KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Tenn. Community Health Centers Feel Budget Pinch; Minn. Faces Struggles With Costs Of Inmate Care

The Tennessean: Community Health Centers Face Cash Crunch
Originally created to care for destitute urban dwellers or dirt-poor sharecroppers, health centers today serve a much wider segment of America. A prolonged recession and a shortage of primary care physicians have expanded their patient base. Going forward, they are expected to meet the needs of millions more Americans. But getting there could be a challenge. Federal stimulus money is about to run out, and a state funding source also could be lost (Wilemon, 1/30).

Chicago Sun-Times: Requests For Financial Assistance Swell At Illinois Hospitals
Across Illinois in 2010, requests for financial assistance at hospitals swelled as jobs and health insurance benefits shriveled, leaving fewer people able to pay their medical bills. … A report [the Illinois Hospital Association] released in mid-December found the 109 Illinois hospitals that filed community benefit reports for their 2008-09 fiscal years (a little more than half its 200 hospital members) together dispensed $492 million in free and discounted care that year - $72 million more than the previous year. Those hospitals also sustained $2.39 billion in uncompensated costs for people on government-sponsored health plans for the needy and elderly - Medicaid and Medicare - $150 million more than the previous year, along with $1.1 billion in bad debt (Pressey, 1/29).

The New York Times/Texas Tribune: Health Law Response Goes Two Ways
One House Republican wants to create the state health insurance exchange required by the federal health care overhaul law for fear that the federal government will do it for Texas otherwise. Another has filed a bill that would make his colleague's efforts - really, those of anyone trying to carry out "Obamacare" in Texas - illegal (Ramshaw, 1/29).

Kansas Health Institute News: Exchange Group Signs Vendor Contract
A consortium of Kansas health care providers has hired a Nashville-based company to help it build a statewide health information exchange system (Ranney, 1/28).

Minnesota Public Radio: New Minn. Commerce Chief's Top Concern: Health Care Reform
Despite the heated debates going on in Washington over how to dismantle the federal health care law, states don't have the luxury of waiting for the dust to settle - they're already working on putting the law into practice (Stawicki, 1/31).

Pioneer Press: Surgeons, Medical Device Makers Find Insurers Resisting Costly Back Fusions
Pushing back on spine surgery is becoming a battle cry for health plans these days, too. Faced with skyrocketing health costs due to surgeries known as spinal fusions, health plans in Minnesota and across the U.S. are intensifying scrutiny of the procedures (Snowbeck, 1/29).

Star Tribune: Inmate Health Care Is A Budget Buster
A Washington County jail inmate, ill with cancer, is driven to a nearby hospital every week for chemotherapy, accompanied by a corrections officer likely to be working on overtime. In Ramsey County, two inmates needed emergency medical care last year that rang up $445,000 in hospital bills and busted the county's budget. ... As lawmakers in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., debate health care and human service programs, county taxpayers wind up footing the bill for people in county custody - regardless of whether they're convicted of a crime (Havens and Anderson, 1/30).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health Care Reform May Save State Money
Wisconsin could save more than $500 million from 2014 to 2019 from health care reform as the federal government picks up a larger share of the cost of insuring people with limited incomes. That projection is based on an analysis of the testimony of Dennis Smith, the new secretary of the state Department of Health Services, before a congressional committee last week. ... Wisconsin would save money because its BadgerCare Plus program, which provides health insurance to low-income families, has relatively broad eligibility. Under health care reform, the federal government would pay a larger share of the costs of that coverage (Boulton, 1/30).

Chicago Sun-Times: Meet-And-Greet Moments Help Bring Doctors, Potential Patients Together
This month, Edward Hospital in Naperville started a program to help people … find a primary doctor in a new way. …. Think of it as speed dating. But instead of sharing your wants in a companion or your idea of a perfect evening, you're discovering a physician's philosophy on treatment and maybe even confessing your bad eating or lifestyle habits. Called "MD Match: Come Meet Your Dr. Right," patients spent five minutes each with a handful of physicians from Edward Medical Group, the primary care practice of Edward Hospital (Vergara, 1/31).

Kaiser Health News: Earlier, related coverage: Hospital Tries 'Speed Dating' To Attract Doctors, Patients (Gold, 5/18/2010).

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