KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Fla., CMS Discuss Medicaid Managed Care Options

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

Politico Pro: Florida, CMS Negotiate On Medicaid Plan
A Florida proposal to shift nearly all of its 3 million Medicaid patients into managed care is emerging as a national test case for how lenient CMS will be as cash-strapped states look for savings in their most expensive health program. CMS and Florida officials met this week to address concerns about a five-county managed care pilot program that Florida is seeking to expand statewide. And what has been a steady drumbeat of opposition to the plan grew louder Friday, as the Florida Medical Association sent a letter to CMS asking the agency to stop the Medicaid overhaul in its tracks (Norman, 8/19).

California Healthline: Budget Trailer Bills Might Rescue Healthy Families Program
When faced with running a large children's program on about $390 million less than you had before, how many beneficiaries will you be forced to drop? That's the question facing the Healthy Families program, which is considering a substantial disenrollment of the 870,000 children currently in the program (Gorn, 8/19).

Las Vegas Review-Journal: State Gets Grant To Design Health Care Acquisition System
The state has received a $4 million federal grant to design a system that will help uninsured Nevadans shop for health insurance. Charles Duarte, administrator of the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, said Friday his agency will seek another grant in December of up to $30 million to carry out provisions of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress last year. The money will be used to create a state agency, find office space and staff and develop the infrastructure needed to implement the health care law by 2014 (Vogel, 8/19). 

Health News Florida: DCF In Hurry To Privatize
Some Florida regions are squabbling over how to allocate lucrative state contracts for mental health and substance abuse services as they rush to meet accelerated deadlines set by the state. Hundreds of layoffs at the Department of Children and Families have increased the urgency of the handover to regional, private "managing entities" charged with assigning contracts to local providers, data collection and other administrative tasks (Davis, 8/19).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: State Health Officials Can’t Track Hospital-Related Infections
State law does not require Georgia hospitals to routinely share information about infection rates with the state's infectious disease experts. It requires hospitals to notify public health officials when they have an outbreak or identify certain infectious conditions, such as tuberculosis or acute hepatitis. But most of the infections patients pick up inside hospitals do not have to be reported, despite the danger to public health. ... The state Department of Public Health used a federal grant to create a program to combat infections that patients often get while in hospitals, and officials hope that program will eventually allow statistical tracking (Teegardin, 8/21).

Des Moines Register: Nursing Home Inspector Money Goes Elsewhere
The state agency that five months ago successfully lobbied for additional money to rehire 10 nursing home inspectors now says those inspectors aren't needed and won't be rehired. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals says the $650,000 it was awarded by lawmakers to restore the inspectors' jobs will instead be used for other purposes. "This is an outrage," said John Tapscott, a former state lawmaker who now advocates for nursing home residents. "This just goes to show you that it's the nursing home industry that is running our state inspections department." But Inspections and Appeals spokesman David Werning said the department has become more efficient this year, in part by having some inspections handled by nurses who would otherwise be working strictly as program coordinators (Kauffman, 8/20).

The Arizona Republic: County's Jails Still Falling Short On Health Care, Audit Finds
Despite spending millions of dollars trying to rectify long-recognized problems, Maricopa County still falls short of its constitutionally mandated obligation to provide adequate health care to jail inmates, a court-appointed expert says. Her report, filed earlier this month as part of a long-standing lawsuit over jail conditions, is a setback for the county Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff's Office. For years, they have pledged to improve a taxpayer-funded health care system used in county jails, where about 7,500 inmates are housed (Hensley and Wingett Sanchez, 8/20).

The Arizona Republic: Phoenix Doctor Has Unorthodox Method Of Providing Care
Dr. Randy Christensen has coaxed cockroaches out of children's ears, counseled teenage rape victims and helped pregnant women protect their fetuses from birth defects, all from a bus that rambles through the streets of metropolitan Phoenix for up to 13 hours a day. Christensen, a pediatrician, treats homeless children and young adults in his medical clinic housed in a 38-foot Winnebago. In 11 1/2 years of operating the vehicle, called Big Blue, Christensen, who is on the staff at Phoenix Children's Hospital, has helped patients from newborns to age 24 (Scott, 8/21).

San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press: So. Calif. Grocery Workers Reject Contract Deal
Thousands of Southern California grocery workers have voted overwhelmingly to reject a health care proposal from major supermarket chains and authorize their union leaders to call a strike. … The new offer would charge workers about $36 a month for single or $92 a month for family coverage (8/21).

Modern Healthcare/Crain's New York Business: NYC Loses EmblemHealth Antitrust Case
The City of New York lost its appeal to block the merger between two New York City insurers, clearing the path for the two companies to legally merge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday ruled against the City of New York in its antitrust case against Group Health Inc. and the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (8/19).

Times-Picayune: Dream Of Joint Medical Complex Dies As VA Prepares To Drive Pilings
As federal contractors begin construction of a Veterans Affairs medical complex in Mid-City, their work will include preparations for a central energy plant along Tulane Avenue. Plans for the adjacent University Medical Center, a state teaching hospital to succeed Charity Hospital, call for its energy plant to be just blocks away on the same thoroughfare. ... The separate plans highlight the evolution of the two medical centers from visions of a true joint project to talk of shared facilities and, finally, to the reality of two adjacent complexes with considerably fewer "synergies" than what state and federal authorities once agreed were possible (Barrow, 8/21).

WBUR: Pioneer In The Study Of Heart Disease Dies
A pioneer in the study of heart disease died Saturday. Dr. William Kannel helped develop the famous Framingham heart study, and was a professor at Boston University School of Medicine. In the 1950s, doctors didn't understand why so many people were having heart attacks. ... The term "risk factors" literally didn't exist in medicine before Kannel wrote a seminal paper on the subject in 1961 (Vazquez Toness, 8/22). 

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