KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Medicaid Bill Headed For Florida Senate Floor

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: At Nursing Homes, Fears Of Budget 'Armageddon'
The Texas Legislature is faced with a budget challenge that has pitted the Republican majority's desire to cut government spending against a vulnerable target: nursing homes (Tan, 4/14).

Dallas Morning News: Senate Panel Puts Back Money For Texas Nursing Homes
Deep and possibly fatal cuts to nursing homes would be all but erased under the latest social services budget embraced by Senate budget writers late Thursday. As nursing home lobbyists celebrated, the Senate Finance Committee took away all of a 33 percent cut proposed in GOP leaders' initial (Garrett, 4/14).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medicaid Meeting Results In Variety Of Suggestions
Raising co-payments, putting more effort into preventing fraud and raising the beer tax were just a few of the initial suggestions proposed Thursday at a town hall meeting on ways to eliminate a shortfall in the proposed budget for state health programs. Dennis Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, and Kitty Rhoades, deputy secretary, are holding listening sessions throughout the state to gather ideas about how to find $600 million in savings over the next two years from the Medicaid programs (Boulton, 4/14).

Kansas Health Institute: KDoA Looking At Fraud And Waste
The Kansas Department of Aging will close its Lawrence office in June when the current lease on the space expires and also is starting new programs to counter fraud and waste as part of agency belt tightening that led to at least a dozen lay-offs earlier this week. In a statement released today by the agency to KHI News Service, officials said they were working with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to launch new, "program integrity," initiatives aimed at preventing fraud and waste. That includes implementing an "electronic visit verification system," that would require caregivers to "clock-in" when they provide in-home services to seniors (4/13).

Health News Florida: Sen. Medicaid Bill Headed To Floor
With negotiations looming with the House, the Senate Budget Committee approved a massive Medicaid overhaul Thursday that would try to slam the brakes on health care spending. The bill includes a controversial proposal that would cap the amount of money the state spends each year on Medicaid and force mid-year cuts if costs go up. The proposal could be a key issue as lawmakers try to reach agreement in the coming weeks on a final Medicaid plan (Saunders, 4/15).

Health News Florida: House Tees Up FMA's Malpractice Relief Bill
A House committee Thursday expanded a bill that would help doctors and hospitals fight medical-malpractice lawsuits. The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-3 to approve HB 479, after making a controversial change that would give defense attorneys a new tool in gathering information about patients in medical-malpractice cases. Also, the committee added legal protections for doctors who volunteer to work with high-school athletics teams (Saunders, 4/15).

The Miami Herald: HMOs Win In Medicaid Bill; The Sick, Trial Lawyers Lose
More HMOs. Less care for transplant patients. Lawsuit limitations.The Medicaid reform bill passed Thursday along party lines in the Florida Senate's budget committee is so loaded with controversy that parts of it won't pass the Florida House. Or the federal government, which pays for most than half the program, could reject the plan entirely (Caputo, 4/14).

St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald: Gov. Rick Scott To Rescind Order To Cut Payments For Disability Services
Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he would rescind his order to cut state payments for disability services after House and Senate leaders agreed to fill a $174 million deficit. The announcement comes two weeks after Scott informed lawmakers he would invoke emergency powers and cut up to 40 percent the rates charged by group homes and case workers who help the developmentally disabled (Bender and Caputo, 4/14).

The Texas Tribune: Doctors, Chiropractors Square Off Over Bill
After a fierce fight, the state's leading physician groups won a change in legislation backed predominantly by Texas chiropractors. ... As originally drafted, SB 1001 would have prohibited one health care licensing agency - say, the Texas Medical Board - from suing a practitioner who was overseen by a second licensing agency - say, the Board of Chiropractic Examiners - if the second agency had already determined the practitioner was in compliance with state law. (Sen. John) Carona's amendment removed those provisions. SB 1001 is designed to let health care practitioners create business partnerships with practicing physicians (Ramshaw and Aaronson, 4/14).

The Associated Press/New Jersey Star Ledger: U.S. To Pick Up Half N.J.'s Tab For Adult Medicaid, Saving State More Than $300M
The federal government has agreed to pay for half of the state's Medicaid program for low-income, childless adults through 2013, saving New Jersey more than $300 million. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made the announcement today. It said the 50 percent matching grant is effective immediately and runs through the end of 2013. ... New Jersey is one of a few states that already offers Medicaid to low-income adults who make up to a quarter of the federal poverty level, or about $140 a month. ... Details of the waiver haven't been publicized, but it is expected to look like one that was granted to Rhode Island days before President George W. Bush left office. Rhode Island's waiver set a $12 billion cap on Medicaid spending over five years. Instead of having the federal government reimburse Rhode Island more than 50 cents for every dollar the state spends to care for the needy, disabled and elderly, the state got the federal money in a lump sum and won the freedom to use Medicaid funding in new ways (4/14).

Connecticut Mirror: Katz Proposes Expanding Use Of Psychiatric Facilities For Children
In the face of calls to close Connecticut's two state-run youth psychiatric facilities, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz proposed Thursday not only to keep them open, but also to expand their utilization. The move drew tentative support both from children's advocates and from legislative Republicans who have pushed to close the facilities. ... In a report released Thursday, Katz proposed filling more empty beds at Riverview Hospital in Middletown and Connecticut Children's Place in Windsor by establishing new programs to provide lower-level mental health treatment (Rabe, 4/15).

WBUR (audio): State-Subsidized Health Contracts See Lower Costs, Fewer Choices
What would it take to hold health insurance premiums flat for one year - or maybe even a small decrease? Massachusetts has a glimpse of that with the latest contracts state regulators approved Thursday to provide insurance to low- and moderate-income residents who qualify for Commonwealth Care, the state's subsidized insurance program (Bebinger, 4/14).

WBUR: House Budget Plan Includes Nearly $2B Of Cuts, Savings
House budget leaders say they are spreading the pain in the $30 billion budget released Wednesday. ... The House has adopted the governor's plan to trim [Medicaid] spending by $800 million. ... Massachusetts, unlike some other states, isn't freezing enrollment or capping benefits, for which advocates are grateful. But Health Care for All Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer said proposed cuts in dental care for low-income adults, early intervention services for children and the elimination of a coverage for legal immigrants must be reconsidered (Bebinger, 4/14).

California Healthline: Trying To Bridge Gap Between Direct Hiring, Access
It's a bill that keeps coming up ... [it] attempts to address the shortage of physicians in underserved and rural areas by allowing some hospitals in those districts to hire them directly. The idea is medical facilities would be better able to attract physicians - particularly primary care doctors - if they were allowed to negotiate directly with them. ... Primary opposition to this bill comes from physicians who worry that if physicians become hospital employees, hospital administrators would have more influence over physicians and their medical decisions (Gorn, 4/14).

The Detroit Free Press: Effort To Overturn Decision Granting Health Care Benefits To Domestic Partners Fails In State House
A final attempt to overturn a controversial decision by the state Civil Service Commission to authorize health care benefits for domestic partners of state employees fell short in the state House on Thursday. The House voted 66-41 - mostly along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed - to reverse the commission, but fell short of the 74-vote, two-thirds majority needed to override the commission. The Senate approved the resolution last month (Bell, 4/15).

Des Moines Register: Panel Advances Mental Health Care Bill
A framework would be established for reforming Iowa's mental health care system under a bill that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The proposal, Senate File 481, was sent to the Iowa Senate floor for debate. The bill calls for the Iowa Department of Human Services to come up with a plan by Dec. 15 to redesign Iowa's mental health system. The Iowa Legislature would be asked to take action on the recommendations during its 2012 session, with the new system implemented by July 1, 2013. Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, heads an appropriations subcommittee that has studied Iowa mental health system issues. He said the bill would shift Iowa from a county-based mental health system to a statewide system that would be regionally administered but locally delivered (Petroski, 4/14).

Las Vegas Sun: Health Care Transparency Bills Clear State Senate Committee
A package of health care reform and transparency bills passed a key milestone in the state Senate on Thursday night, creating a "magnificent compliment of bills," one sponsor said. "I'm thrilled to see how they came together," said [state] Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas. The Nevada Hospital Association and health care advocates had been at odds over how data should be reported. Hospitals wanted infection rates to be published, while health care advocates wanted raw numbers to be posted, so Nevada's data could be compared to national figures. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services amended the bills so that both the raw numbers and the rates of infection, per thousand patient bed days, will be reported. "This package of bills, taken together, significantly improves health care quality in Nevada," said state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno (McGrath Schwartz, 4/14). 

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