State Roundup: Ore. Health Co-Ops To Compete With Big Insurers

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Colorado and California.

Oregonian: Oregon's Upstart Health Co-Ops To Challenge Mainstream Insurers
Armed with hefty federal loans, two startup health insurers are jumping into a crowded and confusing Oregon market just as the biggest changes to U.S. health care in generations roll out this fall. Oregon's Health CO-OP and Health Republic aim to offer something different: a consumer-run experience. The two companies filed new policy details and proposed rates with the state, on oregonhealthrates.org. In October, they will go head-to-head with about a dozen established insurers to appeal to small businesses as well as more than 200,000 expected to buy their own insurance next year (Budnick, 5/13).  

Dallas Morning News: Texas Lawmakers Find Funds For Mental Health, Women’s Care In Budget Talks
Lawmakers dickering over a two-year state budget met late into the night Monday making decisions that affect millions of vulnerable Texans. While the Legislature has rebuffed President Barack Obama’s proposed addition of more than 1 million poor adults to the state's Medicaid rolls, House and Senate budget negotiators approved more money for mental health, protection of abused children and women’s health care (Garrett, 5/14).

Bradenton Herald: Florida Lawmakers Pay Peanuts For Health Insurance
Florida House Republicans last month loudly and proudly rejected billions of dollars in federal money that would have provided health insurance to 1 million poor Floridians. Quietly, they kept their own health insurance premiums staggeringly low. House members will pay just $8.34 a month for state-subsidized health care next year, or $30 a month to cover their entire family (Mitchell, 5/14).

Boston Globe: Citing Backlog, State Health Agency Pleads For Funds
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, reeling from years of budget cuts, has fallen significantly behind in investigating consumer complaints about medical facilities and lacks sufficient staff to conduct safety inspections of every¬≠thing from summer camps to food manufacturers to housing for migrant farm workers. There’s a wait of more than five months for investigating problems reported in Massachusetts hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers, and clinics. Meanwhile, medical and biological waste from roughly 600 biotechnology firms is not being routinely monitored to ensure proper disposal (Lazar, 5/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Autism Center Is Set To Target Need
Children and adults with autism will begin arriving this month at a new autism center tucked into a 214-acre mental-health campus in Westchester County, [New York], which promises to help provide an answer to the piecemeal care currently available to many. The center, run by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the medical schools at Cornell and Columbia universities, attempts to address what experts say is a significant challenge: autism rates are rising around the country but access to treatment lags well behind (Kusisto, 5/13).

Lund Report: Repeal Of Insurers' Unlawful Trade Practices Act Exemption Moves Into Senate
The bill to repeal the insurance industry’s one-of-a-kind exception to Oregon's chief fraud law has moved to the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, where it faces a less certain outcome than in the House. Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, bolstered his case for removing insurers' exemption from the Unlawful Trade Practices Act at the Wednesday hearing, inviting an economic analyst from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's Office to testify on the impact of a 2007 Washington law that enhanced the private right of action (Gray, 5/13).

The Denver Post: Facility Fees Inflate Hospital Prices For Common Services
The first time Jeff Shellan got a cardiac stress test for his troubled heart, the retail price was $2,166. His insurance company agreed to a discounted price of $885, of which Shellan paid $364.  When his doctor suggested a retest a year later, the charge was $8,078, the discounted rate was $3,755, and Shellan's share was $968. Same test. The only difference? Boulder Community Hospital bought the practice of Shellan's cardiologist and added a hefty "facility fee” (Booth, 5/14).

California Healthline: Health Information Sharing Deal Announced
The health information world in California is getting more connected. Many large and small HIE networks have signed an agreement to share information, state officials announced last week at the annual HIE Summit in Sacramento. … For instance, if a VA patient goes on vacation and has an accident and ends up in the emergency department out of the VA network, providers would be able to access critical health information to treat that patient properly (Gorn, 5/13).

California Healthline: $2-Per-Pack Tobacco Tax Clears First Of Legislative Hurdles
California lawmakers chose not to make smokers pay more for health insurance, but they may be more willing to make smokers pay more for cigarettes. A new bill proposing to raise the tax on tobacco by $2 per pack of cigarettes cleared its first two committee votes last week in predictably partisan votes. SB 768, by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would raise the price of cigarettes to more than $8 a pack and generate about $1.4 billion a year. De León proposes the money be used to offset costs of medical care for tobacco-related diseases, anti-tobacco education and smoking-cessation programs (Lauer, 5/13).

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