KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

N.J. Democrats Fail To Restore Funds To Family-Planning Centers; Penn. Reports Record Number Eligible For Medicaid; N.Y. Report Suggests Overhauling Medicaid System

Philadelphia Inquirer: Efforts by N.J. Senate Democrats to restore $7.5 million to state family planning health centers ended Monday without any Republican support. In a 23-17 party line vote the Senate failed veto the governor's veto of center funding. Gov. "Christie's budget eliminated state funding to 58 family-planning health centers across the state, which last year provided services to more than 130,000 men and women, most of whom were underinsured. The centers provide services including access to birth control, breast exams, pap smears, and prenatal care. A provision in the bill to restore the funding specifically prohibited the use of public dollars to fund abortions" (Lu, 9/21).

The Boston Herald: "Four Massachusetts health plans ranked in the top 10 nationwide, according to the latest rankings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which rates plans based on performance, member satisfaction and accreditation. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Associated Health Plan captured the top two spots, while Fallon Community Health Plan and Health New England were also ranked in the top 10. Insurers hailed the rankings" (9/20).

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "More than 2.2 million Pennsylvanians are eligible for Medicaid, the federally mandated, state-managed program that provides health care for people and families who can't afford care otherwise. It is the highest number on record, representing nearly 18 percent of the population -- more than one in six Pennsylvanians -- and underscoring the worrisome economic climate and continued difficulty many people have finding jobs and employer-provided insurance. But the swelling Medicaid roster is not just a sign of the economic times. It's also reflective of growing dependence on state-sponsored health care and safety nets, as well as the increasing cost of health care and long-term care -- trends showing few signs of immediate abatement" (Toland, 9/21).

Elmira (N.Y.) Star-Gazette: "New York's Medicaid program, an 'unwieldy' bureaucracy that costs more than $50 billion annually, has to be overhauled to accommodate growing need and implement federal health-care reform, the lieutenant governor said in a report Monday." A report by Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch found "Medicaid is the single largest driver of increasing budget expenditures at the state level. … Between the 2009-10 and 2013-14 fiscal years, the cost of the program is projected to increase 27 percent, to $63.5 billion. An increased number of New Yorkers are expected to enroll in 2014 because of the new federal health-care law" (Matthews, 9/20).

The Arizona Republic: "As debate over Arizona's medical-marijuana proposition heats up, physicians across the state say the proposition is a double-edged sword. Physicians agree that marijuana can provide relief for patients with serious illnesses, but they also find ethical dilemmas in recommending a drug that is not federally approved. Others warn against the potential for abuse similar to prescription pills. If voters approve Proposition 203 on Nov. 2, licensed physicians would be able to recommend medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and Alzheimer's disease" (Lee, 9/19).

The Miami Herald: "As Miami-Dade County commissioners consider the Jackson Health System budget this week, two looming questions are likely to be why taxpayers are footing the bill for inmate healthcare and why Jackson isn't even trying to charge prisoners for their own care, as required by state law. The cost of the care is also at issue. Jackson's monthly financial reports say correctional healthcare costs Miami-Dade taxpayers $24 million a year. Trying to save money, Jackson executives want an outside contractor to perform these jail services. In August, they received bids on the contract ranging from $57 [million] to $93 million a year -- at least twice as much as Jackson says the services now cost. Yet Jackson has insisted that the outsourcing will save taxpayers $8 million next year, according to its proposed budget" (Dorschner, 9/20).

The Charleston Gazette: "State health officials say they will delay a plan to change the way many West Virginians get Medicaid benefits. The Department of Health and Human Resources will hold off until Jan. 1 transferring tens of thousands of West Virginians to managed-care programs, spokesman John Law said. … The DHHR wants to transfer the Medicaid benefits of roughly 55,000 people who receive Supplemental Security Income to three companies -- Carelink, The Health Plan and UniCare. That change had been planned for Dec. 1" (Knezevich, 9/18). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.