KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Wash. State Insurers’ Surplus Cash; Calif. Million Dollar Bills

A selection of stories from California, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Many Firms Missing Out On Health Care Tax Credit
A relatively new tax credit is available to certain small businesses and charities to help offset the cost of providing health insurance to their workers. But tens of thousands of businesses in Minnesota and across the nation are leaving money on the table, according to the U.S. Treasury Department (Crosby, 3/11).

The Seattle Times: Health Insurers Premera, Regence Report Gains In Surplus Cash
Two of Washington's three largest health insurers reported gains in surplus cash in their annual reports to the state insurance commissioner ... These companies, all nonprofits, refer to the money not earmarked to pay claims as "reserves," and argue it is needed to beef up computer systems, cope with changes in health-insurance laws, and other contingencies. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler ... argues that what these companies have amassed goes far beyond what might be needed (Ostrom, 3/10). 

The Sacramento Bee: Million-Dollar Hospital Bills Rise Sharply In Northern California
The number of Northern California hospital stays resulting in charges of $1 million or more rose sevenfold in the past decade, from 430 in 2000 to almost 3,000 during 2010, according to a Bee review of new data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Most of those bills will be lowered significantly – up to 80 percent – following negotiations between hospitals and insurers. Even then, they will usually still cost more than a typical Sacramento home (Reese and Smith, 3/11).

KQED's State of Health blog: Infection Rates: Did Your Hospital Earn a White Dot?
The web abounds in hospital ratings these days, most of them based on consumer comments rather than hard data. Readers of Yelp, for instance, can rate, not only the local Chinese takeout place, but the hospital up the street. Long Beach Memorial Medical Center – generally respected among its peers – earned only two and a half gold stars out of five on Yelp (Schoch, 3/9). 

Wisconsin Public Radio: State Must Prepare For Growing Elderly Population
By the year 2034, it's projected those 85 years and older will increase 28 percent. Who will care for them, asks Robyn Stone? She's with the Institute for the Future of Aging Services. By the year 2030, she says, the competition for caregivers in Wisconsin will be intense. Stone says the workforce isn't growing as fast as those they'll care for (Mills, 3/9). 

New Orleans Times-Picayune: For Many New Orleanians With Serious Mental Illness, Life Is A Delicate Balance
As of Monday, Interim LSU Public Hospital implemented $15 million of cuts to the mental health safety net in New Orleans. The hospital, which most still refer to as University, eliminated its 20-bed chemical detox unit, cut beds at the psychiatric inpatient unit at its DePaul Hospital campus and closed beds in the emergency department and in what’s known as “the M” — the mental health emergency extension (Reckdahl, 3/12). 

The Dallas Morning News:  Leadership Discussing Backup Plans If Parkland Is Forced To Close Or Cut Back
Government and hospital leaders have been quietly preparing to provide backup care for patients if Parkland Memorial Hospital loses federal health care funding, which could force it to close all or some of its departments. A shutdown is considered unlikely by officials and regulators, who nevertheless stress that a plan must be ready (Tarrant and Moffeit, 3/10).

MSNBC: Joining Forces Could Help District Save On Health Care
Rising health care costs and future uncertainties have Quakertown [Pa.] school officials considering joining forces with area districts to pool their buying power to get better health insurance rates (Bentman, 3/9).

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