KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.Y. And Union Reach Deal On Benefits

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The New York Times: Cuomo Secures Big Givebacks In Union Deal
The state's largest public-employee union, acknowledging the pressures on government workers around the nation, agreed on Wednesday to major wage and benefits concessions in a pact to avoid sweeping layoffs. The five-year agreement ... includes a three-year wage freeze, the first furloughs ever for state workers and an increase in the amount employees must pay toward their health insurance. ... State officials expect that, as in the past, the health care changes will also apply to retirees (Hakim, 6/23).

NPR: N.C. Considers Paying Forced Sterilization Victims
Barely 40 years ago, it wasn't uncommon for a single mother on welfare, or a patient in a mental hospital in North Carolina, to be sterilized against her will. ... Nearly 7,600 men, women and children as young as 10 were sterilized under North Carolina's eugenics laws. While other state sterilization laws focused mainly on criminals and people in mental institutions, North Carolina was one of the few to expand its reach to women who were poor. ... North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue has now appointed a task force to consider compensating victims (Rose, 6/22). 

McClatchy / Raleigh News & Observer: Forced Sterilization Victims Testify In North Carolina
From the 1920s to the 1970s, the N.C. Board of Eugenics oversaw the sterilization of nearly 7,600 people. The stories of about a dozen of them, including (Charles) Holt, were told Wednesday to a state task force that will recommend ways to compensate them. Most of the victims are no longer alive; some of their stories were shared by family members in a packed room at a Department of Agriculture office building (Wang, 6/23). 

News Service Of Florida: State May Begin Self-Insuring Workers In HMOs
Looking at potentially tens of millions of dollars in savings, Florida lawmakers this week could move toward restructuring part of the health insurance program for state employees. A joint House and Senate budget committee Friday will consider setting aside more than $19 million that could be used to begin self-insuring HMO coverage. … the state would take on the financial risks of insuring workers, while contracting with HMOs to administer many of the day-to-day operations of the program. Currently, HMOs get paid to take on the financial risks, along with handling the operations (Saunders, 6/21). 

The Texas Tribune: Texas Rule Will Prescribe Fewer Potent Drugs to Kids
Children on Medicaid under the age of three would not be prescribed powerful anti-psychotic drugs without a special authorization, under new rules the state Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) implemented last week. In response to widespread concerns about the number of impoverished Texas kids being prescribed drugs like Seroquel and Risperdal - medications that can have serious side effects in children - prescribing doctors would have to get a prior authorization from the state (Ramshaw, 6/22). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Shutdown Threat Highlights Thin Financial Margin For Nursing Homes
Nursing home officials in Minnesota are breathing a little easier now that Gov. Mark Dayton wants to include nursing homes in a list of essential state services that should be paid if the government shuts down July 1. ... the issue highlights just how thin the financial margin is for many nursing homes. Many rely heavily on state Medical Assistance payments, operating check-to-check with few or no reserves to bail them out in an emergency (Benson, 6/23). 

Des Moines Register/AP: Iowa Senate Approves Medicaid Spending Plan
The Iowa Senate has approved a package calling for the state to spend $1.1 billion on Medicaid, a program shared with the federal government that provides health care for poor and elderly people. The Medicaid spending was part of a $1.5 billion measure funding human services programs. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, approved the measure Wednesday on a 26-23 vote and sent it to the House, which has approved a different version (6/22). 

HealthyCal: AB 52 Would Regulate Insurance Rates
As health insurance premiums continue to escalate, consumer groups and patient advocates are asking the California Legislature to regulate the price of coverage. Yet outspoken opponents - including health insurers, doctors and hospitals - claim that rate regulation may not lower rates and could instead harm the quality of care Californians receive. Earlier this month the California Assembly passed AB 52, which would give two state agencies the power to approve or reject rate increases (Perry, 6/22).

Kansas Health Institute News: Health Insurance Exchange Hinges On Legislative Support
The federal health reform law requires that all 50 states have a health insurance exchange plan in place by Jan. 1, 2013 and an operational exchange by Jan. 1, 2014. Kansas may not make the deadlines. ... If the Affordable Care Act is not struck down as unconstitutional, states that don't meet the deadlines will have a federally designed system imposed upon them. [Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger] met Wednesday with more than 20 members of a steering committee charged with assembling the basic framework for a Kansas-specific exchange and a plan to present to the Kansas Legislature (Ranney, 6/22). 

The Oregonian: Bill To Transform, Lower Cost Of Medicaid Moves Forward In Oregon Legislature
With pressure mounting to adjourn this week, Oregon lawmakers took the first significant step late Wednesday to approve a bill that sets the stage for dramatic changes to the state's Medicaid system. Known around the Capitol as health care "transformation," the bill requires the state to set up a new, less expensive medical insurance program next year for more than 600,000 low-income and disabled residents on the Oregon Health Plan (Esteve, 6/22). 

The Lund Report (Oregon): Healthcare Transformation Bill Moves Forward
Within seconds of the vote, Governor John Kitzhaber released a press statement lauding the vote. "The Legislature's action today is critical to ensuring that Oregonians get better healthcare at a lower cost," the paragraph-long press statement read. "The bipartisan leadership that has brought us to this point demonstrates just how effective we can be at addressing the real issues facing our state when Democrats and Republicans come together"  (Waldroupe, 6/22). 

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