KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Insurer Drops Coverage Of Breast Cancer Drug

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

The New York Times: Blue Shield Of California Won't Cover Breast Cancer Drug
Blue Shield of California will no longer pay for the use of the drug Avastin to treat breast cancer, a sign that support for the widely debated and expensive treatment may be eroding among health plans (Pollack, 10/2).

Los Angeles Times: Individual Insurance May Have To Cover Maternity Care
Although HMOs and employer-based insurance policies in California are required to include maternity care, individual policies are not. That leaves women who are self-employed or not covered at work with few options, including paying out of pocket for pregnancy and childbirth costs. A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk would change that, mandating that insurance plans in the individual market cover maternity care (Gorman, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News: Vermont Edges Toward Single Payer Health Care
Starting now, Vermont begins building a single-payer health system that will move many state residents into a publicly financed insurance program and pay hospitals, doctors and other providers a set fee to care for patients (Marcy, 10/2).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Budget Slashing Reshapes State
Arizona's budget deficits were like a house on fire, lawmakers say, and they responded in kind, dousing the fiscal flames without time to weigh the possible impact. ... The most-recent cuts took effect this summer as the fiscal 2012 budget year began. Most notably, the state froze enrollment in a health-insurance program for childless adults as part of a bid to save $500 million in state spending. Like many budget moves, it triggered a lawsuit (Pitzl, 10/2).

The Hill: NH Council Demands HHS Nix Grant To Planned Parenthood
A majority of the New Hampshire Executive Council is demanding that the Obama administration cancel a $1.1 million grant to Planned Parenthood that was awarded over the state's objections. The council voted 3-2 in June to terminate a $1.8 million annual grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England over concerns about taxpayer funding for abortion. ... In a letter to HHS officials and the Government Accountability Office, the three members who voted to terminate the funding blasted HHS for a decision they call "improper, irregular, unnecessary, in contravention of the authority of the Executive Council and its duly elected members, and in absolute disregard of the sovereignty of the State of New Hampshire" (Pecquet, 9/30).

San Francisco Chronicle: Closing SF Health Care Loophole Debate Heats Up
A proposal to close a loophole in the San Francisco law mandating employers provide some funding for workers' health care costs now has the backing of a Board of Supervisors' majority and an all-but promised veto by Mayor Ed Lee. The board is scheduled Tuesday to take the first of two votes on whether to amend the city's Health Care Security Ordinance. The change, businesses argue, is a jobs killer that could cost them millions of dollars. The San Francisco Labor Council and workers rights advocates say it's a matter of fairness (Gordon, 10/1).

Houston Chronicle: Perry Wants To Put Stem Cells Therapy To The Test In Texas
In his latest defiance of the federal government, Gov. Rick Perry is trying to make Texas the nation's top provider of an unlicensed therapy touted by some as the future of medicine but considered not close to ready for mainstream use by scientists in the field. Perry this summer worked with his Houston doctor and a state legislator with multiple sclerosis to write legislation intended to commercialize the controversial therapy, which involves injecting patients with their own stem cells. Perry quietly got the therapy as part of back surgery in July (Ackerman, 10/2).

Georgia Health News: Grady Faces Inspection After Deadly Fall
A federal agency told Grady Memorial Hospital officials this week that it will conduct an unannounced survey of the Atlanta safety-net facility in the wake of a patient's death in a fall from an 11th-floor window. The visit, which could occur at any time, is to ensure that Grady meets the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) "Conditions of Participation" –  to continue to receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid (Miller, 9/30).

California HealthWatch: How Long Can We Avoid Long-Term Care?
At a conference in Sacramento last week, advocates kept calling it a crisis in care in California -- and at the same time acknowledging that citizens' and policymakers' eyes seem to glaze over whenever the subject of long-term care comes up. ... One of the touchstones of the conference was that the long-term care world needs a new, less scary way of framing the issue -- it needs to develop a new language (Gorn, 10/3).

WBUR: In Mass., A Major Shift To Public Health Insurance
In the early years of Massachusetts health care reform, the motto was "shared responsibility." It was the view that individuals, employers and state government all played in expanding coverage for the uninsured. ... In reality, shared responsibility for the uninsured in Massachusetts has quietly disappeared. The latest numbers show that virtually all Massachusetts residents who have gained coverage since the landmark 2006 law passed are now in a government health care program (Bebinger, 10/3).

The Sacramento Bee: Judge Rules Sacramento County Must Pay Hospital Care For Indigent Residents
A judge has ruled that Sacramento County must pay for medical care that UC Davis Medical Center provided to indigent county residents since mid-2008, costs estimated so far at tens of millions of dollars. The ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly, issued Monday and announced Thursday by the UC Davis Health System, caps years of conflict over the county's decision to stop reimbursing for care given patients under the county's Medically Indigent Services Program (Kalb, 10/2).

Tulsa World: Rural Oklahoma Health-Care Needs Underserved, Areas Lack Specialists
These and many other significant geographic disparities in the number of doctors per capita exist within Tulsa and the state. Specialists, including cardiologists and oncologists, are clustered in metropolitan areas of Oklahoma but are scarce or nonexistent in rural areas of the state, according to a Tulsa World analysis. The World reviewed data from the Oklahoma Medical Board of Licensure and Supervision and the Oklahoma State Board of Osteopathic Examiners (Muchmore, 10/2). 

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