KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Calif. Gov. OK’s Extension Of Autism Treatment Coverage

A selection of health policy stories from California, Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio.

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown Extends Insurance Coverage For Autism Treatment
Gov. Jerry Brown has approved a 2 1/2-year extension of a program that requires insurance coverage for early autism treatment. Since its creation in 2011, the program has helped more than 12,500 Californians, according to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the author of the bills creating and extending the program (McGreevy, 10/10).

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown Orders Swift Response To Mental Hospital Crimes
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation aimed at protecting victims of sex crimes in state hospitals and developmental centers. SB 651 by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) mandates that victims of suspected abuse in the hospitals and centers for the developmentally disabled receive immediate examinations by trained investigators at independent facilities to collect evidence (McGreevy, 10/10).

Kansas Health Institute: Pilot Project Aims To Reduce Billing Errors At Local Health Departments
A new pilot program aimed at improving billing and collections at local health departments is beginning at a critical time: just as tens of thousands of Kansans are expected to get insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Currently, billing errors are costing many local health departments when it comes to collecting payments from private insurance companies and the Medicaid program (Cauthon, 10/10).

Georgia Health News: A Change In Services And A Medicaid Pay Hike
A state health agency board gave initial approval Thursday to offering care coordination services to 450,000 Medicaid beneficiaries who have disabilities or are elderly. The proposal for the “aged, blind and disabled’’ population comes as part of the state’s move to improve care and reduce spending. This beneficiary category represents roughly 28 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Georgia, but it accounts for 60 percent of the overall costs of the program (Miller, 10/10).

Raleigh News & Observer: Auditor Challenges DHHS NC Tracks Explanations
State Auditor Beth Wood sent legislators a letter Thursday saying state Department of Health and Human Services officials offered incomplete information about the Medicaid bill paying system called NC Tracks. ... Agency officials and legislators spent hours talking about NC Tracks because it’s been a big problem for health care providers. Some have months of bills awaiting payment (Bonner, 10/10).

Winston-Salem Journal: Wood Defends Work, Rebuts Wos’ Claim On DHHS 
Beth Wood also said in a separate letter to a legislative oversight committee that DHHS officials, including Secretary Aldona Wos, provided incomplete information during a hearing Tuesday that grew testy at times. ... An article by N.C. Health News, a nonprofit group, raised questions about the completeness of the state Auditor’s Office report issued Jan. 31 on the state’s $13 billion Medicaid program. The group based its report on DHHS reports and filings acquired through public records requests (Craver, 10/10).

Los Angeles Times: Santa Clara University Drops Insurance For Elective Abortions
Santa Clara University, a Catholic institution in the Silicon Valley area, is dropping coverage for elective abortions under health insurance for its faculty and staff members, officials said. The move is part of what seems to be a trend among Catholic campuses seeking to uphold their religious beliefs against abortion while employing and enrolling many non-Catholics. Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles took a similar step this week but, in a compromise, is allowing employees to buy coverage for elective abortions through an insurance plan not administered or subsidized by the school (Gordon, 10/10).

California Healthline: California Hospital Group Proposes Ballot Initiative for Medi-Cal Provider Fee
The California Hospital Association on Wednesday filed a ballot initiative for the November 2014 ballot that would set the percentage the state gets from a fee levied on hospitals and designate how the money is to be spent. The action, which required notification to the state Attorney General's Office, would lock in place current practices and is not the result of any disagreement with the Legislature, said Jan Emerson-Shea, association vice president (Norberg, 10/10).

Columbus Dispatch: Bill To Reform, Not Expand, Medicaid Introduced
After hearings this summer and work on the issue dating back to 2009, Sen. Dave Burke rolled out a Medicaid reform bill yesterday that would require monthly per-member costs to increase by no more than 3 percent, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. If the system can hit the 3 percent mark — a bill introduced this past summer set it at 3.5 percent — Burke said Medicaid in Ohio would save $8.6 billion through 2020, $5.5 billion of which would be federal money. He noted that Medicaid spending has grown from 31 percent of the state budget in 2000 to 49 percent in 2015. The bill does not specify how to reach those savings (Siegel, 10/11).

The CT Mirror: Seven Things To Know About HUSKY And Obamacare
The scope of the changes to Connecticut's Medicaid program is likely to be smaller than in many other states, because this state got a head start, expanding Medicaid shortly after the health law passed in 2010. Still, Connecticut’s Medicaid program, known as HUSKY, will expand further as of Jan. 1, and existing members will see some changes. And even people who are seeking private coverage through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, might find that their children could end up in HUSKY. Here are some key things to know about how the law commonly known as Obamacare affects Medicaid in Connecticut (Becker, 10/11).

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