State Highlights: Wash. Gov. Announces More Budget Cuts
News outlets examine health policy issues around the country.
The Seattle Times: Gregoire Outlines Grim Choices For Budget Cuts
For the fourth year in a row, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday outlined more than $1.5 billion in state cuts to health care, social services, prisons and education.The latest round would increase public-school class sizes, eliminate subsidized health care for the working poor and release hundreds of inmates early…. The state's Basic Health Plan would close, ending state-subsidized insurance for about 35,000 low-income people (Garber, 10/28).
The Associated Press: Doctors To Sue Over New Kan. Abortion Clinic Rules
Three doctors who perform abortions in Kansas will challenge new regulations for their clinics even after the rules were revised to placate the physicians, their attorneys said Thursday, arguing that the rules still impose unreasonable and "irrational" requirements. The physicians — Dr. Herbert Hodes, his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, and Dr. Ronald Yeomans — already persuaded a federal judge to block the earlier version of the rules (Hanna, 10/27).
Denver Post: Colorado's 9.4% Jump In Health Insurance Rates An Improvement Over Recent Years
The surge in 2012 health insurance rates is slightly higher than a 9 percent increase in a recent national survey, said Bill Lindsay of Lockton Benefit Group, which conducts the Colorado report. But it's a huge improvement from 14.4 percent hikes this year and 11.8 percent in 2010, not to mention 19 and 18 percent hits in 2003 and 2004 (Booth, 10/28).
Minnesota Public Radio: Health Care Rivals' Partnership Improves Patient Satisfaction, Lowers Costs
A partnership between two rivals offers a glimpse of the future under a cornerstone of the federal health care overhaul. HealthPartners and Allina Hospitals and Clinics together tested strategies to improve care and reduce health costs for some 27,000 patients in the northwest metro area. The partnership calls the effort a "learning lab" for the Accountable Care Organization envisioned under the federal health care law. They say they've proven that such an organization can lower costs while improving quality (Stawicki, 10/28).
The Hill: Two Health Insurers Leave Florida, Citing Health Law Regulations
Two tiny health insurance companies are exiting Florida's individual market because of Democrats' health law, the state's insurance department announced Thursday in an effort to bolster its request for a waiver. Florida has asked for a waiver from the medical loss ratio requirement that says insurers must spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care or give customers rebates. Several consumer advocacy groups argued Thursday that the state doesn't need such a waiver (Pecquet, 10/27).
CQ HealthBeat: MLR Waiver Request Pending; Florida Regulators Say Two Insurance Units To Exit The State
Florida state regulators announced Thursday that two insurance subsidiaries of American Enterprise Group Inc. plan to leave Florida’s individual insurance market. American Enterprise Group cited "change in the regulatory environment" in explaining the reasons for the withdrawal and specifically referenced to the minimum loss ratio (MLR) standards issued under the federal health care law. The state of Florida is seeking a waiver from those requirements, and its statement announcing the withdrawals appears to be part of an effort to buttress that application (Reichard, 10/27).
The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Agree To Share Data
Seven more health insurers have agreed to disclose the details of their requests for insurance-rate increases in New York, bringing a standoff with state regulators closer to an end (Rappaport and Scism, 10/28).
Health News Florida: 40% Of FL Drug Plan Sub-Par
Nearly 40 percent of Medicare drug plans currently on the market in Florida received federal quality ratings of below average. That indicates Floridians' choices don't compare well to those nationwide. On a five-star scale, 13 of Florida's 33 standalone drug plans offered under Medicare Part D earned less than three stars, the online rankings show. The rate nationwide of below-average plans is about 28 percent, Kaiser Health News reported (Davis, 10/27).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Abele, Holloway Plan Would Cap Sick Leave At 960 Hours
Milwaukee County employees would see their liberal sick leave benefit scaled back sharply, under a deal brokered by County Executive Chris Abele and County Board Chairman Lee Holloway. A limit of 960 hours of banked sick time -- the equivalent of six months -- would be imposed and county employees could no longer convert unused sick leave to pay for health insurance when they retire, under the plan unveiled Thursday. The change is far more generous than the one Abele tried to get the County Board to approve last May, when he called for a new limit of 240 hours of banked sick time (Schultze, 10/27).
The Lund Report (Oregon): Washington Insurance Commissioner Conducts An Investigation Of Regence Blue Shield
When Mark Ganz, CEO and president of The Regence Group, met with Washington's Insurance Commissioner, the message came across loud and clear – fix the system-wide problems that have led to a litany of complaints from policyholders. Regence BlueShield of Washington had been withdrawing insurance premiums from the wrong bank accounts, and, in some cases, those accounts actually belonged to people who weren't even Regence members. Thousands of claims weren't being paid on time, particularly for retirees who were members of the state’s Public Employees Benefit Board. … Hearing about these complaints, Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler was concerned that policyholders in Oregon, Idaho and Utah faced similar problems (Lund-Muzikant, 10/27).
The Lund Report (Oregon): Public Health See Opportunities In Oregon Health Plan Reform
As the final meeting of the governor-appointed workgroups approaches in late November to determine the criteria for coordinated care organizations, public health officials are questioning how they’ll fit into the new healthcare delivery model for the Oregon Health Plan. Many worry that the legislation spurring the reform, House Bill 3650, lacks strong language about the role of public health, leaving them out of the loop (Waldroupe, 10/27).
CT Mirror: Analysts: $80M In Concession Savings Would Have Come Anyway
(T)he Office of Fiscal Analysis also raised questions about whether the $241 million biennial savings from the Health Enhancement Program projected by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget office can be fully achieved. The nonpartisan analysts didn't question the administration's ability to achieve savings in connection with drug patents and negotiated rates for medical and dental care. But they also noted that these savings had nothing to do with the concession deal with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (Phaneuf and Levin Becker, 10/28).
California Healthline: New Law On Telehealth May Mean Better Care, Easy Access
The new law, effective Jan. 1, is designed to streamline the practice of telehealth in a number of ways and will improve patient care significantly in rural areas, according to Anderson. … For instance, the law addresses an existing requirement that physicians and other health care providers have dual credentialing — that is, they need to be credentialed both at the facility where they work and the facility where the patient is being treated remotely using telehealth. Further, under the current system, patients need to give written consent. The new law requires only oral consent. Also, the current system requires health care providers to explain exactly why they need to use telehealth before they can use it (Gorn, 10/27).