KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Highlights: Calif. Retiree Health Costs Rise; More Abortion Clinic Closings In Texas; Wash. Insurance Bills Roadblock

A selection of health policy stories from California, Texas, Washington state, Illinois, Virginia and Georgia.

Los Angeles Times: Estimate Of How Much State Owes For Retiree Health Care Keeps Rising
While lawmakers begin discussing ways to fix California's cash-strapped teacher pension system, another long-term financial problem continues to fester. The cost of providing health care to retired state workers is $64.6 billion more than state leaders have set aside to pay, an increase of $730 million from the previous year (Megerian, 3/6).

The New York Times: Abortion Law Pushes Texas Clinics To Close Doors
Shortly before a candlelight vigil on the sidewalk outside, employees of the last abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas shut the doors early Thursday evening, making legal abortion unavailable in the poorest part of the state in the wake of tough new restrictions passed last year by the Texas Legislature (Fernandez, 3/6).

Los Angeles Times: Two More Abortion Clinics Close In Texas Under New Restrictions
Two more Texas abortion clinics closed on Thursday because of restrictions in a state law that is being fought in the federal courts. Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns the Whole Woman's Health Clinic, told reporters on Thursday that Republican lawmakers have made it impossible to keep her clinics open in Beaumont and McAllen. The McAllen clinic is the last in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, and the Beaumont clinic is the only one between Houston and the Louisiana border (Muskal, 3/6).

The Seattle Times: Bills Designed To Aid Consumers With Insurance Run Into Opposition 
Two bills in the state Legislature aimed at increasing transparency for consumers and helping them make savvy decisions about insurance are now missing key elements, primarily because of concerns that companies’ proprietary information might be revealed. One bill was designed to protect consumers from being blindsided by their insurer’s potential collapse because of financial instability of their larger holding company (Ostrom, 3/6).

Los Angeles Times: Computers With L.A. County Patients’ Personal Data Are Stolen
A Torrance office of Sutherland Healthcare Solutions, which handles billing and collections for the county's Department of Health Services and Department of Public Health, was burglarized Feb. 5 and computer equipment was stolen, according to a county statement issued Thursday (Sewell, 3/6). 

The Associated Press: Report: Fewer Illinois Kids Lack Health Insurance
While a child advocacy group's report shows that more Illinois kids now have health insurance, it also warns that health disparities related to income and race could intensify if there are program cuts to Medicaid and social services as the state faces a large dip in revenues next year. The yearly report released Thursday by Voices for Illinois Children shows children that are black, Latino or from low-income families have less access to health care and insurance (Koop, 3/6).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: McAuliffe, Citing Coordinated Care Program, Urges Lawmakers To Close 'Coverage Gap'
Gov. Terry McAuliffe today used the launch of an ambitious pilot project for coordinating care of elderly and disabled Virginians to call again for the state to extend health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents. The Commonwealth Coordinated Care program began enrolling people on Monday in Central Virginia and Tidewater in an effort to manage services they receive from both the federal Medicare program and the state-federal Medicaid program. The program eventually will cover five regions of the state and an estimated 78,000 people who are “dually eligible” for both programs (Martz, 3/6).

Georgia Health News: Bill Would Nudge More HIV Patients Into Treatment
More than half of Georgians with HIV are not currently in treatment, health officials say. A Senate bill aims to bring thousands more of these patients into care. If enacted, SB 342 would allow the state’s Department of Public Health to alert a physician of a patient’s HIV or AIDS status (Miller, 3/6).

The San Francisco Chronicle: Prisoners Lose In Damage Claim Over Lack Of Health Care
Prisoners can't sue for damages when they are denied health care because the state has failed to provide enough funding for medical staff or supplies, a divided federal appeals court ruled Thursday. In the case of a Southern California inmate whose treatment for a painful dental condition was delayed because the prison was short of dentists and technicians, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 6-5 that prison employees are immune from damage claims when the cause is a lack of state funds. "A prison medical official who fails to provide needed treatment because he lacks the necessary resources can hardly be said to have intended to punish the inmate," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said in the majority opinion (Egelko, 3/6).

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