KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Penn. Enrolls More Than 1,000 In New State High-Risk Pool; Wisc. Cuts $625 M From Medicaid While Increasing Coverage

Pennsylvania begins enrolling residents in its new high-risk insurance program. Elsewhere, Wisconsin trims its Medicaid program and states regulate the use of medical marijuana.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Nearly 1,000 Pennsylvanians with preexisting medical conditions that have prevented them from getting health insurance filed applications for a high-risk plan the state launched Wednesday morning, two days after New Jersey opened its program. Getting rid of insurers' longtime practice of refusing to write individual policies for people with conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer was among the most popular parts of federal health reform passed earlier this year. That mandate, however, doesn't take effect until 2014. The states' health plans, funded by the federal government, are intended to serve as a bridge. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among 29 states that will offer such plans; residents of Delaware and 20 other states will be able to get coverage via plans run through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" (Goldstein, 8/5). Wisconsin's projected state deficit of $6.6 billion made "Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people, [an] especially big target because it makes up one-fifth of the state's budget. … By June, when the Legislature approved the budget, the reduction was up to $625 million - about 10 percent of Wisconsin's total cost for the joint state-federal program. ... Governor Jim Doyle and the Legislature devised a novel approach: They gave agency officials a dollar amount to cut, but ceded authority over how to reach that figure. ... What followed was an extraordinary six-month-long process, one that not only found the necessary savings but also increased coverage and implemented important reforms at the same time. ... A big chunk of savings, $200 million in total, came from renegotiating contracts with health maintenance organizations. The state expects to save $18 million by withholding scheduled rate increases and another $26 million by reducing administrative payments to HMOs" (Grovum, 8/5).

The Boston Globe / The Washington Post reports on Matt Cook, senior director of enforcement at Colorado's Department of Revenue, and medical marijuana in Colorado: "Medical marijuana was legalized a decade ago in the state, but retail-style dispensaries began springing up only in 2007. The trickle of new outlets has turned into a flood. Officials think more than 1,100 dispensaries are operating statewide.  … Relatively late in his career, Cook has become a pioneer in the medical marijuana industry, drawing up a stringent regulation scheme that aims to turn the industry into a legitimate - and respectable - enterprise" (Savage, 8/5).

The Seattle Times / The Associated Press: "No one should be too poor to buy pot if they live in Washington, at least if the marijuana is for a medical condition. That's the conclusion of a new medical marijuana law enacted in the nation's capital. The District of Columbia passed a law earlier this year that allows residents to legally obtain the drug for medical reasons. But it also includes a provision unlike the 14 other states with medical marijuana laws, requiring the drug to be provided at a discount to poor residents who qualify. Who will get the reduced-price marijuana and how much it will cost, however, is still being worked out" (Gresko, 8/4).

Health News Florida: "Sen. Mike Haridopolos kicked off a three-day 'Health Care Solutions Tour' in Miami today with a slide show that hit the major Republican talking points, including warnings about the cost of 'Obamacare' and the surge in the Medicaid program it will create. After a tour of the Borinquen Community Health Center in downtown, Haridopolos hosted a 'roundtable' discussion. About 40 local health care facility representatives and elected officials crammed into a conference room intended for less than half that number. However, patients weren't in evidence, which drew a protest from an advocacy group" (McVicar, 8/4).

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