KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Without State Budget, Illinois Racks Up Unpaid Health Claims; Delaware Ends Health Plan Discrimination Against Transgender People

News outlets report on health issues in Illinois, Delaware, Oklahoma, Ohio, California, Wisconsin, Florida and Connecticut.

The News-Gazette: Illinois' Health Care Debt Near $2.8B; Payments Over A Year Behind
Approaching a 10th month without a budget, Illinois has racked up a mound of unpaid claims, about $2.8 billion worth, in its state employee group insurance program. Payment delays to health insurers and providers are now averaging 15 months, according to Meredith Krantz of Illinois Central Management Services. That's due not only to the current budget impasse but years of under-funding in the group insurance program that has caused regular payment delays of eight months or longer, she said. (Pressey, 3/25)

The News Journal: State: End Transgender Health Insurance Discrimination
Delaware has become the 15th state to ban insurance companies from limiting or excluding health care coverage for transgender people. Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart issued a bulletin Wednesday that specifically prohibits private insurers from denying, canceling, terminating, limiting, restricting or refusing to issue plans based on a person's gender identity, transgender status or if the person is undergoing a gender transition. (Rini, 3/25)

PBS NewsHour: The Cherokee Nation Wants To Reverse The ‘Silent Epidemic’ Of Hepatitis C
The Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes, has become the first community in the U.S. to set a goal of eliminating hepatitis C from its population. Tribe officials plan to screen 300,000 members, whose prevalence of infection for the virus is five times the national rate, and treat them with drugs that have proven 90 percent effective. (Fee and Rothman, 3/27)

The Columbus Dispatch: Parents Of Autistic Kids Frustrated By Lack Of Residential Treatment Options
The Steffens are among an untold number of Ohio families doing their best to care for volatile children whose developmental disabilities and mental-health disorders have led to behavioral crises. Even when doctors say residential treatment is desperately needed — Andrew’s developmental pediatrician has made that recommendation, [Jamie] Steffen says — parents can face a near-impossible struggle to find, or pay for, a suitable center. (Price, 3/28)

The Associated Press: Leading Private-Sector Health System Woos Veterans In Ads
A leading hospital system in the U.S. is courting military veterans with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, raising concerns from some veterans groups that private sector marketing could weaken the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. The campaign tag lines — "Veterans have a choice in healthcare" and "You honored your oath, and so do we" — emphasize consumer preference and the shared values of medical professionals and the military. (3/25)

Kaiser Health News: Pharmaceutical Company Has Hiked Price On Aid-In-Dying Drug
When California’s aid-in-dying law takes effect this June, terminally ill patients who decide to end their lives could be faced with a hefty bill for the lethal medication. It retails for more than $3,000. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes the drug most commonly prescribed by physicians to aid patients who want to end their lives, doubled the drug’s price last year, one month after California lawmakers proposed legalizing the practice. “It’s just pharmaceutical company greed,” said David Grube, a retired a family doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted death has been legal for 20 years. (Dembosky, 3/28)

Los Angeles Times: State Isn't Using Blood-Test Data That Could Help Focus Exide Cleanup Efforts
The state of California has blood test results showing high levels of lead in children living near the closed Exide battery plant in Vernon but is not using the information to direct its massive cleanup of lead-contaminated homes and yards. Health experts say the test results should be used to help pinpoint neighborhoods most in need of swift cleanup because children there have been exposed to more of the poisonous metal. (Barboza and Poston, 3/26)

The Miami Hearld: Stem Cell Therapy: No Longer Just For High-Paid Athletes
Treating sports injuries with stem cell therapy, a procedure normally reserved for top athletes, is becoming more mainstream. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reportedly traveled to Europe a few years ago for stem-cell therapy to treat a neck injury when he was with the Colts, according to news reports. (Manning has not publicly acknowledged this). Hundreds of NFL players have used stem-cell therapy, which the NFL views as a medical treatment, not a steroid issue, according to a report in Sports Illustrated. The magazine noted how running back Chris Johnson had injured his knee and used stem cells to rebuild the cartilage. (Villa, 3/36)

The Hartford Courant: Services For Developmentally Disabled Adults In Jeopardy
For 18 years, school has been a savior for Jessica Zangrillo. Aside from the love of her family, it has been the linchpin that has kept her out of the abyss, or from falling in so far that she couldn't climb out. She has autism and an intellectual disability. From school, she has learned the skills that should allow her to live a rewarding life — but only if the structure, the engagement, the predictability, the stimulation of her school life can continue once she graduates in June. (Kovner, 3/26)

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