KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.J. Gov. Christie’s Big Health Care Changes

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

The Star Ledger: N.J. Senate Approves Pension, Health Care Reform Bill
The state Senate voted 24-15 to pass legislation that will force public employees to pay more for their health insurance and pension. The vote, after hours of speeches from lawmakers on both sides, leaves only the Assembly to sign off on the bill that was a focal piece of Gov. Chris Christie's agenda. The bill received largely Republican support to clear the Senate chamber, a strategy that Democrat Senate President Stephen Sweeney employed to get the bill passed (6/20).

Stateline: Christie Proposes To Slash Medicaid In New Jersey
New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie wants to cut $540 million from the state's Medicaid program by moving more people into managed care and restricting coverage of adults. Under his proposal, released last week, a parent of two children with an income exceeding $5,300 a year would be denied participation, a drastic reduction from the current income ceiling of $24,600. Children in these families would still be covered (Vestal, 6/21). 

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Legislative Session Heads Into Final Stretch
Louisiana lawmakers today begin a four-day slog through unfinished business as they conclude an election-year session defined by high-profile tussles between Gov. Bobby Jindal and increasingly testy coalitions of a usually compliant Legislature. At the top of the list is ratifying a budget compromise between the House version passed last month and the version passed late Sunday evening, with the upper chamber restoring cuts to Medicaid financing and other line items that the more austere House imposed (Barrow, 6/20).

The Texas Tribune: Strip Club Fee Back On Center Stage
The state's $5 "pole tax" on strip club patrons can't seem to avoid controversy. ... Lawmakers approved the strip club admissions tax in 2007 to raise money for sexual assault programs and low-income health insurance. The measure has been tied up in litigation ever since, with strip clubs arguing it's a tax on free speech (Ramshaw, 6/21). 

California Healthline: Grant Moved Up To Get IT Dollars
It is a daunting task, applying for a federal establishment grant for the California Health Benefit Exchange -- it lays out the direction and scope of the entire exchange, so the board's plan was to complete it in September. ... It became clear, however, that some of the work needed to get started -- particularly the health information technology work -- which means it needs federal cash sooner rather than later (Gorn, 6/20).

Kansas Health Institute News: The Undoing Of The Kansas Health Policy Authority
Kansas legislators liked the idea of the Kansas Health Policy Authority back in 2005, when the House and Senate each voted unanimously to create the new agency that came to control the majority of state government's health care spending. But by the time Gov. Sam Brownback took office this past January, the health policy authority had no real allies left in the Legislature. Brownback's executive reorganization order (ERO 38) merging the agency with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and dissolving without fanfare the quasi-independent board that had governed it came and went with no opposition in the House or Senate (Shields, 6/20). 

Georgia Health News: State Targeting Fraud In Nutrition Program
Georgia health officials have launched a campaign to stop persistent fraud in a $300 million federal nutrition program for low-income women and children. ... WIC serves roughly 9 million Americans, about 312,000 of whom are Georgians. The program is funded by the federal government but administered locally by the states. Pregnant mothers, postnatal women, and children up to age 5 can enroll (Miller, 6/20).

The Detroit News: Survey: Employee Health Care Costs Rise In Southeast Michigan
Metro Detroit employers saw employees' health care costs jump more this year than in the prior two years - in part because of federal health care reform mandates, according to a benefits survey released Monday. This year's 8 percent increase is greater than the 7 percent rise in 2010 and 5 percent increase in 2009, according to Troy-based consulting firm McGraw Wentworth. It also is higher than the national average increase projected at 6.4 percent for 2011 (Burden, 6/21).

Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Signs Pharmacy Benefits Deal With CVS Caremark
The California Public Employees' Retirement System signed a $575 million-a-year contract with CVS Caremark Corp. to provide prescription drug benefits to 346,000 members. The contract, announced Monday, came more than two weeks after Caremark settled a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging fraud in earlier contracts involving CalPERS and pension funds in other states (Lifsher, 6/21).

Arizona Republic: Physicians Group Opens A Specialty Hospital Site
The nation's health-care law limits doctors from owning hospitals, but it did not stop a group of local doctors from opening a new $57 million specialty hospital in Phoenix. The 64-room Orthopedic and Spine Inpatient Surgical Hospital, or Oasis, at 750 N. 40th St. in Phoenix, opened Friday with about 125 full-time nurses, medical and administrative staff. The hospital expects to begin treating patients next week. Oasis Medical Director David Ott said he and his physician partners have worked for six years to plan and develop the orthopedic- and spine-care hospital (Alltucker, 6/17). 

ABC News: N.C. Man Allegedly Robs Bank Of $1 To Get Health Care In Jail
A 59-year-old man has been jailed in Gastonia, N.C., on charges of larceny after allegedly robbing an RBC Bank for $1 so he could get health care in prison. Richard James Verone handed a female teller a note demanding the money and claiming that he had a gun, according to the police report. Verone said he asked for $1 to show that his motives were medical, not monetary, according to news reports (Moisse, 6/20).

The Connecticut Mirror: For Some, Going Without Health Insurance Is An Act Of Faith
Yvonne Mitto didn't have health insurance when she had sinus surgery this winter, and she couldn't be happier. She had her bills covered and, along with them, people across the country praying for her. ... Mitto belongs to Medi-Share, a health care sharing ministry in which members contribute money each month that pays other members' medical bills. ... Leaders stress that the ministries are not insurance, and more than a dozen states have laws exempting them from regulation (Levin Becker, 6/21).

Related, earlier KHN story: Some Church Groups Form Sharing Ministries To Cover Members' Medical Costs (Andrews, 4/25)

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