KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: NY Times On Mental Health Cuts; Wis. GOP Agenda Moves Ahead; Minn. Medicaid Expansion

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton Says Administration Is 'Dedicated' To Medicaid Expansion
Gov. Mark Dayton said during his campaign that enrolling 95,000 people in an expanded Medicaid program would be his top priority when he took office -- and he meant it. Less than three weeks after he was told by members of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration that it could take until October to enact the change, Dayton announced Thursday that it would be done by March 1. ... He said the move will mean increased care for low-income Minnesotans, and more than $1 billion in federal money for the state's health care providers (Scheck, 1/20).

Georgia Health News: 'A Lot Of Work To Do' On State Health Agenda
Public health spending, Medicaid eligibility, and the planned closing of a Rome hospital were major topics as two health agencies gave budget presentations Thursday to state legislators. David Cook, the new commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the joint House-Senate Appropriations panel that Medicaid needs a new eligibility system prior to the expansion of that program under federal health care reform (Miller, 1/20).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Legislature Backs Brewer On Medicaid Waiver
Republican lawmakers on Thursday gave Gov. Jan Brewer authority to ask federal officials for permission to cut 280,000 people from the state's low-income health program to help bridge next year's $1.1 billion budget gap. Critics argued that the move is both unconstitutional and fruitless. Brewer called the Legislature into a special session this week to get emergency approval for the Medicaid-waiver request, which seeks a two-year reprieve from a federal health-care-reform requirement that states maintain current eligibility levels (Reinhart, 1/21).

The New York Times: States' Budget Crises Cut Deeply Into Financing For Mental Health Programs
Unlike many of her fellow governors, Jan Brewer of Arizona knows well the inner workings of her state's mental health system: her son has schizophrenia and was committed to a state hospital more than 20 years ago after being found not guilty by reason of insanity of sexual assault and kidnapping (Lacey, Sack and Sulzberger, 1/20).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Chief Lays Out Revamped Oversight For Addiction And Mental Health Clinics
The state's top health official laid out new oversight measures Thursday aimed at better policing taxpayer-funded drug treatment and mental health providers. Among the steps Health Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein presented to lawmakers: monitoring the federal tax filings of nonprofit providers to look for questionable executive salaries and scrutinizing the medical diagnoses of clinics whose billing patterns raise red flags (Calvert, 1/20).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Scores Victories On Tort Reform, HSAs
Republicans sent Gov. Scott Walker his first two legislative victories Thursday, approving bills that would protect businesses and others from lawsuits and provide tax breaks for those with health savings accounts. The bills landed on Walker's desk less than three weeks after he unveiled them. They are the first to pass in a special legislative session the GOP governor called Jan. 3, the day he was inaugurated. He is expected to sign them soon (Marley and Bergquist, 1/20).

Connecticut Mirror: Legislators Consider More Scrutiny Of Health Insurance Rate Hikes
A hotly contested proposal to tighten state regulation of health insurance rate hikes didn't make it through the legislature last year. But in the wake of recent fights over premium increases, several lawmakers are eager to revisit the issue.So far, 10 bills have been introduced that call for public hearings or increased state oversight when health insurers seek to raise premiums (Becker, 1/20).

The Boston Globe: Insurer Says New Pay Plan Working
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts says its new system of paying doctors a fixed amount per patient improved care during the first year, contrary to critics' fears that patients would be harmed. The state's largest health insurer said that during 2009, the 6,300 doctors paid under the new method improved care for their patients faster than the 14,200 other doctors in the Blue Cross HMO network. Quality was assessed using dozens of criteria, such as the percentage of diabetics whose glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were regularly measured and under control (Kowalcyzk, 1/21).

The Miami Herald: Funding Gap Threatens AIDS Drug Help
Patients who need HIV/AIDS drugs but can't afford them could be in danger of going without if the Florida program that supplies the drugs runs out of money as threatened by mid-February, state officials said Wednesday. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program has a $14.5 million funding gap that could last until the new funding year begins April 1. ... In Florida, ADAP has been providing drugs to 10,600 patients, with 3,000 of them in Miami-Dade and Broward. Short of money last year, the state on June 1, 2010, started putting new patients on a waiting list that now has an additional 2,800 people (Tasker, 1/20). 

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