KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Calif. Considers Reduction In Funding For Home Care Aides; Ill. Union Workers Strike Over Health Issues At Uranium Conversion Plant

ABC News: "California, facing a $19.1 billion budget gap, is considering a reduction in funding that pays for home care aides for the disabled. It already cut funds last year. … Last month, the nation celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) … Now, though, gains made under the ADA are running into recession-battered state budgets. At least 17 states have cut into funding for assistance to the disabled since 2009 or are planning to do it this year, says Phil Oliff, a policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. ... The cuts include cash, home nursing services and grants to agencies that help the disabled live independently" (Bello, 8/8). 

The New York Times: "Union workers at the nation's only uranium conversion plant, in Metropolis, Ill., have erected 42 crosses nearby in memory of workers who died of cancer. Twenty-seven smaller crosses symbolize workers who have survived the disease. Union workers at the plant have been picketing since being locked out in June, when negotiations over a new contract stalled. The dispute involves disagreements over pensions and health benefits. … Many workers believe that the plant contributed to their fellow employees' illnesses, which is a central reason the union is refusing to accept the plant operator's plan to reduce pensions for newly hired workers and health benefits for retirees. On June 28, Honeywell, the plant operator, locked out its 220 union employees after negotiations stalled, accusing the union of refusing to give the company 24 hours' notice of a strike. The union has picketed ever since" (Frosch, 8/8).

The Boston Globe: "State lawmakers have quietly passed a new law that allows municipalities and private ambulance companies to cut by half the number of paramedics who serve in advanced life support ambulances. While some officials said the new law mirrors similar rules in nearly every other state, the policy has angered paramedics and EMTs, who say it puts millions of state residents at risk" (Abel, 8/8).

San Francisco Chronicle: "Public Defender Jeff Adachi's charter amendment to overhaul pension and health care benefits for city workers will jeopardize $23 million in federal health care funding for the city this year, raise insurance premiums for workers and have other unintended consequences, according to a new memo from the director of the city agency that oversees health benefits for city workers and retirees. ... Catherine Dodd, director of the Health Service System, noted in a memo dated Aug. 12 but circulated Friday that because Prop. B restricts how much the city can contribute toward health care, costs would spike for employees and retirees" (Cote and Wildermuth, 8/7).

The Los Angeles Times: "Bob Wilson, a wealthy New York City investor, ... would seem a likely sugar daddy for Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot. He has been giving away much of his fortune, more than $500 million so far, and he believes that pot, which he tried but didn't much like, ought to be legal. … Wilson has kept an eye on the initiative, but he doesn't plan to send a check. …Wilson is not alone in holding back. Despite the measure's potential to inspire copycat initiatives, it has attracted few big-money supporters" (Hoeffel, 8/8).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Tens of thousands of people in the Milwaukee area have lost their jobs since the start of the recession, yet the increase has not resulted in a surge in charity care by health care systems in the region. The amount of free and discounted care provided by the health systems has been stable when calculated as a percentage of patient revenue, even as the economy struggles through the worst downturn since the Great Depression. The amount of bad debt also has not risen noticeably. That surprises some health care executives, who expected a sharp increase in charity care and bad debt expense at the recession's start" (Boulton, 8/8).

Chicago Sun-Times / The Associated Press: "Illinois regulators will ask lawmakers for the authority to approve or deny health insurance rate increases, saying residents need protection from skyrocketing costs that aren't justified. Currently there is nothing the state can do to stop rate increases, no matter how excessive, a situation that leaves thousands of residents scrambling to pay or risk losing their coverage. … Illinois received 186 complaints about rate increases from 2008 through 2010, according to an application submitted by the state insurance department for a $1 million federal grant that it says would enhance its efforts at oversight" (8/8).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Six leading candidates for governor say a top priority next year will be wrestling with the cost and shape of health care in Minnesota. No wonder: Medical spending accounts for roughly one-fifth of the state budget -- a share that is growing and is sure to be battered by a $6 billion projected deficit, just as state and federal laws start shifting health care into uncharted waters. … As they prepare for Tuesday's primary, the candidates' health care ideas run a wide gamut -- from blocking President Obama's ambitious new health care law to starting a string of state hospitals and clinics with cheaper care than is now available" (Wolfe, 8/8).

Las Vegas Sun: "The Sun's investigation into lethal bacteria in Las Vegas hospitals has identified more apparent underreporting by hospitals of the number of times patients are infected at the facilities. Nevada law explicitly says that hospital-acquired infections are 'sentinel' events - meaning facilities need to report them to the state and conduct analyses of how infections were caused to prevent them from occurring in the future. Hospitals statewide reported 75 total infections as sentinel events in 2009. But in its analysis of state records from 2009, the Sun identified 1,052 hospital-acquired cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and Clostridium difficile" (Allen, 8/9). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.