KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Insurance Rates To Rise 2.7% In Mass.

A selection of health policy stories from Connecticut, Massaschusetts, California, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa and Colorado.

The Wall Street Journal: Malloy Takes Hacks At Budget Gap
Gov. Dannel Malloy said he would close [Connecticut's] $1.2 billion budget gap with a mix of spending cuts, including to hospitals and programs for the poor, and new revenues, including the extension of some business taxes that were scheduled to expire (De Avila, 2/6).

CT Mirror: Malloy Proposal Cuts Medicaid, Payments To Working Poor, Hospitals
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget proposal would eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor parents, reduce a tax credit for low-income workers, eliminate the state-run Charter Oak Health Plan and slash payments to hospitals. It would also take advantage of federal funds to increase Medicaid enrollment and raise rates paid to primary care providers who treat Medicaid patients, both of which are required by federal health reform. Several of the governor's health care proposals are related to new federal health reform provisions slated to roll out Jan. 1, 2014, six months into the new budget. A major one is the proposal to eliminate Medicaid coverage for certain poor parents once alternative insurance options become available in 2014, something many advocates for low-income residents have feared would be an inadvertent consequence of health reform (Becker, 2/6).

Boston Globe: Average State Health Care Base Rates To Rise 2.7%
Massachusetts small businesses and individuals whose annual health insurance policies renew in the three months starting April 1 face average premium base rate increases of 2.7 percent -- more modest than the 3.6 percent boost in base rates for the current quarter -- according to data released Wednesday by the state Division of Insurance. The rate hikes for the second quarter, the largest renewal period for small employers and independent contractors, follow two quarters in which average base rates edged up in that market. In the second quarter of last year, the average increase was 1.8 percent. Overall, however, health insurance rate increases have been moderating in recent years after a decade of mostly double-digit advances in the state's so-called small group market, which is made up of individuals and small businesses (Weisman, 2/6).

Los Angeles Times: Consumer Group Calls For Laws To Boost Monitoring Of Doctors
A consumer advocacy group Wednesday called for new laws to improve the state's monitoring of doctors who prescribe dangerous narcotics. Consumer Watchdog said reforms were needed to reduce surging prescription drug overdoses and to rein in incompetent and corrupt physicians. "We call upon you to convene hearings immediately to deal with this crisis and consider appropriate solutions," the Santa Monica-based group wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers (Girion, 2/7).

MPR News: $3M Grant For Project To Improve For Senior Citizen Care In Rural Areas
A pilot project to improve care for senior citizens in rural areas is being developed by a Minnesota-based senior housing and care services company. A $3 million grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation will pay for a new facility in Detroit Lakes where elderly residents can access services from telemedicine to exercise programs in one location, says Kathryn Roberts, CEO of Ecumen. The new facility will be open sometime next year. The goal is to keep seniors independent and out of nursing homes. If successful, Roberts said it could provide a new model for rural communities (Gunderson, 2/5).

Pioneer Press: Minnesota Charity Care Costs Vary In State, Hospital Association Reports
Are charity care costs going up or down in Minnesota? It's a question raised by dueling reports this week from the Minnesota Department of Health and the trade group for hospitals in the state. According to the state government report, the total cost of uncompensated care -- a category that includes charity care and the cost of people not paying medical bills -- declined at Minnesota hospitals in 2011 for the first time in years (Snowbeck, 2/6).

Kansas Health Institute: Parents Urge Legislators To Do More To Reduce Waiting Lists For Social Services
Several parents of disabled children today urged House budget writers to disregard Gov. Sam Brownback's spending proposal for the coming two fiscal years and instead do something to reduce the waiting lists for social services. … Prusick and her husband Terry were among the various parents who attended Wednesday's meeting of the House Social Services Budget Committee to ask lawmakers to reconsider the governor's proposed budget, which would hold steady state spending on various Medicaid programs that provide home and community based services for the disabled and would keep intact long waiting lists of people seeking them (Shields, 2/6).

Des Moines Tribune: Claims About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Rejected
Iowa should not blame its doctor shortage on the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits, a national expert says. Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing for limits on such lawsuits, saying they’re a major reason the state has trouble recruiting enough doctors. But Mike Matray, editor of the trade journal Medical Liability Monitor, said the governor's contention "doesn’t stack up with the reality of the situation." Matray tracks premiums doctors pay for such insurance, and he noted that those costs have been unchanged in Iowa since 2008, after declining in the previous three years (Leys, 2/6).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service)/I-News Network: Medicaid Patients Struggle To Access Dental Care
State Medicaid data reported to the federal government show that less than half of the 453,000 Coloradans under age 21 who were eligible for benefits in federal fiscal year 2011 received some kind of dental service. Only a quarter of Colorado counties met a 2010 state goal of getting at least 44 percent of Medicaid-eligible residents under age 19 to visit a dentist, according to an I-News analysis of state records. … While the state appears to be making strides in improving its numbers, part of the problem is the paucity of dentists willing to see Medicaid children. Only 10 percent of Colorado’s 3,500 or so dentists are considered "significant" Medicaid providers, meaning that they are reimbursed for at least 100 visits per year. Moreover, 20 of Colorado's 64 counties do not have a dentist who accepts Medicaid (Roberts, 2/6).

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