KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Debt Deal And States; Ariz. Judge Appoves Medicaid Plan

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

Stateline: Debt Deal Might Not Be As Rough On States As Initially Feared
Many expensive programs are exempt from the trigger cuts, including most that are considered "mandatory," which means that some of the largest joint state-federal programs aren't vulnerable. Those include Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) (Goodman, 8/11). 

Health News Florida: Shake-Up Under Way In Mental Health
Some mental health providers say they will no longer treat Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida patients in light of a "surprising" letter they received from the company last week. ... the insurer will turn over management to a Kansas-based managed care company, New Directions Behavioral Health. ... Under the contract, caregivers would be paid 25 to 55 percent less than they were before (Davis, 8/10). 

The Arizona Republic: Judge Allows Cuts To Arizona's Medicaid Program
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Wednesday refused to block cuts to the state Medicaid program, saying a voter-approved law requiring health coverage for Arizonans below the poverty level doesn't force the Legislature to pay for it. Judge Mark Brain's ruling means an enrollment cap for childless adults will remain in place, eliminating an estimated 110,000 people from the rolls in the coming year and freezing out an untold number of low-income Arizonans (Reinhart, 8/11).

The Associated Press/Forbes: Judge Allows Cuts To Arizona's Medicaid Program
A judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Jan Brewer can legally reduce enrollment in Arizona's Medicaid program to help balance the state budget. The state has barred childless adults with incomes above the federal limit for Medicaid from either enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling in the state program. The partial enrollment freeze would save the state a projected $207 million this year. Public-interest law firms sued on behalf of low-income Arizonans, arguing that the eligibility reductions, especially the one for childless adults, violate state constitutional protections for voter-approved laws (8/10). 

Health Policy Solutions (Colorado health news): Free Birth Control: Will It Reduce Unwanted Pregnancies?
Removing the financial barrier will get more women to the clinic to see a doctor to get birth control. But that doesn't mean women will have sufficient knowledge and dedication to avoid pregnancy. As a case in point, birth control is already free through Medicaid and a federal family planning program, and yet, a significant number of women don't take advantage of the benefit (Kim, 8/10). 

California Healthline: Fixing U.S. Workforce May Be A Job For ... Health Reform
Reform or not, health care remains the most reliable engine of U.S. job-creation these days. ... For every eight jobs lost since the Great Recession began in December 2007, one new job has been created in the health care industry. ... going on a year-plus since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, will this trend continue as the reform law is implemented? And are so many health care jobs such a good thing? (Diamond, 6/10). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Grant Giveback Creates Uncertainty About Insurance Exchange
Gov. Sam Brownback's decision to reject a $31.5 million federal grant will make it harder for the state to establish its own health insurance purchasing exchange, according to Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. But others, including Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Rep. Brenda Landwehr, both conservative Republicans, say returning the early innovator grant, which required Kansas to be out in front of other states, will make it easier to get the Legislature more heavily involved in plotting the state's course (McLean and Ranney, 8/10). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Talks Underway For Neighborhood Health Plan To Join Partners HealthCare
Partners HealthCare, the state's largest hospital network, plans to acquire a small Boston-based health insurer. Partners and Neighborhood Health Plan, a nonprofit with 240,000 mostly low and moderate income residents in government health insurance plans, have signed a letter of intent to affiliate. In Massachusetts, networks that own both hospitals and a health insurance company are unusual (Bebinger, 8/10). 

Healthy Cal: New Approach To Chronic Disease Care
[D]octors and other health care workers are using a new team-based approach to engage patients in managing their own health. The goal is to keep people healthier and save money - for the patients and their families, the health care industry and the taxpayers. Chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and asthma affect more than 16 million Californians – about 44% of the population – with half that number suffering from more than one chronic condition (Perry, 6/10).

The Providence Journal: Advocates For Elderly, Disabled Say R.I. Budget Cuts Hurting Them
Pam Goes sees tough times ahead for her two developmentally disabled sons. The $7.7-billion state budget that lawmakers passed, and Governor Chafee recently signed into law, includes nearly $24 million in cuts to state spending for kind of services they depend on every day. … Besides the cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled, the state budget calls for thousands of families and children on the state's subsidized health-insurance program, RIte Care, to pay more toward their health care each month. Families on RIte Share, which helps families afford employer-sponsored health-care plans, will also no longer have co-pays covered by the state (Marcelo, 8/10). 

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