KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Doctor Supply At Issue In Several States

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

Georgia Health News: A Doctor Who Couldn't Afford To Stay In Georgia
Laramie, Wyoming, is a long way from Waycross, Georgia. Dr. Joel Higgins has mixed feelings about departing the Peach State. Born in Augusta, he practiced in Waycross as an ob/gyn from 2001 until last December. ... But a deteriorating financial situation drove him to move to Wyoming, he says. ... Roughly 70 percent of Higgins' Waycross patients were on Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled. Medicaid, which covers most of the births in Georgia, has not raised its reimbursements rates to doctors in 10 years. And this year, that pay is being cut by 0.5 percent (Miller, 7/22). 

New York Times: New Path For Small-Town Doctors Starts In A Kansas Small Town
This state, so sparsely populated in parts that five counties have no doctors at all, has struggled for years to encourage young doctors to relocate to rural communities, where health problems are often exacerbated by a lack of even the most basic care. On Friday, a new medical school campus opened (in Salina) to provide a novel solution to the persistent problem: an inaugural class of eight aspiring doctors who will receive all their training in exactly the kind of small community where officials hope they will remain to practice medicine (Sulzberger, 7/22). 

Houston Chronicle: Funding For Texas Doctor Training At Risk
Texas teaching hospitals are bracing for a big hit in the federal deficit-reduction plans under consideration, just a few weeks after the state Legislature slashed funding to the same doctor-training programs. The cuts will exacerbate a crisis in which Texas, ranked 42nd in the number of physicians per population, loses potential doctors because the state doesn't have enough residency slots to train the medical students it pays to educate (Ackerman, 7/23). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Feds Soon To Cite Several States For Failure To Serve The Disabled
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is expected within the next few weeks to cite several states for not doing enough to help disabled people live in communities rather than in institutions. ... Unjustified institutionalization of people with disabilities, according to the 1999 decision, is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Ranney, 7/22). 

California Healthline: Medicaid Waiver Good News for L.A.'s Homeless
Los Angeles is "home" to approximately 51,340 homeless people -- a 3% decrease from 2009. While the overall number dipped a little, the number of homeless seniors and the number of homeless veterans, including younger men and women, grew, according to the survey. ... Because elders in any demographic group -- including the homeless -- generally require more health care, the rise in the number of homeless seniors in Southern California is significant for the area's health care system (Stephens, 7/21).

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Highmark Asks To Raise 'Last-Resort' Rates
Almost 30,000 people in Western Pennsylvania who can't get health insurance anywhere else are facing a 10 percent hike in their monthly rates under a plan submitted by Highmark Inc. to state insurance regulators. Highmark, the nonprofit "insurer of last resort" in Pennsylvania, this week asked the state's Department of Insurance to allow it to increase rates an average of 9.9 percent on five plans it sells to people who don't receive insurance coverage through their employer and can't get health insurance from other providers because of their medical conditions (Nixon, 7/23). 

The Associated Press/New York Times: Tentative Deal Is Reached In Connecticut Between Governor And Unions
(Gov. Dannel) Malloy said the revised deal would save the same amount of money as the last agreement - $1.6 billion over two years. He said it also included the same cost-saving provisions, like a three-year wage freeze and changes to health and pension benefits. But Malloy said new language made it "crystal clear" that state employees were not being put into a state-run universal health care system proposed by lawmakers known as SustiNet (7/23). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: City Workers Could See Higher Health Insurance Premiums
The Milwaukee Finance & Personnel Committee approved an ordinance Friday to increase employees' share of health care costs, including a new requirement that employees pay 12% of their premiums -- a $2,000 increase next year for a family of four -- out of pocket. The full council will consider the measure Tuesday. The new ordinance proposal comes on the heels of a new state law that eliminates most collective bargaining for public employees and includes a provision requiring employees to pay 12% of insurance premiums (Fakheri, 7/22).

California Healthline: ADHC Saga About To Take A Pivotal Turn
The state Department of Health Care Services is moving to cancel its July 26 court hearing over the legality of eliminating the [Adult Day Health Care] program. DHCS also sent a letter this week to CMS asking for a three-month extension to the original Sept. 1 elimination date. That request was approved by CMS (Gorn, 7/22). 

The Miami Herald/McClatchy: Physicians, Gun Advocates Tangle Over New 'Docs vs. Glocks' Law
[Cases] in which kids are shot accidentally are hardly new, but now they're at the core of an unusual legal battle pitting a portion of the medical profession against some powerful gun-rights advocates and the state of Florida. At issue is a new state law, the first of its kind in the nation, that forbids licensed healthcare workers from asking patients about gun ownership and gun safety absent compelling reasons. Supporters, including the National Rifle Association, say the law was needed to protect gun owners' privacy and stop doctors from "harassing" patients on the subject (Viglucci, 7/24). 

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