KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Mo. Gov. Worried Tax Cut Bill Raises Prescription Drug Sales Tax

St. Louis Beacon: Nixon Says Tax Cut Bill Removes Missouri’s Sales Tax Break For Prescription Drugs 
Gov. Jay Nixon has upped the ante in his criticism of a broad-based tax cut bill awaiting his decision, saying Thursday that it removes a sales tax exemption for prescription drugs that will raise taxes for millions of Missourians. One sponsor of the bill says there's plenty of time for the legislature to correct what he deemed a drafting error (Rosenbaum, 5/30).

Health News Florida: It's Deadline Day For Doctors' Bonus 
Primary-care physicians who treat Florida Medicaid patients are eligible for a big fat retroactive bonus thanks to the Affordable Care Act -- as long as they file for it by Friday, May 31 (Gentry, 5/30).

The Washington Post: Man Accused Of Diverting Nearly $17 Million From D.C. Tax-Funded Health Plan
Businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson illicitly siphoned nearly $17 million from his taxpayer-funded health plan serving low-income District residents, the plan's city-appointed receiver asserted in a lawsuit filed Thursday. The court action is the latest development in the collapse of D.C. Chartered Health Plan, which served more than 100,000 people receiving Medicaid and other government assistance before ending its business with the city this month. It is estimated that Chartered owes city health providers more than $60 million, and its current assets are likely to cover only a fraction of that (DeBonis, 5/30).

Stateline: Cigarette Smuggling Cuts States' Per-Pack Tax Revenues
Over the past decade, almost every state has raised cigarette taxes, sometimes multiple times. The health benefits are undeniable, but the benefits to states’ revenues are not as clear-cut. In 2010, states with high tobacco taxes lost about $5 billion in revenue because of cigarette smuggling, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Experts say the number is climbing. Most of the black market in cigarettes is between low-tax states and high-tax states: Smugglers purchase cigarettes in a low-tax state and transport them to a high-tax state. Then they sell them at a discount to smokers while still pocketing a healthy profit. Because there is such a wide disparity among states' cigarette taxes, the price differential is well worth the risk of smuggling, according to law enforcement officials (Povich, 5/31).

The Washington Post: Binge Drinking, Depression Among Health Issues In Northern Virginia, Study Finds 
As one of the most affluent areas in the country, Northern Virginia can also boast that its 2.3 million residents are, by many accounts, in good health. But a report to be released Friday reveals a host of underlying health issues, including binge drinking among adults, delayed dental care, and a risk of depression in one out of four youths in the region (Sun, 5/31). 

Georgia Health News: Community Health Chief Takes Capitol Job
David Cook is departing as head of Georgia's largest health agency to become secretary of the state Senate. Cook has served as commissioner of the Department of Community Health since January 2011. Before then, he had been executive director of the Medical Association of Georgia. He will be replaced by attorney Clyde Reese, who is currently commissioner of the Department of Human Services. This will be Reese’s second time as Community Health commissioner, because he was Cook’s predecessor in the office (Miller, 5/30).

The Associated Press: Pa. Union Officials Sue Over Health Fund Deal 
Leaders of the union for Pennsylvania's state prison guards filed a lawsuit Thursday that challenges a 2009 deal struck by then-Gov. Ed Rendell to divert a large surplus from the trust fund that pays health benefits for state employees. Four executive committee members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association sued in county court in Harrisburg, seeking to recover $226 million and remove several trustees from the Pennsylvania Employee Benefits Trust Fund (5/30).

California Healthline: Plan Proposed To Cover Autistic Children
A Senate subcommittee last week proposed a $50 million solution to temporarily address the lack of coverage of a type of autism treatment under Medi-Cal -- a gap in care that recently affected hundreds of Healthy Families children when the state moved them to Medi-Cal managed care plans. The new proposal would appropriate $50 million to make sure Medi-Cal children with autism are able to receive applied behavioral analysis treatment --  known as ABA therapy -- through the end of 2013. The assumption is that ABA therapy will be available as an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014 (Gorn, 5/30).

Lund Report: Ore. House Health Committee Bolsters Insurance Rate Review Bill Over Senator's Objection
The House Health Committee passed a bill on a 6-3 vote Wednesday that will provide new tools for the Insurance Division in the health insurance rate review process, while increasing the ability of consumers to contribute to the approval discussion. Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, was able to marshal all three amendments that were proposed at a public hearing earlier this month to Senate Bill 413. Two of the amendments passed the committee on party-line votes while Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, supported one amendment, which directs the Insurance Division to devise an annual medical inflation rate that will serve as a baseline for insurance companies seeking to raise rates (Gray, 5/30).

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