KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Calif. Bill On Keeping Small Biz Health Plans; Colo. Rating Area Plan Approved

A selection of health policy stories from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington state and Massachusetts.

Fox News: California Bill Lets Small Biz Keep The Plans They Like For Another Year
As businesses nationwide prepare to begin complying with the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers in California are pushing for a way to have the smallest employers in the state hang onto the coverage they currently have for another year. The business-backed SB 1446, led by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), would allow California businesses with fewer than 50 employees to keep their current coverage for an extra year. The ACA mandates all health plans meet ten essential coverage benefits, including everything from ambulatory services to prescription drug benefits. If the bill passes, employer-sponsored plans that do not meet these requirements won’t be cancelled until next year (Rogers, 5/19).

The Denver Post: Feds Approve Colorado Plan Intended To Lower Rural Health Premiums
The federal government has approved Colorado's plan to consolidate several geographic rating areas used to determine health insurance premiums, which officials hope will reduce consumer costs in mountain and rural areas. The state Division of Insurance said Monday that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services approved its request to change the rating areas Thursday. The rating areas will be reduced to nine from 11 (5/19).

The Hill:  Colo. Moves To Avoid Insurance Premium Hikes 
Officials in Colorado announced Monday that they will reduce the number of geographic divisions in the state's health insurance market, a move likely to soften premium increases next year. The shift from 11 to nine geographic rating areas in Colorado means consolidating four rural risk pools into two for the 2015 enrollment season (Viebeck, 5/19).

The CT Mirror: Few CT Hospitals Use Insulin Device Misused At Griffin Hospital
Few Connecticut hospitals use the insulin injection devices that were misused at Griffin Hospital, prompting officials last week to recommend that 3,149 patients be tested for bloodborne illnesses. Twenty-three of the state’s 29 hospitals don’t use the injectors, often referred to as insulin pens. Representatives of those hospitals cited reasons including concerns about cost, wasting insulin and the safety of using the devices in facilities with many patients. The pens contain multiple doses but are intended to be used on a single patient (Becker, 5/20).

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Supervisorial Candidates Lay Out Visions For Health Care
But whoever emerges from the field of 11 candidates competing in two districts will have to take a big-picture approach when they assume office in December if they hope to help the county navigate federal health care reforms. In separate interviews, District 1 candidate Hilda Solis and District 3 contenders John Duran, Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver described their visions for the second-largest public health care system in the nation, with four hospitals and 19 regional clinics (Brown, 5/18). 

The Seattle Times: State Insurance Office Defends Whistle-blower Removal
The hearings officer who decides contested insurance cases files a whistle-blower complaint alleging improper coercion from an official in the Office of the Insurance Commissioner; a day later she is removed from her job. The insurance office says there was no connection; others aren’t sure (Ostrom, 5/19).

Reuters: School Nurses Save Money: Study
A Massachusetts program that put full-time registered nurses in schools more than paid for itself by averting medical costs and lost work for parents and teachers, according to a new study. Many school districts have cut or reduced the hours of school nurses in recent years, and nationwide less than half of public schools have a full-time nurse, the authors of the report note (Pittman, 5/19).

The California Health Report: Community Clinics Under Pressure To Keep Patients
The phones at LifeLong Medical Care in Berkeley started ringing off the hook and voicemail boxes started filling up in November. Office spaces shrank to make room for the desks of new staff hired to help patients navigate through the often-difficult process of signing up for insurance. ... LifeLong Medical Care, like many community clinics, has been through the spin cycle of the sign-up for the Affordable Care Act. And now, also like clinics across the state, they have to compete for those newly insured and paying patients they helped to enroll (Shanafelt, 5/20).

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