States Roundup: Aetna Goes Ahead With Small Biz Coverage Hike

A selection of health policy stories from around the U.S.

The Sacramento Bee: Aetna Proceeds With Health Insurance Hike For Small Businesses
Despite criticism from the state insurance commissioner and several statewide consumer groups, Aetna said Thursday it's going ahead with a recent hike in health care premiums for small businesses. Aetna's new increases, which average 8 percent annually and took effect April 1, were deemed "unreasonable" this week by state Department of Insurance Commissioner David Jones (Buck, 4/6).

The California Report: Insurance Commissioner Calls Aetna Rate Hike "Unreasonable"
If you were a California business making nearly 28 percent profit, would you change your business strategy if someone asked you nicely? Probably not. In a nutshell, that's what's going on between California's Department of Insurance and the health care insurer Aetna (Menghrajani, 4/6).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: 1.2 Million Texas Children Still Without Insurance
More than 1 million Texas children remain without health insurance, and those kids are not getting the care they need. The startling condition of the state's children came into vivid focus last week with the release of the annual Kids Count survey. The analysis of official state and federal data by the non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities found that 1.2 million Texas children have neither private nor public health insurance (4/8).

Houston Chronicle: Medical Board's Proposed Stem-Cell Policy Under Fire
Texas' proposed adult stem-cell regulations, up for approval this week, are under fire for circumventing the Food and Drug Administration and making the experimental therapy commercially available before it's been proven safe and effective. The criticism of the Texas Medical Board draft policy, developed in the aftermath of Gov. Rick Perry receiving stem-cell treatment for his back problems, is coming from a host of pre-eminent scientists and institutions, including the influential scientific journal Nature and the International Society for Stem Cell Research (Ackerman, 4/9).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: Immigrants Begin To Join Health Care Plan
The agency overseeing the state's landmark health care law has begun enrolling thousands of legal immigrants into the subsidized insurance program after the state's highest court ruled that lawmakers unconstitutionally denied the benefit to foreign-born residents who have been in the country for less than five years. State lawmakers voted in 2009 to cut funding for low-income immigrants enrolled in Commonwealth Care because the federal government does not reimburse states for dental, hospice, skilled-nursing care, and other costs incurred by foreign-born residents living in the country for less than five years (Ngwoi, 4/7).

Kaiser Health News: In Kansas, No Consensus On How To End 'Dental Deserts'
In an ongoing disagreement over how to solve dental care access problems in Kansas, there is one thing no one disputes: the great need (Thompson, 4/8).

Arizona Republic: Maricopa Agency For Inmate Care Regains Credentials
The Maricopa County agency that treats jail inmates has earned back its national accreditation for its quality of care at all six county jails after losing the status three years ago. County officials said better documentation, improved communication between the health-care organization and Sheriff's Office, and more staffing helped Correctional Health Services get reaccredited (Lee and Hensley, 4/7).

Arizona Republic: Critics Cast Doubt On New Ariz. Prison Health-Care Contractor
The private contractor taking over health care in Arizona's prisons promises significant improvements in care while saving money, in effect saying it will do more with less. But critics charge that Wexford Health Sources' record elsewhere suggests that sometimes it fails to live up to its promises and may do less with less. Arizona's Department of Corrections, fighting a federal lawsuit that accuses it of providing grossly inadequate health care, issued a contract to Wexford this week as part of the state Legislature's attempts to save money by privatizing prison health care (Ortega, 4/6).

Los Angeles Times: Task Force Seeks To Change California's Mental Health Commitment Law
California's pioneering Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, passed in 1967, gave legal rights to those who previously could have been locked up indefinitely and treated against their will. But the task force -- made up of family members, mental health professionals, judges and public defenders -- contends that the law has failed those unable or unwilling to seek help. They are calling for sweeping changes that would allow the involuntary commitment of those deemed incapable of making treatment decisions, expand the use of conservatorships, lengthen involuntary hospital stays and standardize the checkerboard way the law has been applied from county to county (Romney, 4/8).

Des Moines Register: Health Care Jobs Surge During Recession
Iowa's health care industry is about as close to being recession-proof as you can get. Despite continuing structural and financial changes, it was the only Iowa industry to add significant numbers of new jobs during the recession. ... Although health care continues to add jobs, the types of jobs are changing as the industry is pulled and pushed by shifting demographics, new technology and cuts in government funding (Elbert, 4/7).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Mayo Supporters: Lab-Tax Exemption Means More Money For Research
Every day, thousands of medical specimens are flown in from around the country - and even from around the world - for analysis at a lab in Rochester, Minn….Currently, the lab must pay a 2 percent tax on all out-of-state samples analyzed in Rochester because of the state's health care provider tax. Mayo Clinic officials are seeking a tax break for these samples, saying the tax is putting their lab at a competitive disadvantage (Snowbeck, 4/8).

The Miami Herald: Pediatric Specialists A Huge Issue At Jackson Health System
The departures of the two doctors -- University of Miami faculty members in the field of pediatric cardiac anesthesiology -- led to an informal agreement between UM and Jackson that seemed to benefit both. … As the two Miami-Dade institutions try to forge a new, more formal agreement -- not just for anesthesiologists but for all doctor services -- the case of the pediatric anesthesiologists illustrates the problems that have dogged the complicated relationship for years (Dorschner, 4/8).

Florida Sun Sentinel: Up To One-Third Of Patients Don't Fill Prescriptions
South Florida has a larger-than-average problem with patients who skip medications, refuse to take them or take them incorrectly, according to health officials involved in the issue. Nationally, several studies since 2010 show that between one-quarter and one-third of patients never fill new prescriptions from their doctors, because they can't afford them, fear them, don't think they work or don't think they are necessary (LaMendola, 4/8).

The Lund Report (an Ore. news service): Intersection Of Public Health And CCOs Discussed During Public Health Week
A panel discussion about public health's role in coordinated care organizations stressed the need for public health departments to use concrete, factual and evidence-based arguments to help define their roles within those organizations. "The challenge for public health…is to really make sure we can deliver things that matter to the people making the decisions about how resources are distributed," said Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), a panel participant who had a career in public health before being elected (Waldroupe, 4/6).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.