KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: After Vinson Stay, Alaska To Implement Health Law

McClatchy: Alaska To Roll Out Health Care Law After Losing Federal Funds
After allowing the application deadline to pass for $1 million in federal health care assistance, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday he will begin implementing the new health care law after all, now that a Florida judge has told the states to do just that. … Vinson stayed his order Thursday to give the Obama Administration time to appeal, leaving Parnell no choice but to begin putting the law into effect in Alaska (Bolstad, 3/4).

PBS Newshour: In California, Rising Health-Insurance Premiums Spark Outcry
People got angry when Blue Shield of California announced recently it would raise health insurance rates for some individuals as much as 59 percent. It was the fourth major insurance company to announce sharp increases for those buying their own insurance and the third round of rate hikes by Blue Shield since last fall (Michels, 3/3).

The Arizona Republic: Poor Fret Over How AHCCCS Will Be Pared
Hundreds of thousands of Arizonans on AHCCCS are anxiously waiting for the Governor's Office to announce how it plans to trim costs from the state's Medicaid program and whether such a proposal would include an enrollment freeze or a loss of their benefits. Gov. Jan Brewer has already received permission from the federal government to drop 250,000 childless adults from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System effective Oct. 1, but pursuing those cuts would require the state to stop allowing new enrollments months before the reductions are scheduled to take effect. Such a freeze could potentially affect thousands of people, as AHCCCS recipients routinely fall on and off the state's Medicaid rolls (Rough and Reinhart, 3/4).

Detroit Free Press: Shopping Comes To Health Care: More Hospitals Post Prices, Negotiate Costs
As out-of-pocket costs for health care increase, some of the most significant changes in decades are coming to hospitals to meet the demand for price information. Three Michigan hospital systems -- Ford, Dearborn's Oakwood Healthcare and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids -- post average prices for common tests and procedures, from X-rays to back surgery. Ford and Oakwood have expanded financial counseling programs and give their best discounts to uninsured customers, as do a growing number of other hospitals (Anstett, 3/4).

Kansas City Star: Mental Health Advocates Protest Cuts
About 300 mental health advocates gathered in Memorial Hall near the Capitol building Thursday to ask legislators to reconsider proposed cuts to mental health services. Since 2007, Kansas has cut mental health centers' budgets by 65 percent. This year's proposed cuts would eliminate state aid funding, which is $10.2 million a year, and money for Family Centered Systems of Care, which is $5 million annually (Foster, 3/3).

The Texas Tribune: Texas Abortion Bill Tentatively Passes House
Thursday's debate on Stephenville Republican state Rep. Sid Miller's abortion sonogram bill, House Bill 15, began shortly after 2 p.m. It ended shortly after 9 p.m. The bill passed to third reading on a vote of 103-42, which means one easy step remains before it heads to the Senate. ... Miller's bill, already passed by the Senate, would require doctors to provide information about sonogram tests to pregnant women before performing abortions (Hamilton, 3/3).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate Bill Would End Milwaukee's Paid Sick Day Ordinance
Milwaukee's paid sick day ordinance would be nullified under a bill passed Thursday by the state Senate. Milwaukee voters approved the paid sick day ordinance in November 2008 after enough signatures were gathered to place the measure on the ballot. The measure passed with nearly 70% of the vote, but it was immediately challenged by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and halted by a judge. The measure is now under review by the state Court of Appeals. But under legislation passed Thursday by the Senate, family and medical leave must be uniform throughout the state. And no city, village, town or county could enact an ordinance to provide employees with more leave (Pabst, 3/4).

San Francisco Chronicle: Changes At The State Public Health Department
Changes are in the works at the California Department of Public Health. Dr. Mark Horton, who was until Tuesday the director of the Department of Public Health, was relieved of his position by Diana Dooley, who was appointed secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency by Gov. Jerry Brown in December. ... Horton had led California's public health program since 2005, first as health officer and chief deputy of the Department of Health Services and then as the first director of the newly established Department of Public Health, a position he has held since 2007 (Colliver, 3/3).

The Miami Herald: Well-Known Lawyer Sentenced For Online Pharmaceutical Drug Sales
A well-known Miami-Dade lawyer who pleaded guilty to selling tens of millions in pharmaceutical drugs without prescriptions on an Internet site serving buyers across the country was sentenced to 40 months by a federal judge in California on Thursday. Robert Smoley, a former mayor of North Bay Village who has represented numerous high-profile clients during his career, admitted he and others distributed in excess of $48 million worth of drugs through his company, United Mail Pharmacy Services (Sallah and Barry, 3/3). 

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