KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Iowa Redesign Of Mental Health Services Raises Concerns

News outlets report on health policy developments in California, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia.

Des Moines Register: New Law For Mental Health Care Hit-Or-Miss
State leaders hope their mental health redesign will bring better services to (rural areas of Iowa), but many front-line administrators doubt they’ll see significant improvements soon. In fact, some worry that services could erode over the next year as money and some financial responsibilities are shifted from the counties to the state. Some long-term improvements are possible, they say, but cash likely will run short in the next few months (Leys, 6/14).

Boston Globe: Massachusetts Hospitals Provided $622 Million In Community Benefits In 2011
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office released a report on Thursday detailing the community benefits provided by hospitals. In exchange for their tax-exempt status, non-profit hospitals are expected to pay for programs in their communities that improve residents' health, and report their expenditures publicly. Fifty non-profit hospitals reported $559 million in community benefits during fiscal year 2011, of which $58 million went for free or discounted care for patients (Kowalczyk, 6/14).

WBUR: Gov. Patrick: Mass. Must Provide Health Care For Illegal Immigrants
Gov. Deval Patrick says the state must provide health care for illegal immigrants, despite the cost. That's after the Patrick administration released figures that show the state spent $178 million to reimburse hospitals for treating patients who failed to prove legal residency. But Patrick says the health safety net is serving its purpose (6/14).

Boston Globe: Elective Surgeries Up Among Low-Income And Hispanic Adults After State Health Law
More low-income and Hispanic adults in Massachusetts underwent knee or hip replacements and 15 other elective inpatient surgeries after the state expanded health insurance coverage to nearly all its residents in 2006, according to a new study by Boston University researchers. The results suggest that the law helped these populations more readily see primary care physicians who would have referred them for such operations, said Boston University School of Medicine professor Nancy Kressin, who led the study (Shen, 6/14).

California Watch: Bill Seeks To Bring Down Patient Costs For Cancer Pills
(Robert) Adler, of Laguna Hills, said friends and family helped him come up with more than $42,000 for the Revlimid pills he needed for a course of treatment. But he plans to travel to Sacramento on June 27 to testify in favor of a bill that would make the cost of anti-cancer pills similar to the cost of IV therapy. … Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, introduced the bill after talking to cancer patients and their families at the infusion center where his mother was receiving intravenous therapy for lung cancer (Jewett, 6/15).

Des Moines Register: Branstad Appoints Insurance Regulator
A Des Moines insurance executive will become the state's top insurance regulator, Gov. Terry Branstad announced Thursday. … [Nick Gerhart] said the division's challenges include dealing with big changes in the health insurance industry. He predicted that at least part of President Barack Obama's health reform law will survive a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected to be released this month. He said the division probably would be heavily involved in implementing the part calling for health insurance exchanges, computerized systems that would help consumers and small businesses compare and purchase policies (Leys, 6/14).

Georgia Health News: Signs Of Progress In A Long, Tough Fight
Optimism on obesity? Many of us know the basics of the problem: Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Georgia has the second-highest childhood obesity rate in the nation. The associated health care costs are staggering, and they're on the rise. … But Dr. William Dietz, director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the CDC, told an Atlanta audience Wednesday that he sees hopeful trends on the issue, including in Georgia (Miller, 6/14).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: State Board Of Health To Vote On Abortion Clinic Regulations
The Virginia Board of Health today is expected to vote to adopt permanent regulations that would impose hospital-level building and operating requirements on health clinics that perform abortions in Virginia. If passed, the regulations go through a public comment period before coming before Gov. Bob McDonnell for final approval. Critics of the regulations say they would make Virginia among the most restrictive and costly places in the country for women to legally obtain an abortion, and could force the closure of a number of the state's 20 providers (Nolan, 6/15).

Detroit Free Press: A Controversy Is Born After 2 Michigan Lawmakers' Comments In Abortion Debate
(State Reps. Lisa) Brown and (Barb) Byrum were told they wouldn't be recognized to speak because of comments they made Wednesday during the emotional abortion-rights debate. Brown found out when she tried to speak on a bill that would change retirement benefits on teachers. Byrum wanted to introduce a group of visitors from her district who were watching the session. She was told she couldn't speak. What did Brown and Byrum do to warrant the silent treatment? Brown, who voted against the abortion regulations, told supporters of the bill: "I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no," referencing the proposal (Gray, 6/15).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.