KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: UnitedHealthcare Claims Ga. ‘Rigged’ Contract

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, California, Nevada and Florida.

WBUR: Report: Mass. Residents Pay More, Get Less From Health Insurance
If you have the feeling you're getting less coverage from your health insurance even though it's costing you more, there's proof today you're right. A state report says our premiums rose 9.7 percent between 2009 and 2011, while the value of that coverage shrank 5.1 percent (Bebinger, 8/14).

Georgia Health News: United Claims Blue Cross Got Special Favors
UnitedHealthcare has filed a strongly worded protest of the awarding of a state employees benefits contract, alleging that Georgia officials "rigged" the bid in favor of a competitor. A letter from United and its attorneys at law firms Alston & Bird and McKenna, Long & Aldridge asks the Department of Community Health's commissioner to review the award made to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, which was formally announced Friday (Miller, 8/13).

The New York Times: North Carolinians Fear the End of a Middle Way
But with Republicans controlling all branches of the state government for the first time in more than a century, the legislature pushed through a wide range of conservative change. The Republicans not only cut taxes and business regulations, as many had expected, but also allowed stricter regulations on abortion clinics, ended teacher tenure, blocked the expansion of Medicaid, cut unemployment benefits, removed obstacles to the death penalty, allowed concealed guns in bars and restaurants, and mandated the teaching of cursive writing (Robertson, 8/13).

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County To Review Its Authority Over Contracts With Rehab Clinics
In response to a scathing report that found rampant fraud and a lack of government oversight of taxpayer-funded rehabilitation clinics in California, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to review its authority over such clinics and its ability to end payments to rehab operators who are breaking the law (Mehta, 8/13).

Kaiser Health News: A Nevada Health Plan -- Without The Insurance
Shelley Toreson had health insurance for years, but not anymore. Instead, she is part of an unusual Nevada nonprofit that helps connect 12,000 uninsured residents to doctors and hospitals who are willing to accept a lower-cost, negotiated fee for their services. 'The cost just kept going up and the coverage kept getting less,' says Toreson, 62, of her old insurance (Bartolone, 8/14).

The Associated Press: Nevada Board OKs More Funding For Mental Health
A state board on Tuesday endorsed pumping another $3 million into Nevada mental health services to increase bed capacity and reduce wait times for criminal defendants ordered to undergo evaluations. The funding request came amid intense scrutiny of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas over discharge policies and other deficiencies (Chereb, 8/13).

Bloomberg: Florida Pharmacists Win $597 Million Blowing Whistle On Scheme
T. Mark Jones learned about the costs and benefits of health-care delivery when he treated AIDS patients in Key West, Florida, in the late 1980s. … Big Pharma was routinely reporting inflated drug prices, leading Medicare and Medicaid to overpay doctors and pharmacies by billions of dollars. Jones and his partners dedicated their lives to exposing that hard-to-detect scheme.  Ven-A-Care, operating from a quiet street in Key West, has filed whistle-blower lawsuits against dozens of pharmaceutical companies since 1995 -- many later joined by the U.S. and states -- that have recovered more than $3 billion for the U.S. government.  In those settlements, Ven-A-Care secured awards totaling $597.6 million for suing on behalf of taxpayers, making it the most successful whistle-blower in U.S. history (Voreacos, 8/13).

North Carolina Health News: Rural Hospital Mergers Make For Improved Bottom Lines, Mixed Feelings
In this second part of a three-part series, North Carolina Health News looks at the challenges facing rural hospitals and what it means for small communities when the local hospital merges with a larger hospital system. Today's story looks at some of the advantages and risks of rural hospitals merging into larger systems (Porter-Rockwell, 8/14).

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