KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Ruling May Extend Mental Health Coverage

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

Los Angeles Times: Ruling May Broaden Insurance Plans' Coverage For Mental Illness
A Northern California woman's treatment for anorexia at a residential facility was medically necessary and must be covered by her healthcare plan, a federal appeals court has ruled in a case that could lead to more extensive benefits for those being treated for mental illnesses (Williams, 8/28).

The Connecticut Mirror: State Phasing Out Its Early Intervention Program
As part of a larger shift toward privatizing services, the state Department of Developmental Services is phasing out a state-run early intervention program for infants and toddlers over objections by public-employee unions. Joan Barnish, a spokeswoman for the department, said there are 43 other programs run by private providers that can serve the infants and toddlers who need early intervention services (Levin Becker, 8/26). 

The Anchorage Daily News: Medicare Patients Are The Focus Of Alaska Medical Clinic
In South Anchorage, a new kind of medical center is trying to make it financially based on payments from Medicare -- the federal health insurance for people 65 and older, that many doctors shun. … At the recently opened Alaska Medicare Clinic, on the Old Seward Highway near O'Malley Road, you have to have a Medicare card to get in. Or be nearly old enough to get one. The clinic intends to hold down costs by relying on teams of registered nurses and medical aides to spend more time with patients, reserving final decisions for the one doctor, Dr. Bob Thomas. When the clinic is at capacity, the idea is Dr. Thomas will see 45 patients a day -- at least double the number most primary care doctors see (Shinohara, 8/29). 

The Boston Globe: AG Selects Overseer Of Hospitals, Insurers
The state attorney general's office is set to disclose today that it has hired a Boston lawyer to lead its division that oversees most Massachusetts hospitals and health insurers, a powerful regulatory post at a time of sweeping changes in the health care industry. Mary Beckman, 47, most recently the compliance officer and a lawyer in the general counsel’s office at Children's Hospital in Boston, was tapped as chief of the attorney general's nonprofit and public charities division, which regulates about 22,000 nonprofit organizations across the state (Weisman, 8/29). 

The Arizona Republic: Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center To Open Soon
MD Anderson's main campus in Houston was ranked the top cancer hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report this year. The Banner facility will treat all types of cancers, with a focus on lung, breast, prostate, gynecologic, gastrointestinal, skin and blood. Officials say the center will have an array of treatments, conduct clinical trials and engage in vigorous research (Stanley, 8/28).

The Texas Tribune: Tort Reform Bill Gives High Court New Powers
Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature — including the dramatically reduced budget — take effect. ... Under a new tort reform law, the Texas Supreme Court will make rules to expedite lawsuits with claims under $100,000 and to allow judges to dismiss those without merit early on. And it also will grant legal costs to prevailing parties under certain circumstances (Smith, 8/28).

The Texas Tribune: State Won't Fund Growing Demand for HIV Medicine
Lawmakers didn't cut spending for the Texas HIV Medication Program, but it remains nearly $20 million short of what's needed to treat a growing number of low-income patients living with the disease. As of 2009, health officials reported that more than 66,000 Texans were living with HIV. That number grows by about 6 percent every year, mostly because survivors of the disease are living longer (Tan, 8/27).  

New Orleans Times-Picayune: 'Treme' Creator David Simon Says New Orleans May Have Something To Learn From Baltimore
Simon, who spent 12 years as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, said he watched a botched hospital-biotech expansion project unfold in Baltimore and fears a repeat of that in New Orleans, with the University Medical Center and biomedical district envisioned in Mid-City. Simon pointed to East Baltimore, where nearly 200 square blocks were demolished a decade ago so that Johns Hopkins Hospital could create a $1.8 billion biotechnology district around the hospital. To date, only one of five planned biotech buildings has been built (Reckdahl, 8/27). 

Sacramento Bee: Control Of Health Care Looms Large In California
Health care is now the state's largest single economic activity, consuming upward of $200 billion a year in insurance premiums and payouts, patients' out-of-pocket payments and government funds. It is, moreover, growing as an aging population and an expanding underclass consume more medical services, as costs rise, and as governments at all levels – especially the feds – assume ever-greater shares of the financial burden (Walters, 8/28). 

Sacramento Bee: Culturally Sensitive Senior Care Supports Aging Japanese Americans
Japanese Americans live longer than most other groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey. About 24 percent of the nearly 767,000 Japanese Americans are 65 or older – the largest proportion of seniors of any group, the census survey found. With 20.7 percent of the U.S. population projected to be 65 and older by 2050, experts say the Japanese American community's care-giving and housing challenges are prophetic for a nation that is living longer (Agha, 8/28).  

Denver Post/AP: Not All Agree CO Should Make Entitlements Smoother
A proposal to make it easier to apply for state entitlement programs—a sort of one-stop-shop for entitlements ranging from welfare payments to food stamps—has turned political.  The Pueblo Chieftain reports that Republicans say the change could cost the state millions by qualifying virtually every eligible citizen for a gamut of entitlements. Democrats insist the change would cut red tape and not expand eligibility, just make easier for the needy to receive benefits (8/28).

Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire/[Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.] Pioneer Press: Group Health Cooperative To Drop Wisconsin State Workers
Thousands of state employees and their family members across a large swath of west-central Wisconsin will have to find a new health insurance provider next year, the head of a local insurance company said Friday. Beginning in January, Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire no longer will provide health insurance to state employees in several west-central Wisconsin counties, said Pete Farrow, the cooperative's CEO (8/27).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.