KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Texas Planned Parenthood Clinic Struggles

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Los Angeles Times: Still Waiting For Relief
They came with rotting teeth, shattered glasses and broken bodies. In the predawn darkness outside the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they lined up last year by the thousands, waiting as the sun burned their backs for healthcare they could not afford. Many needed more than the volunteer doctors and dentists at the Remote Area Medical clinic could give. When the glasses ran out, they settled for eye exams. Instead of root canals, they got teeth pulled. They pointed to the holes in their smiles with relief. At least the pain had stopped (Hennessey-Fiske, 10/16).

The Texas Tribune: Planned Parenthood Struggles After State Budget Cuts
In 2010, the Hidalgo County network's eight clinics provided family-planning services to 23,000 patients, many of whom are uninsured and cannot afford to pay. The services included contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and wellness exams for both men and women — but not abortions. … Operating in a region with a limited donor base and high need for health services, Gonzales said, the clinics have relied heavily on government financing. So when state cuts to family planning took effect in September, the Hidalgo County network lost a $3.1 million contract and was forced to lay off half its staff and shut down four of its facilities (Tan, Dehn and Murphy, 10/16).

The Seattle Times: Under Pressure On Abortion, Swedish Backs New Planned Parenthood Clinic
Swedish Medical Center, beset by mounting opposition to its decision to stop performing elective abortions if a pending alliance with a Catholic health system is approved, will help underwrite a Planned Parenthood center in the Nordstrom Tower adjacent to the hospital. Swedish's plan to refer patients to the center, which will provide a full range of reproductive-health services, including elective abortion, has been in the works for several months (Ostrom, 10/14).

MSNBC/AP: Rural States To Lobby For Medicare Provision
Health leaders from the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming plan to travel to the nation's capital this week to try to salvage future Medicare payments. The group wants Congress to protect new rules that beginning in 2013 will correct inequities in Medicare payments to some rural states. The "frontier" provision of health care reform promises higher payments to hospitals and doctors for treating Medicare patients in rural states, but President Barack Obama has recommended eliminating it as part of federal budget cuts(10/17).

ABC: Retired Doctor Tests Aid-In-Dying Law In Hawaii
(E)xperts working with the national group, Compassion and Choices, and the Hawai'i Death With Dignity Society have unearthed a 102-year-old provision in Hawaiian law that they say means aid in dying has been legal all along: [W]hen a duly licensed physician or osteopathic physician pronounces a person affected with any disease hopeless and beyond recovery and gives a written certificate to that effect to the person affected or the person's attendant, nothing herein shall forbid any person from giving or furnishing any remedial agent or measure when so requested by or on behalf of the affected person" (Donaldson James, 10/17).

WBUR's Commonhealth blog: Lawmakers Betting On Gambling To Help Fund Health Reform
Twenty-three percent of the money the state receives from casino and slot parlor licensing fees would go into a new Healthcare Payment Reform Fund. Supporters of the fund, which is in both the House and Senate casino bills, hope to raise $40 to 50 million for the move to electronic health records and for other costs they say will eventually help the state spend less on health care (Bebinger, 10/17).

The Associated Press: Deadbeat State: Ill. Owes Billions In Unpaid Bills
Drowning in deficits, Illinois has turned to a deliberate policy of not paying billions of dollars in bills for months at a time, creating a cycle of hardship and sacrifice for residents and businesses helping the state carry out some of the most important government tasks. ... As of early last month, the state owed on 166,000 unpaid bills worth a breathtaking $5 billion, with nearly half of that amount more than a month overdue and hundreds of bills dating back to 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of state documents (10/16).

Kansas Health Institute: Payment System Launch For HCBS Will Stay At Nov. 1, KDoA Secretary Says 
Kansas Department on Aging Secretary Shawn Sullivan said he talked with federal officials today and concluded Kansas should move forward with the planned Nov. 1 launch of a new financial management system for its Medicaid-funded home and community based services. Sullivan on Wednesday had told a legislative committee he would ask officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if Kansas could delay launch of the new system to Dec. 1, following complaints from payroll agents that they needed more time to get ready (Shields, 10/14).

The Seattle Times: Caregiver Initiative's Hurdle: State's Budget Hole
An initiative on the November ballot would require the state to increase spending by millions of dollars to boost training for long-term-care workers, at a time when the Legislature must slash nearly $2 billion from the state budget. Initiative 1163 supporters say the spending is appropriate, given the need for additional training (Garber, 10/16).

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