KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Iowa Lawmaker Urges Waiting On Exchange Bill Until Court Rules

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

Des Moines Register: Legislators Disagree On Urgency Of Health Exchange
Democrats and Republicans disagree about whether the Legislature needs to approve a health insurance exchange this spring. ... At a Statehouse forum on the issue Thursday, state Sen. Brad Zaun noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on whether major portions of the health reform law are constitutional. Zaun, an Urbandale Republican who opposes the overall law, said it makes sense to wait until after that decision before deciding whether to move ahead with the exchange (Leys, 3/1).

The Lund Report (an Ore. news service): Insurance Exchange Bill Moves Toward Floor Vote, With Amendment Relating To OEBB Opt-Out
After weeks of being stuck in the Legislature's Budget Committee, the bill allowing Oregon’s health insurance exchange to proceed toward implementation is moving toward a House and Senate vote. ... [The Oregon health insurance exchange's business plan] provides financial projections and maps out how it will be ready to provide health insurance to individuals and small businesses (50 employees and under) starting in January 2014. It’s expected be a one-stop shopping place for as many as 700,000 uninsured individuals and small businesses (Waldroupe, 3/2).

San Francisco Chronicle: Connecting Unused Drugs, Uninsured Patients
Seven years ago, a group of Stanford students realized that a tremendous amount of medicine was being wasted and that it could help uninsured patients. Their idea has grown into a nonprofit that helps health care centers and drug companies donate unused prescriptions to pharmacies that then supply uninsured patients. In redistributing the medicines, the startup — Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine, or Sirum — not only helps those needy and poor patients but reduces the environmental hazards of incinerating or otherwise destroying the unexpired drugs (Colliver, 3/2).

KQED's State of Health blog: Healthy San Francisco: Snapshot Of Universal Care
Since its inception in 2007, Healthy San Francisco has enrolled 80 percent of San Francisco's uninsured–about 55,000 adults. And people are using the primary care benefits. "Over 70 percent of the people in Healthy SF are getting a primary care visit at least once a year," (Tangerine Brigham, director of the program) said. "Because they're using primary care, we saw a reduction in emergency room utilization at San Francisco General Hospital" (Aliferis, 3/1).

Boston Globe: Mass. Senate Passes Bill To Allow Verbal Consent For HIV Test
The state Senate approved a proposal today that lawmakers say will provide greater access to HIV tests and bring Massachusetts into compliance with federal recommendations aimed at promoting more testing. The measure reduces barriers to testing for the virus that causes AIDS by eliminating the need for doctors to obtain written consent from patients, and instead requires only verbal consent (Lazar, 3/1).

Boston Globe: Profits Up At Health Insurers
Capitalizing on fewer people seeking medical care and submitting claims, the state’s four biggest commercial health insurers posted sharply higher earnings for 2011 while their executives collected more pay, according to reports released yesterday. Leading the pack was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurance company, which reported net income of $136.1 million last year, more than 10 times the $13.4 million it earned in 2010 when it suffered steep losses insuring small businesses and individuals (Weisman, 3/2).

Kansas Health Institute News: Advocates For Developmentally Disabled Continue Opposition To KanCare Carve-In
Advocates for Kansans with developmental disabilities must continue pressing against Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to include long-term care for the disabled as part of his administration’s Medicaid makeover, opposition leaders said during a forum here Wednesday evening. ... The KanCare plan is being advanced by Gov. Sam Brownback, who has said it is needed to curb growing Medicaid costs. Brownback officials say the plan would save the state and federal governments at least $850 million over five years (Sherry and Shields, 3/1).

California Healthline: Organizing The Mental Health Of California
Assembly member Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata) is nothing if not optimistic. But at last week's Assembly hearing on mental health issues, even he was having a little trouble trying to make lemonade of the budget cuts to mental health services. "We have gotten to the point where we're cutting things that were originally designed to save costs," Chesbro said of one particular mental health-related program, the caregiver resource centers (Gorn, 3/1).

California Healthline: HITEC-LA Bridges Gap Between Physicians, Technology
HITEC-LA, a federally designated Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center in Los Angeles County, is almost finished with the first phase of its federally subsidized mission to get 3,000 health care providers to use electronic health records. ... The center is a project of L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation's largest public health plan serving almost 800,000 L.A. County residents (Stephens, 3/1).

California Watch: State Court To Examine 'Pay-For-Delay' Deals By Drugmakers
California is the first state to examine whether pharmaceutical companies can pay competitors to not make or sell cheaper generic versions of their prescription drugs. The California Supreme Court last month agreed to review a 10-year-old class-action lawsuit involving the antibiotic Cipro (ciprofloxacin), which originally was manufactured by drugmaker Bayer (Yeung, 3/2). 

Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Half of All Mississippi Kids Could Soon Be On Medicaid or CHIP
New research shows that the recent health care overhaul could mean a growing number of Mississippi kids will get their health insurance through the government. ... Currently more than 60-thousand Medicaid eligible Mississippi kids are not on the program (Hess, 3/1). 

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