KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: States’ Troubled Health Law Websites Fall Hardest On Poor

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, Florida, Texas, Georgia and California.

The New York Times: Faulty Websites Confront Needy In Search Of Aid
While the nation's attention was focused on the troubled rollout of the federal health care site under the Affordable Care Act, the problems with the unemployment sites have pointed to something much broader: how a lack of funding in many states and a shortage of information technology specialists in public service jobs routinely lead to higher costs, botched systems and infuriating technical problems that fall hardest on the poor, the jobless and the neediest (Robles, 1/7).

The Roanoke Times: State Sen. Creigh Deeds To Push For Mental Health Reform
Deeds, D-Bath County, said Monday that he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he has received since Nov. 19, when his son, Austin “Gus” Deeds, shot himself after a violent confrontation at the senator’s Millboro home. But he has been more moved by stories of people with harrowing experiences dealing with the state’s fragmented mental health system. “I’m not by myself in this,” Deeds said in a telephone interview Monday evening. ... Deeds said his son had a history of mental illness and was twice committed for psychiatric treatment in 2011. “My son was 18, he was an adult,” Deeds said. “I couldn’t make him keep appointments. … I couldn’t make him take medicine,” (Sluss, 1/6).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Deeds Submits Mental Health Bills After Tragedy
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, has joined an escalating legislative debate sparked by his own family tragedy. Deeds has quietly filed three bills aimed at closing gaps in Virginia’s fragmented mental health system -- including one to allow a 24-hour window for holding someone involuntarily under an emergency custody order instead of the maximum of six hours now allowed under state law. He also broke a six-week silence in a telephone interview with The Roanoke Times on Monday that shed light on the mental illness afflicting his 24-year-old son, Austin C. "Gus" Deeds, who stabbed his father repeatedly Nov. 19 outside their Millboro home and then shot himself to death, just 13 hours after being released from an emergency custody order for a mental health evaluation (Martz, 1/7).

The Washington Post: Deeds Returns To Richmond Determined To Reform Mental Health System
State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, determined to rebound from a personal tragedy that left him gravely injured and his son lost to suicide, returns to the Capitol this week on a mission to fix the state's mental health system. Deeds (D-Bath) has proposed two bills intended to address what went horribly wrong in November, when his 24-year-old son, Austin, known as "Gus," stabbed the senator and then fatally shot himself (Vozzella, 1/6).

Politico: Shifting Strategies For State Abortion Battles In 2014
Conservative states that ran into legal trouble passing some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation last year have shifted their approach for 2014: smaller instead of sweeping. Rather than bans that directly challenge Roe v. Wade, many states are again going for more incremental measures that address the physical space requirements of clinics, physicians' qualifications and the use of certain procedures. The move is hardly a retreat, abortion opponents say, but rather a strategic decision that they expect could be nearly as effective in less time. Compared to broader moves, restrictions that are more narrowly drawn often pass judicial muster (Villacorta, 1/6). 

Kaiser Health News: Nonprofit Health Centers Go Into For-Profit Insurance Business
As Florida shifts nearly all of its 3 million Medicaid recipients into private managed care plans this year, Prestige expects to triple its enrollment to more than 300,000 members. That could lead to more profits for Jessie Trice and the other health centers. Through Prestige, they are also less reliant on policies set by other insurers, and gain more control over how Medicaid funds are spent (Galewitz, 1/7).

The Dallas Morning News: Federal Judges Question Whether Texas Abortion Law Has Forced Clinics To Close
Appellate judges challenged lawyers Monday over provisions of Texas’ new abortion law and whether they have unduly caused the closure of about a dozen abortion clinics. The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals bore down in particular on the shuttering of the only two abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley. The lack of facilities is now requiring women seeking an abortion to travel about 150 miles to a Corpus Christi clinic. State Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell defended the law, saying the state has a right to regulate medical practices as a way to promote women's health (Hoppe, 1/7).

Georgia Health News: No Performance Bonus This Year For Kids' Enrollment 
After two years of receiving a bonus, Georgia is not included in the latest round of federal performance awards for enrolling eligible children in government health insurance programs. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said last week that 23 states earned a bonus for fiscal 2013, funded under legislation that reauthorized the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A year ago, Georgia received a bonus of $1.9 million, after gaining almost $5 million for fiscal 2011, the first year that the state received an award (Miller, 1/6).

California Healthline: New Overtime Law Has Far-Reaching Effects On Home Health Care Industry
The basic tenet of a new home health care law seems straightforward and unassailable: Workers who work more than nine hours at a time are entitled to overtime pay. But it may not be as simple as that. Many in the home health industry say the practical application of overtime will spell the end of live-in care and could actually result in lower earnings for home health workers. On Jan. 1, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 241), created by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), took effect. It regulates the number of consecutive hours for home health care workers and requires overtime pay for long work shifts (Gorn, 1/6).

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