KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Arizona Medicaid Waiver; Mass. BCBS Plans Charge More For High-Cost Hospitals; Texas Dems’ Abortion Fight

Bloomberg: Sebelius Says Arizona Medicaid Waiver May Not Be In Her Power To Provide
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's proposal to cut 280,000 people from the state's Medicaid rolls is being reviewed by U.S. officials who don't know whether they have the power to approve the action, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. The secretary ... said there is "legal uncertainty" about the action because the program expansion that Brewer seeks to reverse occurred through a ballot initiative, not a legislative vote. Sebelius said that may limit her authority to grant the request. Arizona's governor last month proposed eliminating coverage for childless adults by tightening eligibility requirements. She requested a waiver from the U.S. rule that states must maintain Medicaid coverage for the same people who received it before the health-care overhaul became law in March (Wechsler and Yu, 2/10).

WBUR: Health Plan Charges Up To $1,000 More For 'High-Cost' Hospitals
The state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, is out with a plan that charges members more - as much as $1,000 more - when they check-in or have tests at one of 15 hospitals Blue Cross calls "high-cost." ... Will much higher co-pays persuade patients to spend less on health care by checking-in to or scheduling tests at cheaper, less-well-known hospitals? Many employers hope the answer is yes (Bebinger, 2/10).

The Boston Globe: Plans Steer Patients To Lower-Cost Hospitals
Other Massachusetts insurers also report brisk business in plans that offer lower premiums in exchange for limits on use of high-cost care. The plans either charge consumers extra for receiving care from popular but expensive hospitals or doctors, or bar them altogether from seeking treatment at those institutions and practices. ... Companies and workers that sign up get a significant break on their health insurance premiums: a 4.5 percent increase for the first quarter of the year instead of a 10 percent increase (Kowalczyk, 2/10).

The New York Times: Delay Of State Money For Merger May Force A Hospital In Brooklyn To Close
A struggling Brooklyn hospital is making plans to shut down in March after a decision by the Cuomo administration to delay grants to help finance a merger intended to rescue the institution, officials said on Wednesday (Confessore and Hartocollis, 2/9).

PBS Newshour: California Program Stresses Early Detection, Treatment Of Mental Illness
The National Institute for Mental Health says that one in four adult Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, and one in 17 has a serious mental illness. But, sometimes, finding and treating those people is challenging. Traditional psychotherapy often doesn't work. (Bob) Bennett adapted an approach that has been used abroad but that is only now being tired in the U.S. Its goal is to identify schizophrenic patients early, before major symptoms develop, and to treat the disease as manageable and chronic. ... California stands in contrast to most other states, which have cut mental health programs to the tune of more than $2 billion since 2009. This year, 10 states are planning on slashing their mental health budgets (Michels, 2/9).

Los Angeles Times: Californians Approve Of Healthcare Reforms, Fear Effect Of State Cuts On Services, New Poll Finds
Californians are more likely to support President Obama's healthcare overhaul than the rest of the country and fear the impact of state budget cuts on health services, according to a poll released late Wednesday by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California (2/9).

The Sacramento Bee: Hospitals Threatened By Retirements In Allied Health Fields, Survey Says
Looming retirements within the health care industry could pose significant challenges to hospitals, particularly in so-called allied health fields, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Hospital Association. Serious shortages for clinical laboratory scientists, physical therapists, pharmacists, radiological technicians and other professions could result if priority is not given to health science education and work force development, the report said. The study is based on a survey of California hospitals conducted between January and May 2010 and analyzed by researchers at the UC San Francisco Center for the Health Professions (Calvan, 2/10).

California Healthline: Health Services Making Shift to Counties
Compared to the past two weeks of painful deliberations in budget subcommittee hearings, yesterday's discussion of the proposed shift of health services to the counties was like a breath of realigned air. ... Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal shifts responsibility and funding to the counties for foster care, adult protective services, mental health programs and drug and alcohol treatment programs.There's only one potential pitfall to the plan, according to Frank Mecca, the executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California. Money (Gorn, 2/9).

Health News Florida: 'Big Brother' Fears Of Database
Likening it to "Big Brother,'' a House health-committee chairman said Tuesday he will look at repealing a prescription-drug database that lawmakers approved in 2009 to try to curb deadly drug abuse. ... Some conservatives have long opposed the database because of concerns about privacy and government intrusion. But [Gov. Rick] Scott's proposed repeal alarmed database supporters, who argue it is the most-effective way to crack down on prescription-drug abuse and unscrupulous pill mills (Saunders, 2/9).

The Miami Herald: Move To Kill Florida Pill-Mill Database Not Appreciated In Kentucky
Sheriff Terry Keelin doesn't much care for way Florida is protecting that one booming sector of an otherwise morbid state economy. Maybe it's the distance. His county (in Kentucky is) a thousand miles north of South Florida's flourishing cluster of pill mills. Maybe it's the fatalities. … Kentucky and 42 other states maintain narcotic monitoring systems that discourage such willy-nilly pill sales -- leaving sunny, convenient, no-questions-asked Florida as the perfect destination for oxy tourism (Grimm, 2/9).

The Texas Tribune: For Texas Senate Dems, Abortion Bill Reveals Split
When state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., talks about abortion, the Brownsville Democrat turns quiet and introspective. He is one of 10 children and was raised with Catholic values, he said, which helped shape his anti-abortion beliefs. ... The same day, his colleague, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, told a story of her own. It was years ago, she said, when she met with the archbishop in her district to talk about her support for abortion rights. ... The tales foreshadow what is likely a split vote by Senate Democrats on the controversial sonogram abortion bill - one of Gov. Rick Perry's emergency legislative priorities - being debated this week in the upper chamber. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, introduced an amended version of his Senate Bill 16 on Wednesday. It would require doctors to perform a sonogram at least two hours before an abortion and to display the results to the woman (Aguilaran, 2/10).

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