KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mass. Towns Find Savings In Municipal-Based Health Insurance Plans; Conn. Hospitals’ Earnings Improve; Free Dental Clinic In Virginia

The Boston Globe: "Fourteen cities and towns that have moved their employees, retirees, and elected officials from their own municipal-based health care insurance plans into the state's much larger, more flexible system collectively saved more than $30 million their first year in the program, according to a new report. … The study relies on self-reported fiscal data on the communities' first year in the Group Insurance Commission, the state health care program, which covers some 300,000 state employees, retirees, and elected officials" (Murphy, 8/3).

The Connecticut Mirror: "More than three-quarters of Connecticut hospitals posted a positive total margin during the 2009 fiscal year, a reversal from the previous year, when fewer than half did, according to a report released by the state Office of Health Care Access. But those figures might not indicate a smooth future for Connecticut hospitals. While most hospitals were in the black in fiscal year 2009, less than a third of the state's 30 acute care hospitals achieved margins considered adequate by industry standards. And as of this May, a third of the state's hospitals were operating at a deficit, according to Stephen Frayne, senior vice president of health policy at the Connecticut Hospital Association" (Becker, 8/3).

The Washington Post: "On a weekend in late July, at the free annual open-air health clinic held here in this Appalachian community, a total of 2,643 teeth were extracted. Each one bore mute and personal testimony to the isolation of this rural place, and the defeats and losses of its people. … The massive national health-care overhaul signed into law earlier this year included some gestures toward broadening access to dental care for children. But it contained scant mention of the broken dental care system for their poor elders. … This was the 11th year for the free Wise clinic, led by the Knoxville-based medical relief organization known as Remote Area Medical" (Otto, 8/3).

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog: "In June we reported that there was movement afoot to repeal a Mass. law that severely curtailed the ability of pharma and medical device companies to give gifts to doctors. The argument for the repeal was that the bill had negative economic effects and resulted in perceived hostility to the health-care industry. We heard late last week that the provision hasn't made it into the final economic reorganization bill in which it was originally included" (Hobson, 8/2).

Boston Business Journal: "Tufts Health Plan has reached an agreement with the state Division of Insurance on compromise premium rate increases for small businesses. The Patrick Administration says that the agreement will provide much needed rate relief. Tufts Health Plan CEO Jim Roosevelt said that the settlement will result in losses for the insurer, but that coming to a resolution is important to alleviate uncertainty for businesses about their health costs. … The settlement states that the health plan and the DOI 'believe that they must work collaboratively, along with health care providers, other HMOs and insurers, to seek reductions in providers' reimbursement rates and to make other improvements that will result in lower premiums in the merged market during these difficult economic times…,' according to Tufts officials" (Donnelly, 8/2).

Kansas Health Institute: "Native Americans are still more likely than whites or other ethnic minorities to suffer from a variety of health problems." Christine Daley, an assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas School Of Medicine, "has spent the past 15 years studying issues affecting American Indian health. She now is leading a major initiative aimed at addressing the disparities. The initiative, announced last week, will benefit from a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, a division of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will be used to underwrite the Center for American Indian Community Health at the KU School of Medicine" (Ranney, 8/2).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to open a new regional health clinic to serve northern Vermont this month. Sen. Bernie Sanders says the Newport clinic will be the sixth similar satellite health facility opened by the VA hospital in White River Junction. Others are in Bennington, Brattleboro, Colchester, Rutland, and Littleton, N.H." (8/3).

The Associated Press/Seattle Times: "Washington is now enrolling uninsured residents with serious medical conditions in the state high-risk insurance pool. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Monday the coverage is funded by a $102 million federal grant to help those most in need until 2014 when people cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition" (8/2).

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