KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

No Deal On Medicaid Expansion In Va. As Lawmakers Adjourn

In Virginia, lawmakers also failed to pass a budget or make a deal on proposed mental health legislation. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe promised a special session to settle the budget issue.

The Washington Post: Medicaid Debate In Va. Government Echoes Among Residents
At a strip-mall laundromat halfway between Washington and Richmond last week, the question in Virginia’s fierce struggle over expanding Medicaid was whether the government-backed health program should extend to the asthmatic in the black hoodie or remain reserved for the pregnant mom with a smiling frog on her sweatshirt. The two Virginians loading laundry to blaring reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” and “Taxi” are at the heart of the fiscal and philosophical quandary that forced the General Assembly to adjourn without a state budget Saturday and now threatens weeks of uncertainty (Laris, 3/8). 

The Washington Post: Va. General Assembly Adjourns Without Budget Or Medicaid Expansion
Virginia’s General Assembly wrapped up its 60-day session Saturday without passing a budget or expanding Medicaid, leaving Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s biggest priority in limbo and raising the specter of a protracted standoff that could shutter state government. McAuliffe (D) called on the House and Senate to return to the Capitol in two weeks to continue work on a two-year, $96 billion budget to fund schools, universities, local governments and other state services. But there was little optimism that the special session would lead to a quick resolution of the budget stalemate, which turns on whether to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law known informally as Obamacare (Vozzella, Laris and Weiner, 3/8).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Lawmakers Adjourn Without Budget, Reach Deals On Mental Health, Ethics
Legislators also leave in limbo proposals for state employee raises, a plan to make over the Capitol Square complex, and, for Richmond, money to help memorialize the slave trade in Shockoe Bottom. The budget’s fate is linked to the deep division between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over whether Virginia should expand Medicaid to as many as 400,000 of Virginia’s uninsured, working poor. Minutes after the General Assembly adjourned Saturday afternoon, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ardent supporter of harnessing federal funding for closing the coverage gap in health care, signed paperwork calling lawmakers back for a March 24 special session that he envisions lasting three weeks (Martz, Meola and Nolan, 3/8).

The Washington Post: McAuliffe Tells Virginia Legislators He Will Call Special Session To Resolve Budget Impasse
Virginia’s House and Senate expect to adjourn the General Assembly session Saturday without a state budget, their standoff on Medicaid expansion forcing legislators to return for a special session later this month. House Republican leaders firmly opposed to lengthening the state’s Medicaid rolls met Friday with Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who has made expansion of the health-care program for the poor and disabled his chief priority. McAuliffe told them that he would call a special session March 24, allowing for a break that will give both sides an opportunity to hear from constituents (Vozzella and Weiner, 3/7). 

Medicaid expansion makes news in New Hampshire, Missouri, Louisiana, California and Pennsylvania --

The Washington Post: New Hampshire Clears Major Medicaid Expansion Hurdle
After months of negotiations, the New Hampshire Senate on Thursday voted to expand Medicaid to cover as many as 50,000 low-income residents using tens of millions of dollars in federal aid. About 12,000 residents who would qualify for coverage would be given subsidies to pay for insurance through their employers. Thousands more would receive subsidies to buy private insurance through the state’s health-care exchange (Wilson, 3/7). 

St. Louis Public Radio: With Medicaid Expansion In Limbo, Some Lawmakers See Promise In Collaborating With Critics
State Sen. Rob Schaaf is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to health-care policy. But some believe that this staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion holds the key to ending the legislative impasse over it. The St. Joseph Republican and family physician was a major figure throughout the 2007 overhaul of the state’s Medicaid system (Rosenbaum, 3/9).

The Hill: Dems See Healthcare Opening On Medicaid
States run by Republican governors and legislatures are slowly adopting the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, boosting Democratic hopes they can run on the issue in the midterm elections. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has launched a petition on her website urging Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) to agree to the expansion, which she argues would bring health insurance to more people who cannot afford it (Easley, 3/9).

The California Health Report: Newly Eligible Stuck In Medi-Cal Backlog In Sonoma County
About 9,000 Medi-Cal applications from newly eligible Sonoma County residents have not been processed yet, due to the deluge of applications under Obamacare, said Joy Thomas, communications and outreach manager for the Sonoma County Human Services Department. It’s unclear how long the newly eligible will have to wait for their applications to be processed in the county. The county’s goal is to enroll 75 percent of its 18,000 previously uninsured residents by the end of 2014. An additional 18,000 people who once had private insurance are also now eligible for Medi-Cal in Sonoma County (Clark, 3/10).

The California Health Report: Medi-Cal Patients Face Hurdles To Specialists In Northern California
Unlike many specialists in Northern California, neurosurgeon Jeff Lobosky accepts Medi-Cal, California’s insurance program for the poor. But the Chico doctor has been forced to turn away some Medi-Cal patients this year, because of the influx of new enrollees under the Affordable Care Act. This conundrum is just one of many that doctors and patients in the Chico area and statewide are facing as Obamacare rolls out. The ACA is providing coverage to millions of low-income people nationwide through Medicaid, but there weren’t even enough doctors for those in the program before (Speer, 3/9).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: What’s Next For Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Expansion?
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has backed away from a controversial work search requirement in his Medicaid overhaul proposal that’s now under federal review. Even so, experts say it’s unclear whether that move will be enough for the plan to gain final approval. At stake are billions of dollars in federal funding for Pennsylvania and new health care options for up to half a million residents (Gordon, 3/10).

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