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From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'It's Kind Of Important?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'It's Kind Of Important?'" by Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

A PLEA

Congress: Please pass laws
To promote palliative
Care. A. Gawande.

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Summaries Of The News:

Marketplace

5. Private Equity Quietly Takes Over Emergency Services -- And The Consequences Are Dire

The firms have applied cost-cutting, Wall Street-like methods to health care with little oversight or regulation, and vulnerable patients are paying the price.

The New York Times: When You Dial 911 And Wall Street Answers
The business of driving ambulances and operating fire brigades represents just one facet of a profound shift on Wall Street and Main Street alike, a New York Times investigation has found. Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the “corporate raiders” of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life. Today, people interact with private equity when they dial 911, pay their mortgage, play a round of golf or turn on the kitchen tap for a glass of water. Private equity put a unique stamp on these businesses. Unlike other for-profit companies, which often have years of experience making a product or offering a service, private equity is primarily skilled in making money. (Ivory, Protess and Bennett, 6/25)

6. Facing Large Losses, Blue Cross Blue Shield Retreats From Minnesota Marketplace

The state's largest insurer says that it is on track to lose $500 million over three years on policies purchased by individuals.

Minnesota Public Radio: Buying Health Coverage Outside Work? Get Used To Less Choice
Blue Cross this week said it was on track to lose $500 million on individual coverage over three years. That cash hemorrhage was the main reason the company announced it was pulling back on nearly all its offerings for people who buy insurance on their own, outside of work. The decision means some 100,000 Minnesotans will be looking for new health insurance plans for next year. (Moylan, 6/24)

Star-Tribune: Blue Cross Says Individual Market Plans Will Offer Limited Choices Next Year
In a sign of continuing tumult in the health insurance industry, the state’s largest insurer said Thursday it will no longer offer its traditional suite of flexible and broad-reaching policies for those consumers who don’t get coverage through the workplace. Instead, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will sell only health plans with a narrow network, which limits patient coverage to specific doctors, hospitals and prescription drug benefits. (Crosby, 6/24)

Kaiser Health News: Minnesota's Largest Health Insurer To Drop Individual Plans
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will retreat from the sale of health plans to individuals and families in the state starting next year. The insurer, Minnesota's largest, said extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. "Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," the insurer said in an emailed statement. The Blues reported a loss of $265 million on insurance operations from individual market plans in 2015. The insurer said claims for medical care far exceeded premium revenue for those plans. (Zdechlik, 5/27)

7. When Out-Of-Network Doctors Offer Services At In-Network Hospitals, Patients Pay The Price

More and more Americans are getting slapped with sky-high surprise medical bills.

PBS NewsHour: Americans Who Confronted ‘Surprise’ Medical Bills Share Their Stories
Last year, Consumer Reports found 30 percent of Americans with private health insurance have received surprise bills, where their insurance plan paid less than they expected. Of those, 23 percent received a bill from a doctor they didn’t expect to get a bill from. And 14 percent said they were charged higher out-of-network rates by doctors they thought were in-network. (Ponsot and Moritz-Rabson, 6/26)

Meanwhile, Hispanic immigrants in Baltimore are struggling with health care costs —

Kaiser Health News: For Many In Baltimore’s Growing Latino Community, Health Care Is A Challenge
[Cecilia Ramirez's] predicament is shared by thousands of Hispanic immigrants in East Baltimore, and millions nationally, who cannot afford regular medical services and are uninsured because they lack the benefits attached to legal U.S. residency and citizenship. Ramirez’s parents came illegally to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10. Her immigration status now — “lawfully present” — allows her to work and study here without fear of deportation, but she has no path to citizenship. She is ineligible for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act or any public insurance program. (Anft, 6/27)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

8. Ky. Governor's Medicaid Plan Draws Complaints About Impact Of Tougher Eligibility, New Fees

Advocates argue that the changes Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed would drive tens of thousands of low-income residents out of the program. Also in the South, Louisiana is going the other direction and has signed up more than 225,000 people as part of its expansion of Medicaid.

The Fiscal Times: Governor Takes Aim At Kentucky’s Medicaid Expansion Program
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin promised after taking office in January that he would not dismantle his state’s highly successful Medicaid expansion program, despite the Tea Party conservative’s many reservations. However, that hasn’t stopped him from pressing for dramatic changes that would toughen eligibility, reduce benefits, impose new fees and force tens of thousands of low-income adults off the rolls. On Wednesday Bevin unveiled a comprehensive waiver request he is submitting to the Department of Health and Human Services to alter the program – one that startled some health care advocates for the poor. (Pianin, 6/24)

Louisville (Ky.) Courier Journal: Storm Clouds Gather Around Ky Medicaid Plan
Bevin's plan has stirred up a storm among health advocates opposed to changes that would have a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of the 1.3 million Kentuckians on Medicaid -- including the 440,000 people added since 2014 under the expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act. And they are gearing up to fight it during the extensive public comment period required before any action by the federal government, which pays for the majority of Kentucky's $10-billion-a-year Medicaid program and must approve the changes. "Harsh new barriers to coverage," is how Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy described Bevin's complex plan laid out in a 69-page document released Wednesday. (Yetter, 6/24)

The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate: Louisiana Officials Praise Medicaid Expansion; 225,900 Have Signed Up As Of Friday
As of Friday, the state had already hit 225,900, a feat that has been praised by people from across the country. ... Much of the [enrollment] effort has relied on existing infrastructure or help from outside entities. Louisiana became the first state in the country to link Medicaid enrollment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, after having won the approval of the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. ... Louisiana also was able to auto-enroll people benefitting from an existing program in the state’s Take Charge Plus program that primarily provided reproductive health care services, including birth control and sexually transmitted infection testing; as well as the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection, a post-Katrina system of health clinics. (Crisp, 6/26)

Women’s Health

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