KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Calif. Insurance Commissioner Asks For Premium Power

A selection of health policy stories from California, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, Kansas and New York.

The Sacramento Bee: Obamacare At Center Of Debate Over California Health Insurance Initiative
As state insurance commissioner, Dave Jones has the power to regulate rates for car and homeowner insurance. He can halt an insurer’s proposed increase if the company can’t justify the higher cost. Health insurance is another matter. The former Democratic lawmaker has spent years working to give elected commissioners regulatory authority over health insurance rates. He’s asking voters in November to give him that ability with Proposition 45, asserting it’s the only way to slow down spiraling premium costs (Cadelago, 7/29).

Georgia Health News: The PA Pipeline: More Trained To Fill Georgia’s Growing Need 
Over the past decade, both Georgia and the nation have seen a surge of PAs. The higher demand comes from several factors: the growth in outpatient clinics; the shortage of primary care physicians; and the added emphasis on cost-effective, team-based medical care. A physician assistant is a health care professional who has the training to perform many of the duties that doctors routinely handle. PAs must be licensed and each must work under the direction of a physician. About 95,000 PAs are practicing across the country, up from 43, 500 in 2003. The number of PAs in Georgia has increased by 67 percent over the past 10 years, now surpassing 3,000. Still, experts say there’s a shortage of them in the state (Miller, 7/28).

The Associated Press: NC Mayor Walks To DC To Protest Hospital Closure
A North Carolina mayor fighting for the hospital that closed in his rural North Carolina town finished his two-week protest march to the nation’s capital, where he told a crowd that his community’s problems are part of a larger health care struggle. “The story of Belhaven is bigger than the trials of a single small town,” Mayor Adam O’Neal said at a news conference Monday in Washington, D.C. The 45-year-old registered Republican started his two-week march of more than 200 miles to protest the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven on July 1 (Dalesio and Waggoner, 7/28). 

McClatchy: An N.C. Mayor Treks 273 Miles to Help Rural Hospitals
(Adam) O’Neal’s two-week trek was equal parts politics and public relations. In a long-shot bid to reopen Pungo, he was hoping that his shoe-leather odyssey and (Portia) Gibbs’ compelling story would help him get a meeting with, and assistance from, the Obama administration. The White House did contact O’Neal, but no meeting has been scheduled (Pugh, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Court Ruling Discouraging Doctors From Asking About Guns Sparks Concerns
A court ruling upholding a Florida law that discourages doctors from asking patients about gun ownership is stoking alarm among some medical professionals, who view such questions as part of basic patient care. Last Friday, in a 2-1 ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed a federal judge in Miami, who struck down the law in 2012 saying that the statute infringed on doctors' free-speech rights (Jones, 7/28).

The Associated Press: Retiree Health Care Agency Proposes Solvency Plan
Taxpayers and public employees would pay an extra $45 million annually under a proposal to improve the finances of a program providing subsidized health care for retired state and local government workers. The Retiree Health Care Authority executive director Mark Tyndall said Monday the Legislature will be asked to phase in the increases in payroll contributions over three years starting in mid-2016. Lawmakers convene in January (Massey, 7/28).

Kansas Health Institute: Five Seek GOP Nomination For Insurance Commissioner
Five candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for Kansas insurance commissioner, an office that has been dominated by Republicans since its creation in 1871. In the 20th century, only one Democrat has held the office, Kathleen Sebelius, who used it as a springboard to become Kansas governor in 2003 and, in 2009, Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. It was Sebelius who oversaw the rollout of the signature legislative achievement of the administration’s first term, the Affordable Care Act, or, as it has become known, Obamacare. Not surprisingly in one of the reddest of red states, all five Republicans oppose the health reform law (7/28).

Albany Times Union: A $200M Medicaid Bill
The federal government overpaid New York's Medicaid program at least $200 million and the money should be refunded to Washington, according to findings of a new audit to be unveiled Tuesday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services audit focused on the past three years of reimbursements for various services provided under New York's $56 billion Medicaid program (Odato, 7/28).

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