KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Texas Budget Cuts; Florida’s ‘F’ In Kids’ Teeth; New Insurance Programs For Conn., Maine

The Associated Press: Texas Legislature Passes Budget That Cuts Billions
Texas lawmakers adopted a state budget Saturday night ... Facing a massive revenue shortfall, lawmakers crafted the $172 billion budget by making cuts and using deferrals rather than raising taxes or dipping into the $10 billion reserve fund. … For nursing homes that rely on Medicaid for most of their business, state and federal aid would be cut 37 percent compared to funding levels in the 2010-2011 budget, according to an analysis prepared by the Legislative Study Group and the Center for Public Policy Priorities (Castro and Vertuno, 5/28).

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Medicaid, Health Reform Bills Among Those That Time Ran Out On
In the waning hours of the session, a major Medicaid efficiency bill needed to balance the state budget also ran out of time. So did SB8, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's big health reform bill, which includes an effort to take control of Medicare and Medicaid from the federal government. Both could be added to the call in a special session. But what happened to other legislation that grabbed headlines throughout the session and had lawmakers working hard for weeks? (Smith-Gonzales, 5/30).

The Miami Herald / Sun Sentinel: Florida Flunks In Providing Dental Care For Poor Children
Fewer than one in three Florida children enrolled in Medicaid, the government insurer for the poor, saw a dentist in 2010, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States, a public-policy institute based in Washington, D.C. For that, Florida was awarded a flunking grade for the second year running. Hawaii and New Jersey also got F's again. Maryland was rated the best-performing state (O'Matz, 5/30).

The Boston Globe: Maine Gov Touts New Health Insurance Bill
Gov. Paul LePage says health insurance costs in Maine will soon be going down with the recently passed health care insurance bill. … He said it will allow companies to offer less expensive insurance products to younger people, but shouldn't result in higher premiums for older Mainers (5/28).

The Connecticut Mirror: SustiNet Compromise Passes House With Both Sides Declaring Victory
A compromise bill on the controversial SustiNet state-run health plan passed the House Friday, and it drew praise from both supporters and opponents of the original proposal--albeit for different reasons. SustiNet supporters say the bill represents concrete steps toward their ultimate goal, offering a state-run insurance plan to the public. Opponents of the original proposal, meanwhile, said the compromise rightly focuses the state on implementing federal health reform, not the so-called public option that SustiNet backers sought (Levin Becker, 5/27).

Times-Picayune: New Orleans Faces Gap In Health Plan Costs
Two years ago, based on some optimistic projections about anticipated cost savings -- and perhaps simply in an effort to help balance the city's budget -- New Orleans city government sharply reduced the amount of money it contributed to the city employees' health care plan. The amount plummeted from $6,900 a year to $4,200 a year. ... the projected savings failed to materialize, and the city now is faced with the need to restore the $6,900 contribution, but without increasing the overall city budget (Eggler, 5/30).

Los Angeles Times: California Authorities Deny State's First Medical Parole Case
The reasoning seemed disarmingly simple: In a time of fiscal crisis and over-crowded prisons, why should California spend hundreds of millions of dollars retaining prisoners so sick, aged, paralyzed or otherwise infirm that they are no longer a threat to the public? And so the Legislature passed a bill to permit medical paroles ... But theory has collided with the reality that prosecutors will fight vigorously to keep even incapacitated prisoners behind bars ... Last week, the first prisoner to seek a medical parole was quickly and profoundly rejected by the board: Steven Martinez, now 42, convicted of kidnapping, beating and raping a San Diego woman in 1998 (Perry, 5/30).

Health News Florida: FL HMO Profits For Last Year: $675 Million
With premiums and co-pays rising and insurers' spending on medical care dropping, Florida HMOs are rolling in cash. As of December, they had earned an 18 percent profit -- more than $675 million -- last year, according to a report from the Office of Insurance Regulation. (Davis, 5/27).

The Connecticut Mirror: New Program To Help AIDS Patients Afford Health Insurance
When Gov. Dannel Malloy first proposed slashing the state's contribution to a program that helps AIDS patients get antiretroviral drugs, Shawn Lang was panicked. Lang, director of public policy for the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition, feared the loss of that funding--about $600,000 annually--would leave many low-income HIV-positive patients without access life-saving medications. But after that bad news came some very good news: Connecticut is finally set to launch a program to help poor AIDS patients cover the cost of their insurance premiums (Shesgreen, 5/27). 

Related, earlier KHN story: States Cutting Back On Drug Programs For HIV Patients (Kulkarni, 5/23)

The Houston Chronicle: The Quiet Menace
In the Houston area, more than 60 percent of 1,500 cases handled each month by Adult Protective Services deal with elderly people who no longer can protect and provide for themselves, APS officials said. People tend to dismiss odd behavior in the elderly as eccentricity, or they don't want to get involved in someone else's affairs, experts say. But self-neglect is likely to increase as baby boomers grow older, they say, making intervention and prevention more important than ever (Lee, 5/30).

Georgia Health News: Key Post On Disability Services Now Vacant
Georgia's plan to help institutionalized people with disabilities receive services has been stalled, consumer advocates say. The man in charge of that disabilities plan has left the position, and no replacement has yet been named. ... The coordinator's job is to develop a state plan to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Olmstead ruling of 1999. The ruling, which came in a Georgia case, said states must provide appropriate services for the disabled in the most integrated setting possible. ... Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor, sent an email to Georgia Health News addressing the issue of replacing Janes: "There will be an individual who will take over the necessary duties" (Miller, 5/27).

The Miami Herald / Palm Beach Post: New FAU Medical School Addresses Florida's Doctor Shortage
When Florida Atlantic University's new medical school opens this fall with an inaugural class of 64 students, it promises to be lighter on the lecture hall and quicker to connect students with doctors and patients in the real world. That could be one reason why despite a late start recruiting, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine still managed to draw about 1,500 applicants to the state's sixth and newest med school, says the school's dean, Dr. Michael Friedland (Isger, 5/30).

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