KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Calif. Ruling Limits Medical Damages; Ariz. Medicaid Case Appealed

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

Sacramento Bee: Insurers Win, Lawyers Lose In Big State Supreme Court Ruling
The state Supreme Court handed insurers and business groups a major legal victory -- and personal injury lawyers an equally big setback -- on Thursday by imposing limits on medical damages in one of the era's closest watched civil cases. The issue in the case, Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, was whether an injured party could collect the full medical care costs billed by doctors and hospitals, or the lesser amount that the medical providers accepted from an insurance company (Walters, 8/18).

San Francisco Chronicle: CA Supreme Court Tort Case Ruling Helps Insurers
In a victory for insurance companies, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an accident victim who sues the wrongdoer can recover only the discounted sum that the victim's insurer negotiates with doctors and hospitals that provide care, and not the actual cost of treatment. At stake in the 6-1 decision were payments of hundreds of millions of dollars a year statewide, according to business and consumer groups that took part in the hard-fought case. The case involved a common practice by medical providers of giving substantial discounts to insurance companies in exchange for volume business and prompt and reliable payment (Egelko, 8/19).

The Arizona Republic/Associated Press: Court Asked To Block Arizona Medicaid Enrollment Cut
The Arizona Court of Appeals has been asked to overturn a judge's ruling that Gov. Jan Brewer can legally reduce enrollment in Arizona's Medicaid program to help balance the state budget. The state has imposed new limits on enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling in the state program. The limits affect certain enrollment categories, including childless adults (8/18).

California Healthline: Budget Trailer Bills Might Rescue Healthy Families Program
When faced with running a large children's program on about $390 million less than you had before, how many beneficiaries will you be forced to drop? That's the question facing the Healthy Families program, which is considering a substantial disenrollment of the 870,000 children currently in the program (Gorn, 8/19). 

Contra Costa Times: Grocery Workers Will Vote On Health Care Offer Today And Saturday
At odds over proposed changes to their health care coverage, thousands of Southern California grocery workers will take a strike authorization vote today and Saturday while the major supermarket chains finalize contingency plans in case of a walkout. Local 770 of the United Food and Commercial Workers will be voting on the health care package proposed by negotiators for Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons. A rejection automatically authorizes union officials to call a strike after 72 hours…The union and grocers announced June 30 that they'd reached a tentative agreement on the supermarkets' contributions to employee pensions, but the issue of health benefits remains unresolved. And the issue of wages has not yet been discussed (Wilcox, 8/18).

San Francisco Chronicle: Kaiser Workers At Stake In Union Battle
The ongoing contentious battle between two unions in one of the largest private-sector elections in U.S. history - representation of workers at Kaiser Permanente - is heating up again. The National Union of Healthcare Workers filed new evidence Thursday with federal officials alleging that rival Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is colluding with the health care giant to sway worker allegiance in what continues to be a highly contested dispute. The filing comes after the National Labor Relations Board on Aug. 10 ordered a rerun of last fall's elections involving more than 44,000 Kaiser employees after discounting the results due to allegations of misconduct (Colliver, 8/19).

Health News Florida: Autism Renegade Fights State Boards
A doctor who claims that vaccines cause autism and who treats children with potent hormone-suppressing drugs has been suspended from practice in four states. But Mark R. Geier still has a clear license in seven states, including Florida. ... Four states have suspended his license, saying he gave dangerous, high-priced treatments to children without explaining the risks to parents and that he misrepresented his credentials (Gentry, 8/18).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: A Behind-The-Ledger Look At Partners HealthCare's Billions
Partners HealthCare, the state's biggest and richest hospital system ... does angels' work: all the cutting-edge research and top-flight tech at Mass. General, Brigham and Women's and other hospitals. But when it comes to health care costs, Partners is seen as one of the prime culprits behind the high prices that are driving up our health insurance premiums and bedeviling our economy (Goldberg, 8/19). 

(Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.) Star Tribune: Health Program Is Going On A Diet
Minnesota will soon learn if its $47 million bet on statewide health improvement is making a dent against the ills of smoking and obesity. The Minnesota Department of Health is collecting reports about how communities used the state grants over the last two years - on everything from workplace fitness to tobacco-free campuses to fresh produce campaigns – and what progress has been made (Olson, 8/18).

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