KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

About 3 Million Lose Health Coverage In California

San Francisco Chronicle: "About 3 million poor Californians lost health benefits or access to health care, and thousands more lost their jobs due to state budget cuts imposed six months ago, according to a report released Thursday. The report, issued by Health Access California -- a health care advocacy group -- analyzed the effects of nearly $2 billion in annual funding cuts from the state's health care system. In July, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a budget that shaved a total of $24 billion from the state's annual spending plan. Today, the governor is set to release a spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year that is expected to include even deeper cuts to health and human services" (Lagos, 1/8). 

The Boston Globe: "With rising health care costs burdening the country, Governor Deval Patrick's attempt to find out what can be done about them is being met with resounding silence from many of the state's health care executives. Leaders of some of the state's largest hospitals failed to show up at a public hearing yesterday to answer regulators' questions about what is driving up costs. A month earlier, officials of the state's major insurance companies testified at an earlier set of hearings, but refused to answer many key questions. The hearings on hospital costs, which conclude Tuesday, are part of a three-month probe by the Patrick administration that started as an investigation into the reasons for the disproportionately high health insurance rates paid by small businesses, but has since mushroomed into a larger, system wide inquiry" (Lazar, 1/8). 

The New York Times: "New York City, the Justice Department and lawyers representing mentally ill patients at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, where a 49-year-old woman died in 2008 while waiting for treatment, said on Thursday that they had reached an agreement allowing a federal judge to monitor conditions at the hospital." During a Thursday conference call, "lawyers for the city, the federal government and the patients confirmed that they had agreed on a consent decree that would require changes at the hospital and a timeline for enacting them. The conference call was broadcast in the courtroom. ... The proposed settlement comes after two and a half years of bitter litigation over conditions at the hospital. The lawsuit, filed in May 2007, called the psychiatric unit of Kings County, a city-run hospital, a 'chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger'" (Hartocollis, 1/7).

The New York Times, in a separate story: "To chip away at an overwhelming budget deficit, Miami's public hospital system stopped paying for kidney dialysis for the indigent this week, officials said, leaving some patients to rely on emergency rooms for their life-sustaining treatments. A total of 175 patients were affected by the decision by Jackson Health System, which runs South Florida's largest charity hospital, Jackson Memorial, and a number of smaller hospitals and clinics. The situation at Jackson is similar to that at Atlanta's public hospital, Grady Memorial, which closed its outpatient dialysis clinic in early October to curb costs. ... Federal law requires that emergency rooms treat patients in serious medical jeopardy, regardless of their ability to pay. For patients with end-stage kidney disease, going without dialysis can prove fatal in as little as two weeks" (Sack, 1/7).

Des Moines Register: "The request is part of a complicated plan to bring in more federal money for health care. Here's how it would work: Legislators would impose a 'provider assessment' on the hospitals, raising about $40 million. The state would spend most of the proceeds on Medicaid, the joint federal and state health insurance program for the poor. The increased state spending on Medicaid would trigger increased support from the federal government, which pays about two-thirds of the program's costs. Much of the extra federal money would flow back to the hospitals in the form of increased payments for care they provide to Medicaid recipients. The Iowa Hospital Association, which backs the idea, says the state also would benefit from the arrangement. The association estimates that after the hospitals reap their reward, the state could wind up with about $65 million" (Leys, 1/8).

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