KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Ore. Issues New Long-Term Care Insurance Claims Rules

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, Florida, California and Massachusetts.

Oregonian: New Long-Term Care Rules Empower Oregon Insurance Division To Help Consumers
The Oregon Insurance Division receives about 100 complaints about long-term-care policies each year, mostly about delays or denials. But now the state's role is increasing, thanks to a law that went into effect this month. The Oregon law requires insurers to process long-term care claims within 30 days when they're not in dispute. It also allows outside review when an insurer decides a person isn't sufficiently disabled for long-term care (Budnick, 7/17).

AP/Miami Herald: Fla. Moving Ahead With Prison Health Privatization
Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced Tuesday that it was moving ahead with privatizing health care services in Florida's prisons, two weeks after a Tallahassee judge refused to rule on a legal challenge by unions representing nurses and other state employees. Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll on July 2 said it was a moot issue because a state budget provision authorizing the privatization had expired at midnight June 30. Tucker, an appointee of the Republican governor, said other laws allow him to proceed with the outsourcing (Kaczor, 7/17).

KQED: Bridging The Gap: Disparities In Mental Health Care For African-Americans
African Americans in California are less likely than whites to get the mental health care they need. State public health officials have lacked a good road map on how to change those disparities, until now. A statewide study released today looks at ways to reduce disparities in mental health care for black Californians (Kalantari, 7/17).

Boston Globe: Massachusetts' Health Care Cost Containment Option Could Affect Life Sciences Economy
A House-Senate conference committee on Beacon Hill will soon make decisions about the health care industry in Massachusetts. While the focus of the committee’s work is cost containment, the outcome of those deliberations may have larger implications that could affect our state’s ability to compete in the international life sciences economy. … We are an epicenter of the knowledge and innovation economy because we are the world’s premier center for academic and medical research, built on a foundation of internationally recognized academic, health care, and research institutions (Robert Brown, 7/18).

CommonHealth/WBUR: Before You Claim Global Payments Are Improving Care ...
A Health Affairs report out last week concludes that a relatively new global budget contract in use by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has "improved care." Hold on. If this is the threshold for success, then the move to global budgets is going to disappoint a lot of regular, non-medical people, like me (Martha Bebinger, 7/17).

Boston Globe: Subcontractor Insurance Coop OK'd
The state Division of Insurance has certified the Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts as a buying cooperative, enabling the trade group to offer health insurance from private carriers at lower rates for its member businesses (Weisman, 7/18).

California Watch: Patient Advocates, Drugmakers Fight Insurers' Pain Pill Policies
Cynthia Toussaint is a passionate advocate for pain patients and the face of a small nonprofit -- For Grace -- that is sponsoring a bill in the California Legislature that would limit health insurers' ability to steer patients to low-cost or generic medicines before approving stronger, more costly remedies. Toussaint has testified twice before legislative committees about the devastation such policies, known as "fail first" or step therapy, can cause patients who need quick relief (Jewett, 7/18).

California Healthline: Task Force Starts With Population Health
The state's recently formed "Let's Get Healthy California" task force convened yesterday for the first of four scheduled webinars. The meetings are part of the task force's plan to eventually organize the unruly health care system in California by creating a priority list and action plan for what needs to be done, according to Diana Dooley, Secretary of Health and Human Services. … The state has decided to use federal guidelines, as outlined by last year's "National Prevention Strategy," which was issued by the Surgeon General's Office. Those federal guidelines have seven areas of concentration. The task force last month narrowed that down to four subject areas, in order to make it more applicable to the health challenges in California, said Pat Powers, the task force's director (Gorn, 7/18).

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