KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Psych Workers Seek More Security

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

Bloomberg: U.S. State Cuts Hit Health Care And Education While Helping Bondholders
Florida is firing 1,300 workers. New York is cutting education funding and freezing public employee wages for three years. Arizona is slashing Medicaid coverage. And municipal bondholders are having their best year since President George H.W. Bush was in the White House. Over the past six months, governors and lawmakers balanced their fiscal 2012 budgets and protected their credit ratings on the backs of public employees, school districts, cities and Medicaid recipients, all of whom bore the collective brunt of budget-cutting in states from New Jersey to Wisconsin to California (Jones and Varghese, 7/5).

Los Angeles Times: California State Psychiatric Workers Call For Greater Safety
Since a psychiatric technician was strangled by a patient at Napa State Hospital in October, the rising violence at the state's mental hospitals has come under increased scrutiny. Unions that represent workers formed a statewide coalition to press for major improvements. But the employees who slipped on union T-shirts, hoisted posters and chanted demands say little has happened. The workers said Metropolitan needs more staff, hospital police officers stationed full time on the units, high-security housing for the most dangerous patients and an improved alarm system (Hoeffel and Romney, 7/7).

Texas Tribune: Courtroom Battle Begins On Abortion Sonogram Law
Opposing legal teams presented arguments at the first courtroom hearing on Texas' new abortion sonogram law on Wednesday, and U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said he hoped to rule by September on whether the measure could take effect. The law, passed by the Legislature and quickly signed by Gov. Rick Perry in May, requires doctors performing abortions to conduct a sonogram of the fetus and describe it in detail to the mother. Women seeking abortions must then wait 24 hours before having the abortion performed, unless they live more than 100 miles away from the nearest clinic, in which case the waiting period is only two hours (Hooks, 7/6). 

Houston Chronicle: State Lawyers Argue For Sonogram Law
Lawyers for the state urged a federal judge on Wednesday not to throw out Texas' entire abortion-sonogram law even if he found parts of it unconstitutional (Scharrer, 7/7). 

Arizona Republic: Judge Delays Laws Restricting Abortion Pending Hearing
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Gama has delayed the enforcement of several new state laws restricting abortion services until at least Aug. 22 to allow attorneys to prepare for a hearing on a legal challenge. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the laws, which were scheduled to go into effect July 20. The organization alleges the laws will force them to eliminate abortion services in Flagstaff and Yuma and limit them elsewhere (Rau, 7/7).

The Boston Globe: Blue Cross To Refund CEO's Exit Pay To Clients
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, seeking to close the book on its widely criticized $11 million payout to former chief executive Cleve L. Killingsworth, yesterday said it will refund $4.2 million to customers, an amount equal to the severance portion of Killingsworth's pay package. ... Killingsworth, who abruptly quit in March 2010, won't have to give back the severance money or any other part of his payout. ... Employers, which buy group coverage for most of the nearly 2.9 million Blue Cross members in Massachusetts, will decide individually whether to make minor adjustments in payroll deductions. The rebate works out to less than $1.50 per member (Weisman, 7/7).

WBUR: Mass. Insurer To Rebate Cost Of CEO Severance
The state's largest insurer plans to rebate $4.2 million to its ratepayers to offset the cost of a controversial severance package to former chief executive Cleve Killingsworth. Attorney General Martha Coakley disclosed the decision by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts on Wednesday following an investigation by her office. Coakley said the probe determined that Killingsworth was entitled to the hefty severance package under his contract with the insurer, but that such contracts were "costly both in dollars and public perceptions" (7/6). 

Minnesota Public Radio: With Government Shut Down, Workers' Comp Claims In Limbo
Without a working state government, there's no forum to resolve the disputes that embroil thousands of Minnesota workers over workers' compensation benefits (Moylan, 6/7). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Zellers: 'Things Went Backwards'
Nearly a week into Minnesota's government shutdown, budget talks blew up Wednesday, with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton accusing Republicans of untruths and Republicans visibly upset that Dayton still insists on raising taxes (Roper, Stassen-Berger and Kaszuba, 7/7). 

California Healthline: Tying Up The Last Loose End Of The Budget
The state Department of Health Care Services has completed its first set of evaluations in the ongoing process to eliminate the adult day health care program in California, according to a state official. Now it will begin the effort to move the 35,000 ADHC participants to other state programs. Meanwhile, the central topic of conversation among some legislators this week will be the governor's veto of a budget provision that tied appropriated funding to a new version of the ADHC program (Gorn, 7/6).  

Kansas Health Institute: Governor Says He Hopes Clients Are Spared With Coming Medicaid Cuts
Gov. Sam Brownback today said his administration will try to protect services to Medicaid beneficiaries even while making cuts in the program's spending. "The end objective is to not cut any clients who are receiving Medicaid support," Brownback said (Shields, 7/6).

Georgia Health News: Appeals Court Blocks Albany Hospital Deal
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a Federal Trade Commission request Wednesday for an emergency injunction to halt the sale of an Albany hospital. The action by the appeals court in Atlanta follows a federal judge's ruling last month that rejected an earlier FTC bid for an injunction to block the acquisition of Palmyra Medical Center (Miller, 7/6).

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