KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Mass. BCBS Chief On Health Costs; Georgia Insurance Exchange, Arizona Waiver Request

Modern Healthcare: Ariz. Governor Moves To Cut 280,000 Medicaid Recipients
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed emergency legislation authorizing her to request a two-year waiver from the CMS to reduce Medicaid rolls by 280,000 people. Brewer said in a statement she intends to request the waiver as early as Monday. She added that she plans to meet with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the coming weeks to discuss "the dire need for a Medicaid waiver for Arizona" (Vesely, 1/22).

The Boston Globe: Blue Cross CEO Says Providers Must Control Costs, Or Else
The chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurer, is calling on hospitals and doctors to step up efforts to contain health care costs, warning that those insisting on traditional fee-for-service contracts will face level or reduced payments from his company. Andrew Dreyfus, who took the helm at Blue Cross Blue Shield in August, last week sent a letter to more than 400 leaders of hospitals and physicians practices, applying pressure on them to switch to a global payment plan (Weisman, 1/23).

Georgia Health News: Georgia Studies Options On Health Exchanges
All states are considering the exchange concept – even the 28 states (including Georgia) that are fighting the reform law in the courts. ... With a $1 million planning grant, Georgia has set up an advisory group to study the exchange concept. The theory behind exchanges is based on buying power. ... pooling small businesses and individuals together – and allowing consumers to compare a variety of health plans – would potentially improve today's often harsh insurance marketplace (Miller, 1/21).

The Dallas Morning News: Possible Texas Mental Health Cuts Raise Concern After Arizona Shooting
Texas already ranks 49th in the nation in spending on mental health care and now faces steep cuts because of a budget shortfall of up to $27 billion. The potential reductions come at a time of heightened concern about the mental health system nationwide after the shooting rampage in Tucson (Horner, 1/23).

Minnesota Public Radio: Demand Rises, But Colleges Cut Mental Health Budgets
A recent statewide survey shows 38 percent of community college students suffer some sort of mental health condition. That's 7 percent more students than Minnesota's four-year universities. But even as demand for mental health services at Minnesota community colleges has risen, the number of counselors has gone down, as officials try to cope with state budget pressures (Post, 1/24).

Health News Florida: $65M Pain-Clinic Rules Pass
Regulations on Florida pain-management clinics that will impose an estimated $65 million in costs on the private sector passed the Florida Board of Medicine unanimously on Friday, despite Gov. Rick Scott's edict to ban rule-making this year. Board members asked their staff to send letters to both the Legislature and the governor's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform, explaining the need for immediate implementation of these rules, given the significant threat to public health and safety that some "pill mills" have created in the state (Gentry, 1/21).

Bloomberg: California Hospitals Issues $900 Million Amid Record Outflow: Muni Credit 
California's Sutter Health, which serves patients in more than 100 of the state's cities and towns, is selling $900 million of tax-exempt debt in the week's biggest deal after record outflows from mutual funds. ... Sutter Health revenue in 2009 was $8.8 billion, the largest of any single-state health-care system in Moody's portfolio, and larger than many multi-state systems (McGrail and Robinson, 1/24).

California Healthline: Mandate Bills Merit Independent Review
Maternity care. Tobacco cessation. Mammograms. HPV vaccinations. Hearing aids for children. These are just a few of the legislative attempts at mandates for health insurance coverage in California. Each of those proposals needs to be evaluated before it hits committee. The under-the-radar group that does those evaluations -- the California Health Benefits Review Program -- has issued 68 CHBRP reports since 2004 (Gorn, 1/21).

Los Angeles Times: Aurora Las Encinas Hospital Again Under Scrutiny
An Aurora Las Encinas Hospital employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the owners of the Pasadena mental hospital, alleging that top company officials have defrauded the federal government by providing "minimal, substandard care" to patients (Lin, 1/24). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.