KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Costs Almost Double For Health Care For Pennsylvania Poor; New Study Finds Percentage Of People Taking Insurance Through Work Declines

The New York Times: "Facing a sharp rise in costs, Pennsylvania has almost doubled the monthly bill for a state health insurance program for poor people who do not qualify for Medicaid and are on a waiting list for a less costly option. On March 1, the cost of the plan rose to about $600 a month, up from $313 a month, for the roughly 2,400 state residents on the waiting list. The increase comes as Congress is poised to act on a health care overhaul and as the Obama administration has been highly critical of insurance companies for rate increases of 30 percent to 40 percent. State officials said that the program had become a magnet for the sickest people in the state, even as rising unemployment had driven more people to sign up. ... The increase may cause even more people to drop out of the program, he said, leaving mainly the people most in need of costly health care and making the program even more expensive" (Urbina, 3/16).

Dayton Daily News: "The percentage of Ohioans younger than age 65 who receive health insurance through an employer has eroded from 73.9 percent to 66.3 percent in less than a decade, according to a report released today ... by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The decline in employer-sponsored insurance was recorded over an eight-year span, from 1999-2000 to 2007-08. And the drop was more significant among low- and middle-income Ohioans under age 65. Among those Ohioans, there was a decline of 7.8 percentage points in employer-sponsored insurance from eight years earlier, compared to a decline of 2.7 percentage points of wealthier Ohioans, the report claims. Ohio's overall decline mirrored a nationwide trend, though it was steeper than the national average (7.6 percentage points in Ohio vs. 6.3 percentage points nationally). But a higher percentage of Ohioans (66.3 percent) still got coverage through work than the nationwide average (59.9 percent)" (Sutherly, 3/17).

The Indianapolis Star: "The middle class is being hit hardest by escalating health insurance costs, according to a report being released today by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report, which comes as congressional Democrats try to round up the votes they need to complete work on a health-care overhaul package, focuses on those who have lost employer-sponsored insurance but are not eligible for government insurance programs such as Medicaid. In Indiana, as in the rest of the nation, the percentage who became uninsured from 2000 to 2008 grew faster in the middle class than it did among lower- and upper-income classes. The total number of low-income Hoosiers without coverage is still greater than the total of middle- and upper-income Hoosiers without coverage. Still, researchers said the report shows that 'hard-working people with average incomes are being squeezed'" (Groppe, 3/17).

The Boston Globe: "State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent candidate for governor making a play for fiscally conservative voters, said yesterday that the state's universal health care law is bankrupting Massachusetts and will do the same nationally if Congress passes a similar plan. ... In seizing on the issue, Cahill was seeking to insert himself into a fight that Governor Deval Patrick picked last week with his Republican rival, Charles D. Baker, former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, whom Patrick accused of doing nothing to stop dramatic premium increases that he said are crushing small businesses and families. With Baker defending the state's health care plan, Cahill's comments illustrate how the treasurer, despite his longtime membership in the Democratic Party, may attempt to run to the right of Baker as all three candidates jockey for voter support this year" (Levenson, 3/17).

The Las Vegas Sun: "A parade of Las Vegas anesthesiologists testified Tuesday that cutting their Medicaid rates would mean less service to poor and severely ill patients. Dr. Jonathan Zucker told the televised public hearing that the 45 percent proposed reduction approved by the Nevada Legislature will mean 'decreased access to Medicaid enrollees.' Dr. Elliot Klain said the $37 rate per 15 minute unit hasn't been increased since being set in 1980, yet the cost of doing business has risen. And now it is going down to $21" (Ryan, 3/16).

The New York Times: "A shooting and a beating death linked to medical marijuana have prompted new calls by law enforcement officials and marijuana advocates for Washington State to change how it regulates the drug and protects those who grow and use it. ... In the past week, a man in Orting, Wash., near Tacoma, died after he reportedly was beaten while confronting people trying to steal marijuana plants from his property. On Monday, a prominent medical-marijuana activist shot an armed man who is accused of breaking into his home in a suburban area near Seattle where he grows and distributes marijuana plants" (Yardley, 3/16).

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