KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Florida Awaits Medicaid Waiver News

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

HealthyCal: School Nurses, Stretched Thin, Focus On Critical Care
Now, nurses regularly do everything from give insulin shots to empty urinary catheter bags. At the same time, state budget cuts mean the number of school nurses in California is shrinking. As a result, nurses say, they are responsible for more students every year and are largely consumed with keeping "medically fragile" children in class (Bookwalter, 12/14).

Health News Florida: Medicaid Waiver Coming Soon, With Patient-Protection Rules
This week, federal health officials are expected to give Florida an early Christmas present: an extension on a five-county Medicaid Pilot that requires patients to be enrolled in managed care. But when state officials unwrap the gift, they're likely to find a bundle of strings attached. Most of those strings are intended to keep HMOs from shortchanging patients to hike their profits. Some will likely require hospitals to improve quality of care. Receipt of the waiver extension on the Medicaid Pilot will be a major relief for state lawmakers and the Agency for Health Care Administration, which in Florida governs the joint state-federal program for coverage of low-income patients (Gentry, 12/14).

The Texas Tribune: Interactive: Texas' Shortage Of Psychiatrists, Mental Health Workers
State health officials estimate that more than 488,000 adult Texans are living with serious, persistent mental illness. Among children, roughly 154,000 are living with a severe emotional disturbance. While more Texans are being diagnosed with mental health problems every year, advocates say treatment costs are rising and there aren't enough behavioral health professionals available to meet the demand for services (Tan, 12/15).

WBUR's Common Health blog: Mass. To Have 5 Of 30 Or So Federal ACO Pilots
Massachusetts will have a dominant presence on Monday in DC when federal officials announce the names of hospitals and physicians selected as Pioneer ACOs.  The 30 or so networks in this pilot will demonstrate how to become an Accountable Care Organization (ACO).  The five Massachusetts groups are expected to be: Partners HealthCare, Steward Health Care, Mount Auburn Hospital and the Mount Auburn Cambridge Independent Physician Practice (MACIPA), the Beth Israel Deaconess Physicians Organization (BIDPO) and Atrius Health (the state's largest independent physicians group) (Bebinger, 12/14).

KQED's State Of Health blog: How Lawsuits Can Stymie Some Trigger Cuts
Trigger cuts have been the weapon of choice in many recent budgetary negotiations, most famously as the Congressional ‘Super Committee’ failed to come to agreement last month. But in California, where Governor Jerry Brown yesterday announced nearly a billion dollars in additional reductions to state spending, that budget gun is jammed, as advocates for the elderly and mentally and physically disabled have managed to thwart the automatic reductions by asserting that the state's severe cuts — some $15 billion to health and human services since 2008 — are beginning to violate federal law (Varney, 12/14).

California Healthline: Trigger Cuts Not The Only Worry For Disabled
Yesterday's announcement of $1 billion in trigger cuts for California's budget includes two provisions that hit the developmentally disabled community. One of those provisions, to scale back In-Home Supportive Services by 20 percent, is already in court. A federal judge last week issued a temporary restraining order to halt implementation of that cut, pending a hearing scheduled for tomorrow (Gorn, 12/14).

The Hill: GOP Gov. Haley Accused Of Wasting Tax Dollars On 'Sham' Study
Critics are accusing Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) of wasting more than $100,000 in federal tax dollars on what critics call a "sham" analysis of how to implement President Obama's health care reform law in her state. ... Haley established the nonpartisan South Carolina Health Planning Committee on March 10 with the stated intention of determining "whether or not the state should establish a health insurance exchange," The Post and Courier reports. But internal records obtained by the newspaper suggest Haley had her mind set on what the panel's conclusion should be before it ever met (Pecquet, 12/14).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Police Union Sues Over Health Plan Changes
Dissension over a new Milwaukee police union contract is surfacing even before the deal is signed. Aldermen learned Wednesday that the union has filed suit to prevent the city from imposing new health care deductibles and co-pays on its members, despite a state law that gives local governments complete control over designing their employees' health care plans. And in an unusual move, at least five officers are publicly challenging last week's contract ratification vote and threatening legal action against their own union unless the balloting is repeated (Sandler, 12/14).

CT Mirror: 'Right-Sizing' Nursing Homes
State officials are developing a plan to dramatically reshape the state's long-term care system, just as demand for it is expected to skyrocket. The effort — referred to as "right-sizing" the system — is aimed at allowing more seniors and people with disabilities to live in community settings rather than institutions. If it goes as officials hope, nearly one in four nursing home beds in the state won't be needed within the next two decades — at least according to projections being used by state officials. They're planning to award millions of dollars in federal grant money to nursing homes looking to diversify their business models (Levin Becker, 12/15).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Oregon's Prescription Drug Program Expands Into Washington
The program recently joined forces with the Washington Prescription Drug Program, expanding the number of its enrollees to 800,000 — 380,000 of whom live in Oregon. People who lack prescription drug coverage benefit from lower drug costs, regardless of their income or insurance status. But that program doesn't go far enough, according to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who believes it's important to improve the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs and other care, telling attendees that he's focused on giving Medicare the ability to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs (McCurdy, 12/14).

New Hampshire Public Radio: Executive Council Takes Refugee Money From Feds, But Not Health Care Money
Refugees in the state will receive almost a half million dollars of federal funding for health and social services. The executive council had put that money on hold last month at the request of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. Councilor Ray Wieczorek says that he still has reservations about the number of refugees being resettled in Manchester. ... In contrast, the council voted to turn down federal money for planning a state health insurance exchange (Evans-Brown, 12/14).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Legislators Weigh In On Business Plan For Health Care Transformation
Getting legislative approval for a business plan that sets the course for transforming the Oregon Health Plan may not come down to simply a yes or no vote, according to Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland) and Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Roseburg), who appeared before the Oregon Health Policy Board on Tuesday. … For example, legislators could require the Oregon Health Authority to come before its Emergency Board to provide updates. That board, comprised of 20 representatives and senators, meets while the Legislature is not in session and often deals with budgetary issues. Legislators could also decide not to release funding for these CCOs until certain conditions are met (Waldroupe, 12/15).

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