KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 18, 2010

In today's headlines, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners takes action on key recommendations related to health reform implementation.

Health Insurance Costs Rise Sharply For Unemployed As COBRA Subsidy Ends
Kaiser Health News staff writers Andrew Villegas and Phil Galewitz, writing in collaboration with USA Today, report on the status of health insurance assistance for the unemployed: "Jennifer Richards of Park Ridge, Ill., is angry that her family's monthly health insurance bill tripled in August to $1,250 after her husband lost his job and health benefits. But as bad as that is, what really upsets her is the inaction of Congress" (Kaiser Health News). 

Commissioners OK Health Rate Plan
It was a rare moment in the drawn out and highly partisan health care debate: a unanimous vote. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners approved Tuesday morning a preliminary outline of what insurers will be able to count as medical costs, a document necessitated by the health reform bill's requirement that insurers spend at least 85 percent of subscriber premiums on medical costs in the large group market and 80 percent for small group and individual plans (Politico).

State Regulators' Vote On Medical Loss Ratio Upsets Insurers
The health insurance industry on Tuesday criticized state regulators for adopting a narrow category for what health plans can count as medical care and quality improvements when calculating their medical loss ratios (The Hill's Healthwatch Blog).

Health Centers To Get $250 Million In Grants To Build Clinics, Boost Services
Health centers across the country are lining up for a shot in the arm from the Obama administration: $250 million in federal grants to build clinics and bolster services at existing clinics for low-income patients such as public housing residents, the homeless, seasonal farmworkers and others who struggle to pay for care (The Washington Post). 

Who In Massachusetts Doesn't Have Health Insurance?
Massachusetts has almost-universal health coverage - just 4.1% of its residents went without insurance in 2008. That's way better than any other state, in terms of access (The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog).

Healing Rural Patients With A Dose Of Broadband
Millions of Americans who live in rural areas travel long distances to get health care. Or they may go without it. But high-speed Internet connections now make it possible to bring a doctor's expertise to patients in far-off places, if those places are connected (NPR). 

LA County Supervisors Call For Increased Patient Safety Measures
Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday ordered improvements intended to shore up patient safety at the county's hospitals and clinics after reviewing a study commissioned to look at malpractice payouts (Los Angeles Times).

Fired Nurse Sues Hospital
Margaret "Peg" O'Connor, a nurse who worked at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth for more than 38 years, said she was fired in May for doing the right thing. She reported a violation by the hospital that allegedly put a pregnant patient and her unborn twins at risk (The Boston Globe).

Wisconsin Makes Push On Free Birth Control
Wisconsin is pushing to expand a controversial program that uses federal Medicaid funds to provide free birth-control pills, vasectomies and other forms of contraception to low-income people, an effort made possible by the federal health-care overhaul (The Wall Street Journal).

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