KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.Y. Birth Control Discrimination Bill; Mich. Nursing Home Costs

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, California, Texas, Washington state, Missouri, Massachusetts and Colorado.

The New York Times: New York Legislature Reaches Deal On More Laws To Fight Heroin Problem
For the second time in two weeks, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gathered reporters on Wednesday to make an announcement about the state’s heroin problem, which has dominated discussions at the close of the legislative session in Albany. Last week, flanked by law enforcement officers, the governor was behind a lectern emblazoned with the words “Heroin Epidemic” (Goodman and McKinley, 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Deal Struck In Albany On Tackling Heroin Surge
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, cited statistics showing heroin's increasing share of the state's illegal drug market. Between 2004 and 2013, heroin and prescription-opiate treatment admissions in New York rose to 89,269 from 63,793, according to the state. The piece of the legislation with potentially the most immediate impact involves how insurance companies define treatment that is "medically necessary," a threshold used to determine whether to cover treatment. Advocates have complained that definitions of medical necessity differ among insurance companies and are applied unevenly (Orden, 6/18).

The Associated Press: N.Y. Assembly Passes Birth Control Insurance Bill 
A bill that would prevent employers from discriminating against workers for reproductive health decisions has passed the Democratic-led Assembly. The "Boss bill," passed 80-22 on Wednesday, seeks to close a loophole in New York's anti-discrimination laws (6/19).

Detroit Free Press:  Nursing Home Care Now Costs More Than Twice Seniors’ Average Income
The annual cost of nursing home care may have grown even less affordable to Michigan’s seniors and people with disabilities, now costing families about $93,075 -- more than 2 1/2 times older adults’ average income of $35,504, according to a new report. The drastically outsized cost of care compared to income -- 262 percent in Michigan -- is staggering elsewhere as well. The national average was 246 percent in 2013 compared to 241 percent in 2010, according to the report, Raising Expectations, a joint venture between the Commonwealth Fund, a health research foundation, and two advocacy groups for older adults, the Scan Foundation and AARP (Erb, 6/18).

Asbury Park Press/USA Today: Report: Sandy Left Mental Health Issues In Its Wake
What had long been predicted in the immediate aftermath of Sandy is finally appearing in the data research: More individuals in the 10-county area affected by Sandy in New Jersey are seeking help for behavioral health concerns such as alcohol and substance abuse, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (Cervenka, 6/18).

The Washington Post: McDonnell Reflects On Cantor’s Loss, Gillespie’s Chances At GOP Gathering In Va.
Romney also endorsed Gillespie, who he said dropped everything to work for his 2012 presidential bid, and slammed Warner over taxes, Obamacare and foreign policy. … Gillespie made a pitch for doubling the nation’s economic rate, although he provided no specifics. “We know that our policies will create jobs and raise take-home pay and hold down health care costs and reduce energy prices,” he said, adding later: “Instead of having a blank check for President Obama, we can have a check on President Obama” (Portnoy, 6/18).

Baltimore Sun: Closing Of Health Centers Causes Patients To Scramble
When Will Boyd arrived Wednesday at the People's Community Health Center's Brooklyn Park clinic, he was furious to learn that the center will close at the end of the month. The 63-year-old has two broken teeth needing repair and said he was told he couldn't be helped there. "This is not a way to take care of people when they've got pain," said the Brooklyn Park resident. Local and state health officials are scrambling to find alternate health care providers for People's 1,100 low-income clients after the Baltimore-based nonprofit announced this week that it will close its five centers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County (Wood and Cohn, 6/18).

North Carolina Health News: Health Care Issues Among Flurry Of Last-Minute Bills 
Wednesday’s regulatory and reform committee meeting showed how political maneuvering can get special interests sneaked into an omnibus, vaguely described bill during the short session, which is supposed to focus on the state budget and bills leftover from last year (Namkoong, 6/19).

Reuters: California Bill Would Restore Funding For Adult Day Care Centers 
California lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would restore adult day care services as a benefit under Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for low-income and disabled residents. The program, which provides a variety of healthcare and social services to people with disabilities, was cut during the state's budget crisis in 2011, but is one of several pieces of the state's tattered safety net Democrats have been pushing to restore (Chaussee, 6/18).

Houston Chronicle: Nursing Home Scorecard Dings Texas For Staff Turnover 
A national report ranks Texas last for nursing home staff turnover -- one of the quality of care issues that directly impacts the safety and well-being of nursing home residents. Overall, Texas ranked 30th among the states and the District of Columbia, improving slightly from its No. 32 ranking in the report’s first edition, which was released in 2011 (George, 6/19).

Texas Tribune: Texas Parents Find Access To Medicaid Without Expansion
Texas' Republican leadership made sure the state didn't expand its Medicaid program to poor, uninsured adults — an optional provision of the Affordable Care Act. But low-income parents here are increasingly getting covered by the joint state-federal insurer anyway — through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. ... The Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates that more than 140,000 adults received Medicaid through their TANF eligibility in May — a 21 percent increase over November (Ura, 6/19).

Seattle Times: Seattle Children’s Argues In Favor Of Rulings By Embattled OIC Judge
Seattle Children’s hospital on Tuesday made another move in the high-profile legal tussle over which facilities and doctors must be included in insurance plan networks in order to adequately protect customers. The case -- already significant because of the importance of the network adequacy debate -- became even more controversial following allegations that the judge overseeing the dispute has been unfairly influenced. The allegations came from the judge herself, Patricia Petersen, chief presiding officer at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (Stiffler, 6/18).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: UnitedHealthcare Cuts Missouri Physicians From Medicare Advantage
UnitedHealthcare has notified more physicians in Missouri that they will be removed from the company’s Medicare Advantage plan on Sept. 1. This is the second round of cuts to UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage physician ranks, following reductions in April. The provider is the largest carrier of Medicare Advantage plans for seniors in the nation, with about 95,000 plan members in Missouri (Kulash, 6/19).

Modern Healthcare: Massachusetts Medical Society Opposes Nurses Initiatives 
The Massachusetts Medical Society is opposing two initiatives developed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association that would designate nurse-patient staffing ratios and would impose penalties on hospitals whose profit margins go above 8 percent and whose CEOs' annual compensation exceeds 100 times the compensation offered the hospital's lowest-paid employee. Dr. Richard Pieters, MMS president, said in a news release that healthcare institutions can assume that they will be receiving no additional state and federal funding, so increasing nurse staff would mean personnel would be cut elsewhere. Pieters added that the other measure was unnecessary and its proposed limits and penalties arbitrary (Robeznieks, 6/18).

Health News Colorado: Doctor Shortages Accelerate As Patients Pour In For Care
Newly insured patients are pouring into Colorado’s safety net clinics, but in some cases, sparkling new exam space sits empty because there aren’t enough doctors to care for the influx of patients. The Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN) this month celebrated its first anniversary at a large new state-of-the-art clinic in Wheat Ridge, the newest of its 22 locations in the Denver area. One pod is ready to serve older patients and those with mobility issues. Extra wide “barn” doors allow easy access for people in wheelchairs and there’s a special spot to park walkers and other devices for people with special needs (McCrimmon, 6/18). 

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