KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. Effort To Manage Care For Chronically Ill; Promoting Organ Donations

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: Poster Child For Coming Health Reform: 'Better Care Is Cheaper'
For a glimpse of the future of Massachusetts health care as Gov. Deval Patrick envisions it, consider Phyllis Minsky. At 82, Phyllis is complex. Medically, that is. ... Older patients with multiple chronic diseases are the biggest consumers of health care; some 15 percent of Medicare patients make up over 75 percent of health care spending. Cutting the costs of their care is a must if the relentlessly rising health cost curve is ever to be bent - the goal of the next phase of Massachusetts reform (Goldberg, 3/4).

Minnesota Public Radio: Twin Cities Obesity-Targeting Program Seeing Results
Health officials at Hennepin County and the cities of Minneapolis and Bloomington say a two-year-old program targeting obesity in low-income communities has had visible results. The initiative is part of a statewide health improvement program that began in July 2009. ... [D]ealing with the issue early on saves money for patients and the healthcare system (Shenoy, 3/6).

Kansas Health Institute News: State's Top Health Insurers Meet Medical-Loss Ratio Requirement
In Kansas, few health insurance companies are expected to have trouble complying with a provision in the federal health reform law that requires them to spend at least 80 percent of their premiums dollars on health care. Three of the state's five largest health insurers companies met the requirement in 2009, according to expense-report data compiled by the Kansas Insurance Department. ... If insurers can't meet what is called the "85-15 medical-loss ratio," spelled out in the law for plans with more than 50 members, they must pay rebates to customers beginning next year (Ranney, 3/4).

Health News Florida: Patients' 'Right To Know' Returns
Six years after Florida voters approved the "Patients' Right to Know" amendment, hospitals are still challenging its implementation. On Tuesday, that battle goes to the state Supreme Court. The amendment gives patients -- and, by extension, their lawyers -- greater access to internal hospital records about foul-ups that might have caused injuries or deaths (Saunders, 3/4).

Connecticut Mirror: State Preparing For Potential Nursing Home Strikes
With the labor contracts for 69 nursing homes set to expire this month, state health officials are preparing for the possibility of a large-scale strike. Representatives for both sides say the negotiations are in the early stages and no strike plans are imminent. But because so many contracts are in play, state officials are taking extra precautions. ... Nursing homes always prepare contingency plans in advance of possible strikes, but the number of facilities with expiring contracts this month makes planning for replacement workers more complicated (Levin Becker, 3/4).

The Texas Tribune: Doctors, Transplant Patients Hope to Dispel Myths
That [Gloria Garza] is even alive is surprising in a predominantly Hispanic region where cultural and religious beliefs further impede organ donations, which already face hurdles of genetics and matching blood types.That cultural resistance has created a striking imbalance in the number of organ donations in the region compared with the rest of the state. The Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, a federally financed nonprofit that educates Texans about the importance of organ donation, said that in its South Texas region - which extends from Laredo to Brownsville - 18 people out of an estimated population of 1.8 million donated organs in 2010 (Aguilar, 3/6). 

The Sacramento Bee: Judge Orders Halt To Planned Freeze Of Medi-Cal Reimbursements
The state was ordered Friday by a Sacramento federal judge not to go forward with a planned freeze of Medi-Cal reimbursements to hospitals for inpatient care. A bill passed by the Legislature in October as part of the budget package froze reimbursements at the lesser of rates paid on Jan. 1, 2010, or July 1, 2010. That meant California hospitals would cease getting regular rate hikes tied to costs (Walsh, 3/5).

California Healthline: New Health Cuts Plus Old Cuts Equals A Budget
The joint conference committee decided to eliminate adult day health care services in California -- and then voted to reinstate about half of the program. The Adult Day Health Care program was clearly something legislators want to retain, in part because it actually might save the state money by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Drastic cuts, though, might have created legal problems by running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Gorn, 3/4).

The Sacramento Bee: AARP Poll: 25% Happy With Health Coverage
Only a quarter of Californians over the age of 50 believe they have the amount of health care coverage they need, according to a new AARP survey (Glover, 3/5).

McClatchy / The (S.C.) State: South Carolina's Governor Suggests Cutting State Employees Medical Care, Retirement
Gov. Nikki Haley said she will propose plans to reduce state worker health care and retirement benefits, adding South Carolina to the list of states considering trimming public employee compensation. Haley's comments came at a town hall Thursday meeting in her political home of Lexington, the first in a series of six meetings statewide (O'Connor, 3/4).

Reuters: Transplant Patients A Target Of Arizona Budget Cuts
A pacemaker and defibrillator fitted to carpenter Douglas Gravagna's failing heart makes even rising from the couch of his Phoenix-valley home a battle. But it is not congestive heart failure that is killing him, he says. It is a decision by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to stop funding for some organ transplants as the state struggles to reduce a yawning budget deficit. "She's signing death warrants -- that's what she's doing. This is death for me," says Gravagna, 44, a heavy-set man who takes 14 medications to stay alive (Gaynor, 3/6).

The Miami Herald: Lawmakers To Tackle Insurance Reform
The free market could cost insurance customers millions of dollars this legislative session. The private insurance industry says it's time to make government-run Citizens Property Insurance the insurer of last resort again by raising rates on many of its 1.2 million customers and reducing coverage. They say they can't compete with Citizens' low prices. And state lawmakers are listening (Zink, 3/6).

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