KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.Y. Authorizes Bailout Of Union Insurance Fund

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

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Sets $50 Million Union Bailout
The Cuomo administration has quietly authorized a $50 million bailout of an insurance fund for the 1199 SEIU health care workers, a decision that a union official said helped secure its endorsement of the state's Medicaid budget (Gershman, 10/5).

The Dallas Morning News: New Insurance Commissioner Says Politics Won't Guide Her Decisions
New Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman sought to assure a Senate committee Tuesday that politics will not be a consideration as she leads the state agency that regulates the insurance industry. Questioned by some senators about her previous stint as director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance and her subsequent race for lieutenant governor of that state, Kitzman replied, "My reputation as insurance commissioner in South Carolina was not one of partisanship or undue favoritism." Kitzman lost the GOP primary for lieutenant governor of South Carolina last year (Stutz, 10/4).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: DeKalb Shifting More Insurance Costs To Workers
DeKalb County taxpayers will likely pay 3 percent more to provide health care to county workers next year, but employees themselves could pay anywhere from 63 percent less to 33 percent more. Under a deal worked out Tuesday and up for a County Commission vote next week, the county will pay $1.6 million more for health insurance next year, up to $54.9 million. What employees pay depends on what plan they pick (Hunt, 10/4).

San Francisco Chronicle: Ed Lee To Veto S.F. Health Care Funds Measure
Mayor Ed Lee is set to issue his first veto since taking office in January. The expected showdown comes after a split Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that backers say will strengthen San Francisco's groundbreaking law that requires employers to provide some funding for their workers' health care expenses. The proposed amendment, which will be up for the second and final vote on Oct. 18, would affect the health care reimbursement accounts that employers set up for uninsured workers. … The board voted 6-5 to amend the law to allow the money to accrue and forbid employers from taking back any unused money until 18 months after the worker has left the job (Gordon, 10/5).

The Associated Press/Denver Post: US Supreme Court Won't Hear UPMC Antitrust Appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and medical insurer Highmark Inc. objecting to a lower court's decision to revive an antitrust suit against them by a smaller hospital network that competes with UPMC. U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab dismissed the 2009 lawsuit finding it was "long on innuendo" and "short on any plausible facts." The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit last year, saying there was some basis to believe that UPMC may have engaged in "anti-competitive conduct" with West Penn Allegheny Health System. That decision prompted the appeals the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear (Mandak, 10/4).

Georgia Health News: Fake Patients Train As Performers, Help Future Doctors Learn Skills (video)
Medical students at the new Georgia Health Sciences University campus in Athens have a lot more drama in their lives these days. They're interviewing and examining fake patients who have been trained to simulate signs and symptoms of illness using the same techniques as actors on TV (Smith, 10/3).

California Healthline: Reimbursement For Emergency Transport Becomes Law
Some providers will be reimbursed for emergency ground transportation costs for Medi-Cal patients. According to bill author Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), AB 678 will allow fire departments to receive approximately $90 million in federal money for transport they provide (Gorn, 10/5).

The Associated Press/St. Paul Pioneer Press: (Wis.) Legislature To Get Update On Family Care Program
Wisconsin lawmakers were to be briefed by Department of Health Services officials about the status of a popular program to keep elderly people out of nursing homes. The Family Care program was frozen by Gov. Scott Walker's administration this summer over concerns about rising costs and demand (10/5).

The Sacramento Bee/California Watch: State Refers Data On Hospital Infections For Fraud Probe
The California Department of Public Health has dismissed findings against Prime Healthcare over its documentation of bloodstream infections, but said it has not ruled out fraud as a possible explanation for high rates of the condition. Kathleen Billingsley, deputy director of the Department of Public Health said findings of the septicemia inspections have been forwarded to the Medi-Cal program auditors and the Health and Human Services Inspector General, which looks into Medicare billing fraud (Jewett, 10/5).

The Sacramento Bee: Lawsuit Against State Targets Medi-Cal Cutbacks
Doctors and pharmacists are suing California over the latest round of Medi-Cal budget cuts, saying the state has refused to show what impact the reductions would have on health care for low-income patients. The state Department of Health Care Services must document that Medi-Cal cuts will not undermine access to care to receive federal approval. As part of the state budget this year, Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers approved a 10 percent cut in reimbursements to Medi-Cal, mandatory co-payments and a soft cap on doctor visits (Yamamura, 10/4).

The Sacramento Bee: Supreme Court Justices Worry California Medicaid Case Could Unleash Lawsuit Flood
A challenge from physicians to California's proposed Medicaid reimbursement cuts prompted Supreme Court justices Monday to worry about a flood of similar lawsuits in the future. The prospect that courts could get swamped alarmed several justices across the ideological spectrum. Their questions during oral argument suggested that physicians might have a hard time prevailing in their efforts to stop the California reductions through legal action (Doyle, 10/4).

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