KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Messy Health Care Divorce In Pittsburgh

A selection of health policy stories from Pennsylvania, Kansas, Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia and California.

NPR: Pittsburgh Health Care Giants Take Fight To Each Other's Turf
Pittsburgh's dominant health insurance company and its largest health care provider are, essentially, getting a divorce. For decades, Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center worked together. But as the line between insurance companies and health care providers across the country blurs, these longtime allies are venturing into each other's business and becoming competitors (Brady, 8/19). 

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Mental Health System Under Increasing Stress
One day last month, Osawatomie State Hospital had 254 patients in its care -- almost 50 more than its optimal capacity. The overcrowded conditions forced a few dozen patients, all of them coping with a serious mental illness and likely a danger to themselves or others, to be triple-bunked in rooms meant for two. “It got really crowded there,” said Mark Hornsby, a 56-year-old Topeka man who was an Osawatomie patient earlier this summer. “In the lunch room, you were like elbow-to-elbow. And it got really loud there. It got to a point where I just wanted to stay in my room and not get in trouble.” With the patient count so high, many of the hospital’s direct-care staff were pressed into working one, two and sometimes three overtime shifts a week (Ranney, 8/18).

The Boston Globe: Insurance Rates Will Increase For Small Businesses
Health insurance rates will rise at a faster clip over the next several months as insurers spend more to implement the federal health care law and patients increase the use of high-cost drugs and medical services, insurers and regulators said Monday. The state Division of Insurance has approved rates that allow small-business health premiums to rise, on average, 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of this year, compared to the same three-month period in 2013. Last year, the increase was 2.1 percent (McCluskey, 8/19).

Kaiser Health News: San Antonio Police Have Radical Approach To Mental Illness: Treat It
To deal with the problem, San Antonio and Bexar County have completely overhauled their mental health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation. Today, the jails are under capacity, and the city has saved $50 million over the past five years. The effort has focused on an idea called “smart justice” -- basically, diverting people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead. It is possible because all the players in the system that deal with mental illness -- the police, the county jail, mental health department, criminal courts, hospitals and homeless programs – pooled their resources to take better care of people with mental illness (Gold, 8/19).

Georgia Health News: Key Activist Group Sees Flaws In State Health Plan
Last week, when upcoming changes in the state employee and teacher health plan were announced, they drew a generally positive response. Members learned that the 2015 plan would include an increased choice of insurers, which was welcome, and officials presented information showing that many members would see no premium increase. But after studying the proposed rates in greater detail, a group representing teachers, employees and retirees is voicing concern. It says many of the new options will be unaffordable for members looking to switch from their current plans (Miller, 8/18).

The California Health Report: Santa Barbara Joins Forces To Train Dementia Caregivers
Call it “disaster planning.” With rates of dementia expected to reach epidemic proportions as an aging American populous lives longer, a Southern California city has formed an impressive coalition of business leaders, educators, foundations and long-term care settings to help train the next generation of caregivers. Santa Barbara City College is launching two dementia training classes next year with a unique twist: class lectures will be followed immediately -- in some cases the next day -- with practical application at three local residential care facilities (Perry, 8/18).

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