A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New York and North Carolina.
Boston Globe: Health Costs In Mass. Are Heading Upward
After several years of moderating costs, there are signs the rate of increase in Massachusetts health care prices -- and insurance premiums -- may soon start accelerating again, exceeding a heralded cost cap set by the state last year. Three factors are threatening to push residents' annual health care costs up faster than the state's overall rate of economic growth: First, health insurers in Massachusetts estimate the "medical cost trend" -- an industry measure based on the price of services and the volume of doctor visits, procedures, and tests -- will rise between 6 and 12 percent this year. That would be more than double the state's anticipated rate of economic growth (Weisman, 3/4).
MPR News: Review Raises Questions About Payment Rates To HMOs
A review of how the [Minn. Gov. Tim] Pawlenty administration set payment rates for HMOs managing care for public health programs raises questions about high profit margins for the private health plans. The audit is one of several underway and comes in response to questions from the federal government about whether the state's managed care contracts for public programs have been too generous. The report by Segal Company, an actuarial consulting firm, said the Pawlenty administration, the state's actuary and the federal government all missed opportunities to hold down payment rates (Stawicki, 3/1).
California Healthline: Geographic Regions Set At Six, But Only For Now
Floor votes in the Assembly and Senate [last week] approved the first bills of the special session on health care. The bills would eliminate pre-existing conditions as a means for denying health insurance coverage. They also would establish new geographic rating regions to help determine variable rates by area in California, one provision in the bills that recently has become contentious. The Assembly passed ABX1-2 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on a 53-25 vote. The Senate passed its version of the bill, SBX1-2 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), where the vote was 26-10-1. Most of the objections raised [last week] on the Senate and Assembly floors to the two bills came from Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act (Gorn, 3/1).
Los Angeles Times: Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris Urges Funding For Prescription Tracking
Calling prescription drug abuse an urgent public health problem, California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is pushing lawmakers to fund an effort to identify physicians who recklessly prescribe addictive medications (Girion and Glover, 3/3).