KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

La. Doctors Work From Scratch To Rebuild Local Health System; Mich. A.G. Sues Blue Cross Blue Shield Over Rate Changes; Wis. Health Programs Make Hefty Budget Request

PBS Newshour: The Newshour Health Unit, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, explores how doctors in Louisiana "are dealing with the unique challenge of reshaping a health care system that was badly damaged." Dr. Karen DeSalvo, vice dean for Community Affairs and Health Policy at Tulane University, said the response was like creating "health care in the wild. There was nothing." And the silver lining within Katrina's destruction was that "it really was an opportunity for us to try something new and better for our patients. So, when we had that chance and could go out in neighborhoods and begin building from scratch, that is what we sought to do" (Bowser, 9/16).

The Boston Globe: The Boston Public Health Commission has launched a $150,000 campaign with a critical message: "where you live matters when it comes to health." The campaign "includes an animated neighborhood-by-neighborhood website," along with T placards and roadway billboards, and "is a response to research that shows gaping disparities in the health status of Bostonians. Researchers such as Nancy Krieger of the Harvard School of Public Health have found, for example, that residents of the city's poorest neighborhoods are significantly more likely to die prematurely than those in the wealthiest" (Smith, 9/17).

The Associated Press/Detroit Free Press: "The Michigan attorney general's office has sued Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and a state regulator over rate changes for some customers who buy insurance coverage to supplement Medicare." According to Blue Cross and the regulator, the rate changes resulted from the elimination "of a discount on so-called Medigap policies for people who don't live in Michigan or do get help from employers in buying coverage" (9/16). 

Denver Business Journal: "Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado has agreed to credit $20 million to individual-market health-care customers as part of a settlement with the Colorado Division of Insurance." The deal, which was announced Thursday, "comes amid a seven-month-long market conduct examination the division had undertaken into Anthem's rates following an 'exceptional' number of complaints state officials received about the insurer's rate hikes in late 2009 and earlier this year (Sealover, 9/16).

Quad-City (Iowa) Times: "During a Thursday visit to the Quad-Cities, the Iowa director of public health ticked off a host of changes expected in the public health arena that stem from the nation's new Affordable Care Act." Tom Newton, who heads the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the state is "well-placed to implement the new requirements of health reform." He also said that "Iowa's 99 county health departments will be encouraged to collaborate in districts and regions, the director said. He expects the actions will occur mainly in small and medium-sized counties and will be based on sharing agreements used around the state for years. Options include teleconferencing techniques and electronic communications" (Baker, 9/16).

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "The state health department is requesting $675 million more from state taxpayers in the next two-year budget to maintain services such as Wisconsin's health care programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, according to budget estimates released Thursday. That figure ... shows how difficult it will be for the next governor to balance a budget that already faces a $2.7 billion projected shortfall over two years." One of the factors driving this budget request is that the state "faces the steep increase in costs is because federal economic stimulus money for health care programs will dry up before the 2011-13 budget starts July 1" (Stein and Marley, 9/16).

Los Angeles Times/The Seattle Times: "In 1995, Oregon passed a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide. However, a new study shows a major stakeholder in terminal illness - hospices - rarely participate in physician-assisted suicide. ... The survey of 55 hospice programs in Oregon found that 25 percent did not participate in the law at all and 27 percent had only limited participation, meaning that any questions to the hospice staff about the law were referred to an attending physician and that caregivers were not actively engaged with a patient who was intentionally ending his or her life" (Roan, 9/16).

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