KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Mass. Offers Plan To Cut Costs For Dual Eligibles

News outlets report on a number of state health policy issues and developments.

The Wall Street Journal: State Seeks Help To Cut Cost Of Chronically Ill
The governor of Massachusetts wants to hire private insurers or other third parties to manage care for the poor and chronically ill patients who use a disproportionate share of public health-care dollars. The proposal comes as state and federal officials search for a cheaper way to deliver health care to people known as "dual eligibles." These are the 9.2 million in the U.S. who receive both Medicare, the federal program for those 65 and older or disabled, and Medicaid, the joint state-federal health plan for the poor (Levitz, 10/27).

Des Moines Register: Iowa Should Set Up 5 To 15 Mental-Health Regions, Advisory Panel Says
Iowa's mental-health services should be coordinated by regional administrators, overseeing at least three counties apiece and serving populations of 200,000 to 700,000 people, an advisory board is recommending to legislators. Several advisory boards spent the past few months hashing out possible improvements to the way Iowa cares for people with mental illnesses or disabilities. The Legislature next spring plans to remake the current system, under which each of the state’s 99 counties is responsible for many services (Leys, 10/26).

Stateline: Oregon Banks On Community Health Care
Oregon may soon become the next national model — for seeking to control costs and improve the public's health at the same time. Setting up so-called "coordinated care organizations" as the front door for patients, the state aims to abandon the impersonal and fragmented way most people receive health services today. In its place, the state hopes, will be community-based systems that resemble the way medicine was practiced a century ago, when local doctors visited families in their living rooms (Vestal, 10/27). 

San Francisco Chronicle: Ed Lee Vetoes SF Health Care Bill-Antibusiness
Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday issued his first veto since taking office in January, describing legislation intended to close a loophole in San Francisco's law requiring employers to provide some funding for their workers' health care expenses as bad for business…. It's unlikely sponsors of the legislation will get eight votes to override the veto. But Supervisor David Campos, chief sponsor of the legislation, said Lee "is taking San Francisco in the wrong direction" by limiting the funding uninsured workers can access to pay for their health care needs (Gordon, 10/26).

The Seattle Times: 11,000 May Rejoin State's Basic Health Plan
About 11,000 people who were kicked off the state's Basic Health insurance program for the working poor in March because of their immigration status will be allowed to re-enroll after a federal court judge said the state likely had violated their constitutional equal-protection rights. Nearly 1,600 are immigrants who are in the country legally but have been "lawfully present" for less than five years; the others didn't supply information to the state about their resident status in time to avoid being removed from the program. Earlier this year, the state, under budget pressure that nearly shut down the subsidized program, adopted new rules to qualify for federal funds. The new rules required that participants be legal U.S. residents who have been in the country for at least five years (Ostrom, 10/26).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Aetna And Emory Announce New Partnership For Patient Care
Aetna and Emory Healthcare announced an agreement Wednesday to operate a pilot program called "Patient-Centered Primary Care" for Emory employees and some Medicare recipients. The new concept, which is being pushed nationally as a way to improve quality and reduce costs, appoints a health care team to orchestrate a coordinated approach to care that emphasizes prevention and constant monitoring of patients. The new program is open to Emory employees and their adult family members and to those covered by an Aetna Medicare Advantage plan, an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage (Teegardin, 10/26).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Wants To Exempt Health Insurers From 80% Rule
The state's insurance regulator wants to exempt health insurance companies from the new federal requirement that they spend 80% of premiums on medical care. The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has asked the federal government for approval to phase in the new regulation over three years for health plans sold to people who buy health insurance on their own. In his request, Commissioner Ted Nickel contends that requiring health insurers to spend 80 cents of every dollar on medical care could force some companies to exit the market, potentially harming consumers (Boulton, 10/26).

Minnesota Public Radio: Ramsey Judge Temporarily Stops State From Cutting Payments To Care Assistants
A Ramsey County judge has issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from imposing a cut in payments to personal care assistants who provide care for disabled family members. The bench ruling by Judge Dale Lindman on Wednesday prevents the state from cutting the payment rate for 30 days while the court considers a lawsuit brought by home health care agencies, PCAs, and disabled Minnesotans against Gov. Mark Dayton and the commissioner of the state Department of Human Services (Baran, 10/26).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Ramsey County Judge Stops Pay Cut To Family Aides
A Ramsey County judge Wednesday temporarily barred the state from cutting the pay of about 6,950 relatives who deliver personal care assistance to low-income Minnesotans. The 20-percent cut, which took effect Oct. 1, was one of dozens of budget trims approved by the Legislature in the final hours a special session in July to erase a $5 billion deficit. State officials have estimated that the pay cut would save the state $24.1 million over the next two years. The state was sued by eight home care agencies that argued that the measure violates the Minnesota constitution and the federal Civil Rights Act because it discriminates against women, minorities and immigrants (Wolfe, 10/26). 

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