointment records in the Phoenix VA Health Care System were in danger of being destroyed. But he had printed paper copies to ensure that accurate wait times for patient care would not be lost if removed from computers. The purported "secret lists," along with accusations that up to 40 Arizona veterans died awaiting care, are the subject of national controversy and investigations by Congress and the VA Inspector General (Wagner, 5/2).

The Wall Street Journal: SEIU, California Hospitals In Talks On Cooperative Deal
The nation's biggest health-care union and the California hospital industry are in talks on a deal that could allow the union to boost its ranks by thousands with the cooperation of management, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal (Trotter and Maher, 5/2).

Reuters: Florida Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Bill
Florida legislators voted on Friday to allow doctors to prescribe a special strain of "non-euphoric" marijuana for treatment of chronic epileptic seizures and some other severe illnesses.Governor Rick Scott said he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk (Cotterell, 5/2).

The Associated Press: Health Bill Dies In Florida Legislature
Florida lawmakers ended the session Friday with a lot of last minute wrangling on an omnibus health bill that ultimately died, taking down provisions that would have expanded the powers of nurse practitioners and promoted the use of telemedicine. The House tacked on a massive amendment late Friday night by Rep. Jason Brodeur addressing everything from assisted living facilities and laser dermatology to HIV testing, orthotics and pneumonia vaccines for new nursing home residents. The changes came after the Senate killed proposals that would allow nurse practitioners to work without a doctor's supervision and promote the use of telemedicine. Proponents said both measures would reduce health care costs and address a critical shortage of primary care physicians in the state (5/3).

The Detroit Free Press: Michigan Health Officials In Tug-of-war Over Funds 
The head of the state’s health department wants to know why services to the mentally ill are being slashed when the entities that fund them have millions of dollars -- including about $41.4 million in southeast Michigan -- in unused, unrestricted funds. But local mental health officials argue that those dollars, in fact, are being tapped and that spending them down completely would be irresponsible (Erb, 5/3).

Politico Pro: Courts Diverge On Abortion Restrictions
Federal courts across the country are splitting over challenges to new state abortion restrictions, potentially setting up one or more cases that could lead to a Supreme Court ruling. Two types of laws are most likely to grab the justices’ attention, legal experts on both sides of the issue say: measures requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital or placing stricter limitations on how medication abortions can be administered. States have passed dozens of such statutes over the past few years, leading to major legal battles between abortion-rights proponents who say the moves are just designed to limit access and shut down clinics and abortion opponents who insist they’re necessary to protect women’s health (Cunningham and Villacorta, 5/4).

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