KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: D.C. Facing Doctor Shortage

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

Los Angeles Times: Eleventh-Hour Lawmaking With Morning-After Questions
A few hours earlier, using an obscure parliamentary procedure, the senator had carved the contents out of a bill about local gas taxes and "amended" it into a proposal to warn women about breast cancer risks. It was now speeding through the statehouse so fast, and with so little scrutiny, that (Sen. Joe) Simitian would later be on the defensive about one significant effect: a possible multimillion-dollar windfall for a medical business in his district (York, 9/28).

The Washington Post: D.C. Has Fewer Than 3,000 Active Doctors, Report Says
A new report on the number of physicians practicing in the District appears to confirm what many patients already experience: It's not easy to find a doctor in Washington. The report by the D.C. Board of Medicine, to be released Wednesday, shows that 8,490 doctors are licensed to work in the nation's capital, but only about 4,000 practice in the District. And of those, only 2,821 spend more than 20 hours a week seeing patients (Sun, 9/27).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Could Cut Jobless Benefits To Repay Feds
Georgia borrowed $721 million from Washington to help the unemployed survive the lousy economy and now, as the bills come due, it may repay the debt by cutting back on jobless benefits. The state Labor Department will send a $21.4 million check to Washington this week, the first payment on debt run up since late 2009…. More than $15 million of this week's $21.4 million interest payment came from the state's Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor, (Labor Commissioner Mark) Butler said. Legislators agreed earlier this year to use Medicaid funds to help repay the benefits debt (Chapman, 9/27). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Cost Disparity Could Jeopardize Federal Funds For DDS Facilities
Legislative researchers said Tuesday that Connecticut has more people with developmental disabilities living in state-run residential facilities than any other state except New York, at a cost up to 2.5 times the expense of contracting with private group homes for the service. ... The huge cost disparity may soon put the state at risk of losing millions in federal Medicaid reimbursements (Rabe Thomas, 9/27).

Kansas Health Institute News: Kansas Medicaid Could Save By Shifting Veterans To VA Health Program
Kansas Medicaid costs could be cut by up to $2.5 million per year if military veterans and their dependents currently using the program were shifted to similar health programs offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, state auditors have concluded. The Legislative Division of Post Audit reported today that the state could cut costs by $1.3 million a year by using "currently available data" to transition state Medicaid beneficiaries into VA programs (Shields, 9/27).

(Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press: After Computer Theft, Data At Risk For 16,800 Patients In Fairview, North Memorial Health Systems
Human error is being blamed in the theft of a laptop computer that contains the private information, including many Social Security numbers, of more than 16,000 patients at two hospital systems in the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis-based Fairview health system sent letters Tuesday to nearly 14,000 patients after confirming that a laptop lacking certain privacy protections was stolen from a car in July. The laptop also contained information on about 2,800 patients at the Robbinsdale-based North Memorial health system, which also sent letters to patients Tuesday (Snowbeck, 9/27).

WBUR: Mass. Health Insurance Premiums On The Rise
You would think word that health care premiums won't go up as much next year would be a reason to celebrate. ... Blue Cross is telling medium to large firms their premiums will increase 4 to 6 percent. At Tufts Health Plan the range is a five to 8 percent rise and at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care it's a 5 to 10 percent increase. ... These rates are down a few points from last year, but they are still climbing much faster than the expected inflation rate of 1.6 percent in Massachusetts (Bebinger, 9/28).

(New Orleans) Times Picayune: Next Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Will Face Battles On 3 Fronts
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, this fall's insurance commissioner election won't be entirely about homeowners insurance. Although homeowners insurance in Louisiana remains among the nation's most expensive, auto insurance and health insurance have also become trouble spots. ... the entire health care market is concentrated in just a few companies, and the federal health care legislation puts new responsibilities on states (Mowbray, 9/27).

HealthyCal: Services For Aging Need Better Coordination, Experts Say
Aging Californians depend on a wide range of connected services – health, housing, transportation and access for the disabled – that must be better coordinated to maximize the quality of their care, according to a panel of experts at a Tuesday conference on long term services and supports. ... States scoring the highest performed well in four categories of long-term support and services: Affordability and access -- Choices of settings and providers -- Quality of life and quality of care -- Support for family caregivers (Perry, 9/27).

Cal Watch: Health Reform Bills Face Test On Brown's Desk
Whether California continues to forge ahead on the legal front now rests with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign or veto several health reform-related bills by Oct. 9. Last year, Schwarzenegger signed into law bills that created the health exchange, an entity that will craft a set of health insurance plans available at affordable prices by 2014. This year, Brown faces decisions on several other laws that would align state and federal law and help consumers find their way to the health exchange and other new coverage options (Jewett, 9/28).

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