KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Cities, States Balancing Health Costs Amid Continuing Economic Problems

A selection of health policy stories from around the country, including Colorado, California, Kansas and Arizona.

CNN Money: States Still Hurting, Just Not As Much
Some 29 states are dealing with a total budget deficit of $47 billion for fiscal 2013, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Unlike the federal government, nearly all states must balance their budgets every year. Though tax revenues are slowly recovering after bottoming out in 2010, they're still not back to pre-recession levels. That means some governors and lawmakers will continue to chop spending on education, health care and human services, the left-leaning center warns (Luhby, 2/29).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colorado news service): Costly Health Insurance Driving Workers, Employers Away
Many Coloradans with jobs say they can no longer afford health insurance, a new analysis from the Colorado Health Access Survey has found. ... 85 percent of uninsured Coloradans say they don’t have health insurance because it’s too expensive. Job loss and poverty used to be the key causes for poor health coverage. But the landscape in Colorado is changing dramatically. Today, a good job no longer guarantees affordable health insurance (Kerwin McCrimmon, 2/29).

Colorado Public Radio: Health Care Law Turns Two, Insurance Prices Still Rising
The average cost of a family health insurance policy offered through a job in Colorado nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010 ... if the law rolls out according to plan, people like Maya Wheeler should have an easier time affording health premiums (Whitney, 3/1). 

The Wall Street Journal: California Cities Hit The Wall
Confronted by declining tax revenue and rising employee costs, Stockton, Calif., is considering bankruptcy—while several other struggling California cities warn they could eventually face the same predicament. … Bankruptcy is painful for municipalities, [Randall Newsome, a retired federal bankruptcy judge] said, since it entails restructuring long-standing contracts. including retiree health-care benefits (White and Vara, 2/29).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Seeks $10.5 Million In Damages From O.C. Doctor Group
Blue Shield of California has demanded $10.5 million in damages from a large Orange County physician group that was recently acquired by rival insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc., a sign of rising tension as insurers and hospitals snap up more medical providers in advance of federal reform. ... Blue Shield alleges that Monarch [the largest physician group in Orange County], under its new ownership, refused to treat some of its members and tried to switch them from Blue Shield coverage (Terhune, 3/1).

Arizona Republic: Child-Vaccine Proponents Urge Stronger Legislation
Right now, Arizona parents need only fill out a short form to exempt their child from the state's immunization requirements. But there's a push under way to toughen state exemption laws. Doctors and state health experts say parents have an obligation not only to their children but to their community to help prevent the spread of serious diseases like mumps or measles (Rau, 2/29).

Kansas Health Institute News: Bill Would Use HMO Tax To Pay For Newborn Screenings
Since 2009, lawmakers have used tobacco revenues to fund the newborn screening program, which tests infants for 29 metabolic and health disorders. Gov. Sam Brownback included the program in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year but directed KDHE to find an alternate source of revenue for it in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013 (Ranney, 2/29). 

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