KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Report Urges Mass. City Employees To Pay More Health Costs

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Kids With Autism Face Double Standard
Officially, Minnesota doesn't pay for an intensive type of autism therapy. Yet it has -- but only for some families. Two years ago, a single mother in the Twin Cities asked the state Medicaid program to pay for an intensive type of autism therapy for her 2-year-old son. She was turned down. State officials said the treatment -- known as Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA -- is "not now, and never has been,'' a covered service. It turns out, though, that's not the whole story. For years, Minnesota taxpayers have been subsidizing that same treatment, which can cost up to $100,000 a year, for middle-class and even wealthy families, including the children of lawyers and business executives. ... Yet the state tells some of its poorest children, who are in Medicaid managed-care plans, that ABA is simply not an option (Lerner, 4/4). 

The Texas Tribune: Physician Bills Raise Concern About Safety, Motive
Are Texas doctors hamstrung by unfounded complaints? Reps. Bill Zedler and Fred Brown think so. They've filed bills that would make it tougher for the state Division of Workers' Compensation and the Texas Medical Board to keep physicians off the job who are anonymously - and perhaps wrongly - accused of misconduct. But both seemingly doctor-friendly bills are opposed by the state's largest physician organization, which warns that, as written, they could jeopardize patient safety (Ramshaw and Stiles, 4/5).

The Texas Tribune: Hospitals, Advocates at Odds Over Preemie Bills
Texas lawmakers are looking for ways to curb prenatal births and the high costs they present for the state's Medicaid program. Lawmakers agree that curbing elective inductions of labor and so-called "convenience" cesarean sections would prevent premature births and save the state money. But how best to do it has left child welfare advocates and hospitals at odds (Ramshaw, 4/5).

WBUR: Report: Health Coverage For Municipal Workers More Generous Than State, Business Plans
The rising cost of health insurance is squeezing municipal budgets across the state. ... The average family plan for a municipal worker is almost $21,000, 37 percent more than coverage companies buy, according to the report from the Boston Foundation and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (Oakes, 4/5). 

The Boston Globe: City, Town Health Plans Most Costly, Report Says
Health insurance plans to cover city and town employees cost 37 percent more than similar plans for workers at private companies, mostly because municipal employees pay minimal copayments or deductibles when they get care, according to a new statewide survey. The 20-page report from the Boston Foundation and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concludes that cities and towns must substantially increase the amounts their employees are required to pay in out-of-pocket expenses for medical office visits and other services and to significantly increase their deductibles (Murphy, 4/5).

Detroit Free Press: Judge Rules Teacher Retirement Health Care Law Unconstitutional
The state faces another $300-million budget hole after a judge ruled Monday that a 2010 law requiring public school employees to pay 3% of their pay into their retirement health care fund is unconstitutional. The extra payments were part of a deal led by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm to balance this year's budget and save the state $3.5 billion over 10 years. Teachers and other school employees who did not retire early last year must pay 3% of their pay for the insurance (Christoff and Pratt Dawsey, 4/5).

The Seattle Times: House Dems Outline Plan To Close $5 Billion State Budget Shortfall
But, even with all the cuts, the budget would preserve a couple of key social programs for the poor and disabled that Gov. Chris Gregoire had put on the chopping block. ... Gregoire's budget would eliminate the state Basic Health Plan, which provides subsidized health insurance for the working poor, and Disability Lifeline, which gives cash grants to unemployable disabled people. The House budget saves the Basic Health Plan at a reduced level for the next two years. At the end of that period, the federal government is expected to pick up all the costs as part of the national health-care overhaul. The budget also would retain Disability Lifeline but would turn the cash grants into a housing program (Garber, 4/4). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Taps Insurance Fund To Fill In Deficit
Gov. Scott Walker's new budget-repair bill would take money from a state insurance fund that might otherwise go toward holding down state employees' health care costs. The provision is part of a larger bill by the Republican governor to help resolve a $137 million deficit for the state in the current fiscal year ending June 30. The Senate and Assembly are scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said Monday that he had concerns about the insurance fund provision but was largely supportive of Walker's bill (Stein, 4/4). 

The Tampa Tribune/MSNBC: Senate Committee Passes Ultrasound On Abortion Bill 
(A Florida) Senate committee on Monday advanced a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and have the fetal imagery described to them. The bill moved out of the Senate Health Regulation committee on a 7-5 vote with Republicans Jack Latvala of St. Petersburg and Dennis Jones of Seminole joining Democrats in opposition to the bill. "I just basically believe in the philosophy that government needs to stay out of decisions like this," Latvala told his colleagues. Reminding them of the Senate's first full vote this session, "seeking a constitutional amendment to block the Obama health care plan in Florida." Latvala added, "If it's good enough for us to vote to keep the federal government out of our health care, then we ought to stay out of health care as well" (Stockfisch, 4/5). 

Houston Chronicle: Senators Look Warily At Cuts To Family Planning
State budget cuts taking aim at Planned Parenthood may limit the availability of family planning services for many poor Texans and have the unintended consequence of increasing unwanted pregnancies, two key lawmakers said Monday. State Sens. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, and Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said they hope a conference committee will restore funding to the State Department of Health Services Family Planning program. Both are members of the Senate Finance Committee and focus on health issues (Hart, 4/4).

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