KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Mental Health Care Changes In Maryland, Colorado

A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado, New York, California, Washington state, Michigan and Massachusetts.

Minnesota Public Radio: Federal Health Law Helped Minnesota's Uninsured Rate Drop 41 Percent
The number of uninsured Minnesotans has fallen by nearly 41 percent since September, largely due to the federal Affordable Care Act, University of Minnesota researchers said Wednesday. About 180,000 Minnesotans gained health insurance as a result of the law, mainly through enrollments in government-sponsored coverage such as Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, according to the university's State Health Access Data Assistance Center. The sign-ups dropped the rate of uninsured Minnesotans from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent (Stawicki, 6/11).

The Star Tribune: 95% Of Minnesotans Now Have Health Insurance
The percentage of uninsured Minnesotans has dropped to the lowest level in state history, and the second-lowest level in the nation, following the end of enrollments under the Affordable Care Act. About 180,500 Minnesotans gained health insurance from last September to this May, with the vast majority getting coverage through one of the state’s public health programs, a report from the University of Minnesota found. That left just 4.9 percent of all Minnesotans lacking health coverage on May 1, about a month after the federal health law’s first major sign-up deadline. That’s down from 8.9 percent last Sept. 30 (Crosby, 6/11).

Baltimore Sun:  Maryland County Establishes Task Force To Address Mental Health Gaps 
Howard County is creating a task force charged with developing of a comprehensive behavioral health action plan for the county -- one that officials say is needed in response to the January shooting deaths at the Mall in Columbia. On Jan. 25, Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, entered a store at the mall and shot and killed two clerks, Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park and Tyler Johnson, 25, of Mount Airy, before taking his own life. Police later said Aguilar had been urged by a doctor to seek psychiatric help. County officials said goals for the Behavioral Health Action Plan Task Force include assessing what community groups now provide to support those with mental illness; identifying gaps in care and providing policy, program and funding recommendations (Davis, 6/11). 

Denver Post:  Colorado To Move Ahead With Mental Health Revamp After Suit Settled 
Colorado's plans to revamp the response to the mental health crisis can move forward after months of delay, during which the state awarded, revoked and fought in courts over the multimillion-dollar contracts. A judge on Tuesday signed an order lifting a preliminary injunction that stopped the state from proceeding with a second bidding process to award new contracts for mental health services. As a result, the Colorado Department of Human Services on Wednesday announced that it intends to give the contracts to four existing community mental health centers, with each serving a quadrant of the state (Robles, 6/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion-Bill Backers In Albany Split On Strategy
Abortion-rights supporters are divided over how to pass legislation in Albany, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Women's Equality Act remains opposed by state Senate Republicans over the abortion issue. One faction, led by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Westchester Democrat, is pushing to break apart Mr. Cuomo's 10-part package of women's rights legislation and vote separately on the bills, saying it has no chance of passing the state Senate with the abortion provision. The package died in the Senate over abortion last year (Gay, 6/11). 

Kaiser Health News: For Women Just Out Of Jail, Health Care Could Be Key To Better Life
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department is implementing a new city law allowing its staff to enroll inmates into health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi believes that making sure people have health coverage when they're released will help prevent them from committing another crime and coming back. One inmate -- Sophia -- recently requested help signing up for health insurance. Sophia, who asked that her last name not be used, was caught driving a stolen car in January and sentenced to three months in the county jail. She says that was because she stopped getting treatment for her substance abuse and mental health problems when her health insurance expired (Dembosky, 6/12).

Seattle Times: Insurers Want Judge’s Decisions Thrown Out 
Two insurers involved in a case that suddenly ground to a halt after intrigue and the precipitous removal of the judge handling it are demanding that the case start over from scratch. In a motion filed Wednesday, Premera Blue Cross argued that the “extraordinary set of circumstances” surrounding the removal of Chief Presiding Officer Patricia Petersen, the administrative-law judge for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, means that she was not impartial and all her decisions should be set aside. BridgeSpan Health Company, another insurer, joined in Premera’s motion (Ostrom, 6/11).

The Associated Press: 12,500 Patients In Michigan To Get Surgery Boot Camp To Cut Costs 
About 12,500 people in Michigan will get the chance to go through a surgery boot camp in the weeks leading up to their operations as part of an effort to help them more swiftly recover from surgery and cut hospital costs, officials said. The Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan Health System is helping roll out the program, which will be expanded to 40 Michigan hospitals. The Michigan Surgical and Health Optimization Program will help patients do things such as walk more, eat healthier and learn stress-reduction techniques (Runk, 6/11).

WBUR: Partners Showdown: Hospital Coalition Wants More Scrutiny Of AG Deal
A group of Massachusetts health care providers is asking Attorney General Martha Coakley (who also happens to be running for governor) to make public details of a deal which will allow Partners HealthCare to acquire three hospitals. WBUR’s Dan Guzman spoke with Tufts Medical Center CEO Michael Wagner, who says the deal would have a big impact on the state’s health care marketplace. “The concern is that Partners is a system that has currently three times of the size of any system in Massachusetts,” he said. “With the proposed AG deal, this would take it to four times the size of the next largest system.” The coalition also includes executives from Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health (Zimmerman, 6/11).

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