KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Montana Gov. Seeks Cheaper Drugs For Residents; Legal Immigrants May Lose Health Insurance In Mass.

The Associated Press: "Gov. Brian Schweitzer, cooking up a new plan to get cheaper prescription drugs for state residents, said he wants to let every Montanan get discounted medicine through Medicaid." It's his most recent idea about how "to either import cheaper name-brand prescriptions or to otherwise bypass what he sees as exorbitant prices charged by 'drug cartels.'" His previous proposals "have been shot down by the federal government as either illegal or impracticable. Schweitzer ... said he is drafting a federal request to let any Montanan voluntarily sign up for a special Medicaid prescription drug program." His approach would "let those people buy the drugs at the cheaper rate the state pays through prices negotiated by Medicaid. He will ask the federal government for an official Medicaid state plan amendment in a few weeks that he believes will cost the government nothing because it will just be passing along the discounted drugs it gets. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it cannot comment until it receives a formal Medicaid state plan amendment request" (Gouras, 8/26). 

The Boston Globe: "More than 23,000 Massachusetts residents - legal immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years - are scheduled to lose their health insurance by the end of this year, but Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday he hopes to continue their coverage using recently announced federal funds. Immigrant and consumer advocates are urging lawmakers to fund a limited program for these immigrants using a portion of an estimated $450 million in federal aid recently sent to Massachusetts to help pay for Medicaid programs." But a spending plan for those funds has yet to be introduced. "Without additional funds, Patrick administration officials say, resources are only available to maintain the program through December" (Cheney, 8/27).

The Sacramento Bee: "With an overhaul of the country's health care system under way, California is moving briskly to put in place key parts of the landmark federal law – and in some cases expand the government's authority over the health care industry. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Tuesday, and consumer advocates are hoping to seize momentum to win passage of other key bills – including the latest incarnation of a single-payer health system and another bill to allow government to reject health insurance rates" (Calvan, 8/27).

Kansas Health Institute: "The state's mental health system is falling apart, advocates for the mentally ill said Thursday. … Testifying before the interim Legislative Budget Committee, [Johnson County Mental Health Center Executive Director Davie Wiebe] said his agency averaged 308 intakes a month in 2008; 600 in 2009. … Walt Hill, executive director at High Plains Mental Health Center in Hays, said cuts in state support have caused ... the center to lose almost $40,000 a month. … The system, he said, is now so strained that 'tragedies' are becoming unavoidable" (Ranney, 8/26). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.