KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.J. Governor Opts Not To Cut Medicaid Rolls

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

Newark, N.J., Star Ledger: Christie Administration Nixes Plan That Would Have Cut Medicaid Coverage For Thousands Of N.J. Residents
Thousands of New Jersey's working poor will keep their health insurance under a new administration proposal to restructure Medicaid, abandoning a controversial plan that would have drastically reduced the number of eligible recipients (DeMarco, 9/12).

Seattle Times/Associated Press: Seattle Council Votes To Mandate Paid Sick Leave
Seattle is set to become the third U.S. city to require businesses to provide paid sick days for their workers, after a City Council vote Monday that supporters said could provide momentum for establishing similar laws across the country. The council voted 8-1 to mandate that all but the smallest companies -- those with fewer than five workers -- give at least five paid days off a year to employees who are sick, need to care for a sick family member, or who are victims of domestic abuse and need to take time off to assist law enforcement or attend court hearings. Businesses with more than 250 workers would have to provide nine days (Johnson 9/12).

Seattle Times: Plan: Community Centers Face Cuts, But All 25 Stay Open
All 25 Seattle community centers would remain open, but many would have reduced staffing and hours in 2012 under a proposal announced Monday by Mayor Mike McGinn and City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. The proposal organizes the city's community centers into five geographic areas. Within each area, some high-use centers would operate with longer hours and offer the most programs, while other centers with less public use would see reduced hours and activities (Thompson 9/12).

The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: Prescription Drug Vending Machine At South Suburban Hospital
A south suburban hospital is the first in Illinois to offer a 24-hour vending machine for prescription drugs. The service is called InstyMeds and it's for emergency room patients at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island (9/13).

The New York Times: In Deal, Hundreds Of Mentally Ill People Will Leave Confinement Of Nursing Home
Hundreds of mentally ill people who have been confined to nursing homes, sometimes in prisonlike conditions, would move to apartments or other housing within three years under a legal settlement with New York State (Hartocollis, 9/12).

The Washington Post: DC Near Settlement In Mental Health Case
After 37 years of litigation, the District is on the cusp of ending court oversight of its services for the mentally ill. The settlement, reached after eight months of "painstaking" negotiations, represents a major victory for the D.C. government as it seeks to overcome a legacy of mismanagement (DeBonis, 9/12).

Kaiser Health News/KQED: Oakland Clinic Provides Medical Care to Ex-Offenders
California has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its Medicaid program, three years ahead of the federal expansion that the health law requires in 2014. At least half a million people are expected to gain coverage — mostly poor adults who never qualified under the old rules because they didn't have kids at home. Among those who stand to benefit right now are ex-offenders. Inmates often leave California prisons with no consistent place to get medical care. But that's changing (Varney, 9/13).

Earlier, related Kaiser Health News coverage: Health Care Expands For Ex-Offenders In California (Schmitt, 3/28).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Grady Adopts New Policy For Out-Of-County Patients
Uninsured patients who show up for non-emergency care at Grady Memorial Hospital, and live outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties, will have to go through financial counseling and pay in full before receiving services. On Monday, Grady's corporate board approved the policy for new, out-of-county patients -- another effort to improve the safety net hospital's deteriorating bottom line. Grady is on course to lose $23 million this year and faces a projected $13 million shortfall next year (Williams, 9/13).

Wisconsin State Journal: Advocates Wait For Details on $500 Million In Wisconsin Medicaid Cuts
More than two months after Gov. Scott Walker's budget called for almost $500 million in cuts to Medicaid over two years, health care advocates wonder when details of the cuts will be made public. Some decisions, such as whether to drop more than 50,000 people from BadgerCare Plus, depend on federal approval of the state's plans by Dec. 31, a process that can take months, advocates say. The state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee also must review the plans (Wahlberg, 9/12).

Kansas Health Institute: Powerhouse Databank Could Be Used To Cut Health Care Costs
A big hope for curbing health care costs in the U.S. and Kansas is pegged to the harnessing of information technology so that millions of individual medical records can be pushed through computers and analyzed in ways that guide the cheaper and more effective practice of medicine. Kansas is among the handful of states with a fundamental, digital building block to perhaps meet that elusive goal of better, cheaper health care (Cauthion, 9/12). 

Kansas Health Institute: SRS Orders New Oversight Standards For Kansas Health Solutions
State welfare officials today said they have ordered a new oversight framework for a major state contractor that is being investigated by state and federal law enforcement officials because of alleged financial irregularities. Topeka-based Kansas Health Solutions, if it is to continue as a state contractor, must become licensed as a managed care company with the Kansas Insurance Department and abide by a set of additional requirements imposed by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (Ranney and Shields, 9/12).   

Georgia Health News: Lifesaving Drugs 'Out Of Reach' For Many
Biologics can cost $100,000 or more a year. But many of these drugs have sustained and vastly improved life for patients with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and other health conditions. The drugs have a 12-year exclusivity period from "generic" competition. (For scientific reasons, copies of biologic drugs are not officially defined as generics.) The industry argues that exemption is necessary to protect companies’ large investment in producing these innovative medications. AARP, among others, supports a reduction in the exclusivity period (Miller, 9/12). 

California Healthline: How Should Policymakers Deal With the Fattening of California?
In addition to the personal costs of increased chances of chronic health problems, obesity carries a substantial monetary toll. In 2009, California's obesity-related medical costs were $15.2 billion -- the highest in the country -- according to researchers. ... At the most basic level, there are three courses of action: Educate people about the hazards of obesity and hope they make good choices; Punish bad behavior through taxes or other punitive measures; Reward good behavior through reduced insurance premiums or other incentives for making healthy choices. We asked legislators, policy analysts and other stakeholders which course California should pursue? (9/9). 

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