KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Indiana’s Effort To Privatize Public Assistance

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Los Angeles Times: Indiana's Bumpy Road To Privatization
(Louise) Cohoon's mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was one of thousands of Indiana residents who abruptly and erroneously lost their welfare, Medicaid or food stamp benefits after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the state's public assistance program - the result of an efficiency plan that went awry from the very beginning, the state now admits. Though the $1.37-billion project proved disastrous for many of the state's poor, elderly and disabled, it was a financial bonanza for a handful of firms with ties to Daniels and his political allies, which landed state contracts worth millions. The disparate effects underscore the risks of handing control over public services to the private sector (Gold, Mason and Hamburger, 6/24).

The New York Times: Connecticut Budget Is Upended As State Workers Reject Deal
Connecticut's state workers, in voting results announced on Friday, rejected a deal meant to produce $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years, blowing a gaping hole in the state budget, raising the likelihood of thousands of layoffs and threatening chaos in a state that has largely avoided the rancorous labor issues seen elsewhere. ... The opposition centered on suspicions about the health care provisions, particularly fears that the deal would eventually place employees in a new state insurance program, called SustiNet. Union and state officials said health care could not be changed again without employee approval until 2022 (Applebome, 6/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Florida's Scott Unfazed By The Critics
Gov. Rick Scott swept into office in January vowing to lure businesses, create hundreds of thousands of jobs and make Florida a model of limited government. ?Less than six months later, the Republican governor and the GOP-dominated legislature have achieved much of the conservative agenda he laid out, including deep budget cuts to reduce a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes, pension-system changes and privatizing Medicaid (Campo-Flores, 6/27).

St. Petersburg Times/Stateline: Some Florida Urgent-Care Clinics Will Be Required To Post Prices For Common Procedures
Urgent care clinics across the state will be required to post on 15-square-foot signs the prices of their 50 most frequently provided services. Those that don't face fines of up to $1,000 a day until they comply. (State Rep. Richard) Corcoran sees the law as a first step toward making the often-mysterious and varied prices of health care services more available to patients. It comes at a time when patients are paying a greater share of their health costs, either because they are uninsured or are covered by high-deductible plans (Martin, 6/17).

Des Moines Register: Child-Only Health Insurance Policies To Be Sold For 6 Weeks
Iowa health insurers soon will resume selling individual policies for children, but the offer will end after six weeks. The arrangement is a compromise response to an abrupt halt in sales of those policies after the new federal health reform law started taking effect last year. One of the law's first changes was to prohibit insurers from declining to cover a child because of a pre-existing health condition. The carriers feared that the new rule would destabilize insurance pools by allowing parents to put off buying policies until after their children contracted expensive illnesses or injuries (Leys, 6/27).

California Healthline: Surprisingly Contentious Passage of SB 36
A bill passed this week by the Assembly Committee on Health would help California counties tap federal money to recoup some of the costs associated with providing health care for low-income children (Gorn, 6/24).

The Hill: Private Sector Claims Health Reform Success In Setting Low Premiums
A private sector partnership between insurers, hospitals and physicians says it has found the solution to health care coordination that federal regulators are desperately seeking. By working together and breaking down barriers, the partnership says it was able to keep premiums flat for 40,000 California state workers in the Sacramento area - saving the California Public Employees' Retirement System $15.5 million last year. The key, they said, was trust. "The problem is we have this kind of 18th Century model of hospitals and doctors and payers, all scattered," said Wade Rose, vice president of external and government relations for the Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) nonprofit hospital system (Pecquet, 6/26).

Arizona Republic: Tucson Medical Center Plan Could Offer Window To Future
Tucson Medical Center has started a new initiative that some believe could offer a window to the future of health care. The Tucson hospital is teaming with a health-technology company, Optum, to create a new way of delivering health care. The idea is based after the concept of accountable-care organizations, which describe a system in which hospitals, primary-care doctors and specialists work in teams to save money and provide better care for patients (Alltucker, 6/26).

Arizona Republic: Arizona's High Court Won't Block Medicaid Freeze
Without explanation, the Arizona Supreme Court on Friday declined to stop proposed Medicaid cuts from taking effect next week or rule on whether the enrollment freeze is constitutional. Attorneys for three public-interest law firms, representing low-income Arizonans at risk of losing coverage under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, already were preparing a separate case to be filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. That's likely the last chance for opponents of the AHCCCS cuts to stop them (Reinhart, 6/25).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Legislator, Attorney General Announce Anti-Fraud Legislation
Legislation aimed at fighting fraud and abuse in Wisconsin's public assistance programs would create a unit of investigators within the Department of Justice to work with local district attorneys and state agencies, said state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) on Friday. The Public Assistance Accountability and Fraud Prevention Act will be introduced Monday, she said. She was joined by state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen at a news conference in Menomonee Falls to announce the anti-fraud legislation (Schossow, 6/24).

Politico Pro: Exchange Week: Big Doings In 8 States, D.C.
Prepare to shift gears this week, as most of the exchange action moves away from state houses and over to the agencies. Exchange boards kick off the week with meetings on both coasts while states everywhere in between get ready to turn in applications for Level One exchange establishment grants, due Thursday. Here's Politico's day-by-day guide to the action that's happening this week, and the eight states - and district - to watch: California, Connecticut, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada and Vermont (Kliff, 6/27).

San Jose Mercury News: Mental Health Spending Creating Haves And Have-Nots
Seven years after voters approved a new tax to fund services for people with mental illness, California has slashed so much money from mental health departments that it now leads the nation in such cuts. Counties have laid off psychiatrists, reduced hospital bed space and shut down mental health clinics. And the $7.4 billion generated by the mental health tax? Much of it has gone to a cottage industry of consultants earning up to $200 an hour, as well as a host of new programs that in many cases are only loosely linked to prevention, treatment and recovery (de Sá, 6/26).

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