KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Feds Rank Texas Last In Health Care Delivery

Houston Chronicle: Feds Rank Texas Worst Health Care Provider
Texas ranked dead last in the federal government's latest report card on the delivery of health services, falling short in areas ranging from acute hospital care to home treatment of the chronically ill. Texas scored 31.61 -- less than half of top-ranked Minnesota's 67.31 -- out of a possible 100 points in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality annual rankings. Rated "weak" or "very weak" in nine of 12 health delivery categories, Texas dropped from 47th place in 2010 to 51st in 2011, behind all other states and Washington, D.C. (Ackerman and Walczak, 7/5).

Associated Press/The Dallas Morning News: Federal Agency Ranks Texas At Bottom For Health Care
Texas ranks worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality…. The agency identified 155 areas where it could compare the quality of health services across the country, such as infant mortality and obesity rates. Researchers used that data to generate both national and regional averages for each area, and they then compared each state to the national and regional averages to generate a score (7/5).

Boston Globe: Health Care, Education Consume 63 Percent Of Planned State Budget
With the Medicaid program, subsidized insurance under the 2006 health care access reform law, and investments in state employee health insurance and public health programs, health care spending this fiscal year is on pace to rise to 43 percent of the overall state budget, according to an analysis of the spending bill being reviewed by Governor Deval Patrick. One in five Massachusetts residents will have their health care largely covered through the budget, and taxpayer-supported health care costs next year will gobble up most of new discretionary state revenue, hitting $15.14 billion, up from $14.65 billion (Norton, 7/6).

Detroit Free Press: Labor Activists Say They’ve Collected Enough Signatures To Put Home Health Workers Measure On The Ballot
A labor-backed coalition of advocates for home health care for elderly and disabled people said Thursday it has collected more than a half million signatures on petitions to amend the state Constitution to regulate safety and training for home care workers and guarantee those workers' collective-bargaining rights. Representatives of Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care said at a news conference that they expect to submit about 550,000 signatures to the Secretary of State within the next few days. To qualify for the Nov. 6 general election, state elections officials need to certify that the petitions contain at least 322,609 signatures from registered voters (Bell, 7/6).

St. Louis Beacon: Missouri Consumers To Get $60 Million In Rebates On Insurance Premiums Under the ACA
Many consumers will get rebates on their health insurance premiums now that the Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The law says consumers must get any rebates by Aug. 1 of each year in cases where insurers failed to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical services (Joiner, 7/5).

Denver Post: The New Chief Of Denver Health Was Ousted In San Diego Clash
The newly appointed chief of Denver Health was ousted from a community hospital near San Diego in 2009 amid deteriorating finances, though supporters of Arthur Gonzalez say the move was political and that his past was fully vetted by Denver and others (Booth, 7/6).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Beat: Minn. Aims To Refocus Its Aid For Most Frail
State planners are seeking public reaction to a sweeping proposal they say would better target human services spending for frail and aged Minnesotans at a time of tight government budgets. The 144-page report, "Reform 2020: Pathways to Independence," by the Department of Human Services (DHS), follows the Legislature's directive early this year to seek federal permission to better target home- and community-based programs. The state-federal Medicaid program will spend $8.5 billion this year on about 733,000 Minnesotans, many of them elderly or disabled; federal approval is required for many of the changes (Wolfe, 7/5).

California Watch: Rebuffed In California’s High Desert, Prime Healthcare Expands Out Of State
In recent months, Southern California-based Prime Healthcare Services has bought financially troubled hospitals in Nevada, Texas and Pennsylvania. But the rapidly expanding hospital chain hit a speed bump on its home turf in San Bernardino County, where a bankruptcy judge bypassed Prime's nonprofit foundation and steered the sale of 101-bed Victor Valley Community Hospital to a local investment group. Judge Catherine Bauer’s decision, reached last week, was a setback in Prime’s long-running legal fight to acquire the bankrupt nonprofit hospital in Victorville, east of Los Angeles -- and, perhaps, to continue its expansion in the Golden State (Williams, 7/6).

California Healthline: Committee Moves Stop-Loss Bill Forward
Stop-loss health insurance is a way for small-business employers to offer a form of health care insurance to employees while limiting risk. The trouble with that, according to Senate member Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), is that the low risk incurred by stop-loss insurers could mean higher rates for the rest of California. … Basically, stop-loss coverage allows insurers to cherry-pick or adversely select the youngest and healthiest consumers with low rates, which makes rates rise for everyone else, De León said. De León has introduced SB 1431, which would place some limits on stop-loss insurance. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, speaking at the committee hearing, said stop-loss insurance threatens the success of the state's benefit exchange (Gorn, 7/6).

California Healthline: Targeting Technology To Treat Senior Population
California faces a challenge as the number of seniors in the state and the costs to provide medical care for them continue to rise. With 6.4 million seniors -- including about 1.1 million who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare -- health officials are scrambling to provide care more effectively so existing money can be stretched to accommodate more heavy users of health care. One way to deliver more efficient health care is wider use of better technology, according to Scott Peifer, executive director of AgeTech California, a new, tech-minded organization designed to do just that (Gorn, 7/5).

Health News Florida: Doctors' Names Hijacked In Ads
Without their knowledge, Florida's largest insurer and scores of doctors, dentists and lawyers in the state were listed as advertisers on a controversial website promoted by an alleged scam artist who is now behind bars. The use of their names not only brought the promoter revenue but also made him look legitimate. The incident offers a cautionary tale about how today's Internet advertising practices can place professionals and corporations at risk of appearing to promote companies or causes that are controversial or even criminal (Gentry and Watts, 7/6).

The Lund Report: Regence Seeks Rate Hikes In Washington And Oregon In The Individual Market
Regence BlueCross BlueShield is after rate hikes in both Oregon and Washington for people who purchase their own coverage. A public hearing on a rate request impacting close to 53,000 Oregonians is scheduled for 3 p.m., July 30 in Salem. If approved, that 9.6 average increase would take effect in December. Nearly 90,000 people in Washington could also end up seeing their costs increase by 14.7 percent on October 1 (Lund-Muzikant, 7/6).

The Lund Report: Oregon Insurers Increase Their Net Income Despite Membership Losses
For the second consecutive year, Oregon's seven domestic health insurers saw a decrease in their overall net income, but still found themselves on pace to achieve financial prosperity in 2012. At the end of March, there were 1,544,560 Oregonians insured through individual or group policies, down 24,399 -- by 1.6 percent -- compared to the same time last year, according to financial data released by the Oregon Insurance Division (Thomas, 7/5).

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