KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Wash. State Cost And Quality Bills; Okla. Privatized Medicaid

A selection of health policy stories from Washington state, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Georgia.

The Seattle Times: New Laws Will Help Consumers Find Cheapest, Best Docs And Hospitals
Consumers will have new tools for finding out what a trip to the doctor will cost before they take it, thanks to two bills passed by Washington lawmakers. One will require insurance companies to provide customers with a tool for doing cost- and quality-comparison shopping, while the other creates a public, statewide database with information on quality, but limited price data (Stiffler, 3/13).

Tulsa World: State Senate Passes Bill To Privatize Medicaid
The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would privatize Medicaid in a pilot project at a yet-to-be-determined location in the state. Senate Bill 1495, by Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, passed by a vote of 25-21 and heads to the House for consideration. Senate approval requires 25 votes. The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposes the bill. Managed care for Medicaid was tried in the 1990s and failed miserably, said Wes Glinsmann, Oklahoma State Medical Association spokesman (Hoberock, 3/13).

The Associated Press: FL Malpractice Law Overturned 
The Florida Supreme Court says limits on non-economic awards in medical malpractice wrongful death cases are unconstitutional. The court issued its ruling Thursday in a 5-2 decision (3/13).

The Associated Press: Additional Abortion Health Insurance Requirement To Remain Intact In Michigan
A new Michigan law requiring residents or businesses that want health insurance coverage for abortions to buy extra coverage will remain intact despite opponents' initial hopes to overturn it at the ballot box this year. When the measure goes into effect Thursday -- three months after its contentious passage -- many newly issued or renewed health plans will be prohibited from paying for elective abortion services unless an inexpensive supplemental policy is purchased (Eggert, 3/13).

North Carolina Health News: Medicaid Budget Still Unclear, Legislators Frustrated
For months, lawmakers have been asking the state Department of Health and Human Services for numbers on Medicaid budget spending, and for months, the response has been “next month.” And Wednesday, another month’s legislative oversight meeting came and went, and still the word from DHHS on Medicaid spending targets was “later” (Hoban, 3/13). 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Opponents Criticize Scott Fitzgerald's Bid To Block Cancer Drug Bill
The leader of the state Senate is going to unusual lengths to block a bipartisan bill to help cancer patients afford life-saving treatments as his brother lobbies on behalf of insurers to kill the proposal. The proposal would require health plans to provide the same coverage for chemotherapy drugs taken as pills as they do for chemotherapy administered through IVs. Audrey Van Dyke, whose 17-year-old son Alexander was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, has never understood why his chemotherapy was covered when he was in a hospital or clinic but cost additional money when taken as a pill at home (Stein and Boulton, 3/13).

The CT Mirror: Emergency Responders, Disability Advocates Back End-Of-Life Care Proposal For CT
People who provide emergency medical care say situations like this are common: A dying patient’s wishes aren’t known or are in dispute, leaving her relatives to agonize over what to do. Or a terminally ill patient comes to the hospital with no record of his treatment wishes and ends up getting more aggressive care than he'd wanted. (Dr. Joanne) Kuntz and others say there’s a better way: A process for terminally ill patients to discuss their options with a health care provider, determine what sort of end-of-life care they want, and document it in a form that would serve as a medical order for emergency responders, physicians and others in the health care system to follow (Becker, 3/14).

WBUR: All 9 Candidates For Mass. Gov: Where Do They Stand On Health Care?
Kudos to the Health Business Blog for the first full scoop on the health care positions of all nine of this year’s candidates for Massachusetts governor.  Blogger David E. Williams is not a professional journalist -- he’s a health-care consultant and president of the Health Business Group -- but he certainly seems to be first out with a roundup sure to be of interest to many in health care, the state’s biggest employer. I asked him whether he thought this November’s gubernatorial election could be a bellwether for the politics of health care (Goldberg, 3/13).

Stateline: Q&A: How States are Tackling 'Health Disparities'
African-Americans are more likely to suffer heart disease and diabetes than whites. The cancer death rate for men is a good deal higher than it is for women. American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to smoke tobacco than Hispanics, blacks or whites. And Native Hawaiian adults are less likely to exercise than other ethnic groups. These differences are called “health disparities,” and in the last two decades, the federal government and the states have focused on eliminating them (Ollove, 3/14).

Georgia Health News: Rural Areas May Get Basic-Service Hospitals
Rural health care may get a needed boost under a proposed regulation change that would allow a hospital to downsize its services, the commissioner of a Georgia health agency said Thursday. Clyde Reese, commissioner of the Department of Community Health, said he would ask the board of the agency to promulgate rules for such a “step-down’’ facility. Reese, speaking at a meeting of the board, said Gov. Nathan Deal would make an announcement on rural health care next week. Reese did not expand on those remarks. But industry officials told GHN that the Community Health proposal likely would allow a rural hospital that has recently closed -- or one that’s currently struggling to survive — to downsize to a facility that includes an emergency room, surgery and childbirth services (Miller, 3/13).

Georgia Health News: Senate Busy Reworking Health Bills
The Georgia Senate continued practicing its sleight of hand with House bills Thursday, making one vanish, restoring a second to its original form and causing a third to reappear as the General Assembly entered the final three days of the 2014 session. HB 913 passed the House in early March as an effort to prevent possible conflicts of interest among Department of Community Health Board members. With that stated goal, it targeted one board member in particular. But that language disappeared at a Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting Thursday morning (Craig, 3/13).

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