KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Chicago Hospitals See Little Change In ER Visits; Calif. Probes Anthem’s Provider Lists

The Chicago Sun-Times examines the health law's effect on local emergency rooms, while the Los Angeles Times reports that state officials are investigating whether Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California violated state law by posting inaccurate provider lists.

The Chicago Sun-Times: Six Months In, Obamacare Impact On Emergency Room Visits Unclear
Six months after new health insurance options took effect for millions nationwide, most Chicago-area hospitals say they haven’t seen a noticeable change in the number of emergency room visits. The theory was that people who previously didn’t have insurance would no longer go to emergency rooms for treatment; under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, they would make a doctor’s appointment, lowering health care costs by reducing ER visits. Emergency rooms charge higher prices for minor illness and injury care than other ambulatory care settings, because they offer more services. But so far, at least, there is little evidence of an impact (Thomas, 6/23).

Los Angeles Times: California Probes Obamacare Doctor Networks At Anthem And Blue Shield 
California regulators are investigating whether Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California have violated state law in connection to patients struggling to find doctors under Obamacare. Officials at the California Department of Managed Health Care said they are looking into whether consumers were misled by inaccurate provider lists and the difficulty some patients are still having at locating a physician in narrower networks statewide (Terhune, 6/20).

The CT Mirror: Obamacare Glitch Leading To Canceled Policies, Some Say
Connecticut Republican leaders this week announced there's a new problem with Obamacare: Constituents calling to say their insurance policies had been canceled because the subsidies that help discount their premiums hadn't been paid. Like other controversies related to the health law, this one fell into something of a gray area. Its scope was unclear: Were these isolated cases, or signs of a widespread problem? In an election year, how much was this concern charged with politics? GOP leaders have been critical of the state's health insurance exchange and Obamacare, and the way they described the problem wasn't fully accurate. But according to people involved with insurance, the issue of mistaken policy cancellations is real, if not necessarily widespread (Becker, 6/20).

Modern Healthcare: Reform Makes Cash Tight For Providers, But Not Pharma and Payers
Hospitals and other providers face more financial challenges, and perhaps more near-term credit downgrades, than health insurers and pharmaceutical companies as healthcare reform unfolds, according to a new report from Standard & Poor's. To date in 2014, S&P has downgraded the credit ratings of 31 healthcare organizations—both not-for-profits and for-profits—compared with 22 upgrades. Most of the downgrades affected not-for-profit providers however. Lower service utilization is the biggest problem for providers, S&P analysts said. Patient admissions and visits began declining in earnest in late 2012, a trend experts initially attributed to the slow-recovering economy (Herman, 6/20).

The Associated Press: Get Covered America Targeting Small Biz Owners
Advocates are targeting small business owners across Florida to get their employees signed up for health coverage. Get Covered America met Saturday with 200 businesses across the state in its first outreach since open enrollment ended in April in an effort to educate consumers about the new health law (6/23).  

Meanwhile, some Capitol Hill lawmakers seek to fix a glitch in the law -

The Fiscal Times: A Bipartisan Baby Step to Fix An Obamacare Glitch
It only took four years, but Republicans and Democrats are actually starting to come together to fix the president's health care law. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation that would resolve a glitch in the law that experts say negatively affects low-income patients. The issue stems from the law's pay-for performance provision intended to improve the quality of care and get away from the old fee-for service model. Under this initiative, Medicare and a large number of private insurance companies pay providers based on their performance as measured by patient outcomes. Hospitals are penalized for high readmission rates (Ehley, 6/23).

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