KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Lawmakers Consider Insurance Purchase Across State Lines

Kansas Health Institute News: Governor Signs Two Bills Tightening Abortion Restrictions
Gov. Sam Brownback today signed into law two bills that supporters said would tighten abortion restrictions, though it wasn't immediately clear if either would significantly reduce the number of Kansas abortions, which has been in decline. ... House Bill 2218 would add additional restrictions on abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. But there was only one late-term abortion reported in Kansas in 2010. ... KDHE statistics also show that women in Kansas increasingly rely on abortion or so-called "morning-after," pills to terminate pregnancies early on (4/12). 

McClatchy / The Miami Herald: Ethics Complaint Filed Against Florida Gov. Rick Scott
A Clearwater, Florida, activist has filed an ethics complaint accusing Gov. Rick Scott of using his office to benefit the chain of walk-in clinics he founded. David Plyer, 64, based his complaint on a St. Petersburg Times report that Scott's health care policies - drug testing state workers, switching Medicaid patients to private HMOs and shrinking public health clinics - could benefit Solantic Corp., a chain of 32 urgent-care centers in Florida. ... After the Times story, Scott said the state will not contract with the company while he is governor (Bender, 4/12). 

The Baltimore Sun: City Circuit Court To Launch Mental Health Program
Next month, (treatment requirements) will become the norm for some offenders with mental health problems, as (Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale) Rasin and others launch a Mental Health Case Management Docket within Baltimore's Circuit Court - the first of its kind in the state. While lower courts in the city, along with those in Prince George's and Harford counties, have mental health programs, this will be the only program in Circuit Court, where the crimes are more serious and frequently involve violence (Bishop, 4/12). 

Georgia Health News: Senate OKs Sale Of Out-Of-State Health Policies
A series of 20 amendments and a three-hour floor debate Tuesday failed to derail legislation that would allow health insurers to sell individual policies from other states that have fewer required coverages than under current Georgia law. ... Georgia's required benefits for individual health insurance policies include various screenings for cancer and coverage for mastectomies. They apply to health plans that are not offered by large, self-insured employers (Miller, 4/12). 

Bangor (Maine) Daily News: Cross-Boarder Health Insurance Sales Proposed 
Maine lawmakers ... heard a cluster of proposals Tuesday aimed at promoting the purchase of health insurance across state lines. Maine's health insurance rates are among the highest in the country, and some have called for the law to be changed to allow Mainers to purchase policies sold in other states where regulations are less burdensome and rates are lower. But opponents have argued that Mainers who purchase insurance in other states would forfeit the consumer protections provided by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. ... And since many of the people who would be most interested in out-of-state coverage would be relatively young, healthy individuals looking to purchase inexpensive, high-deductible plans, critics say the older, sicker people left behind would see their monthly premiums grow even more expensive than they are now (Haskell, 4/12).

Health News Florida: Senate Panel Limits Nursing-Home Lawsuits
A Senate committee Tuesday narrowly approved a bill that would help prevent costly lawsuits against nursing homes, despite arguments from trial lawyers and the senior-advocacy group AARP. ... The bill, in part, would place a $300,000 limit on non-economic damages in wrongful-death cases against nursing homes and would make it harder to win punitive damages. Also, it would help shield nursing-home directors, officers and owners from lawsuits (Saunders, 4/12). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Advocates Push Federal Option To Expand Home Care
[G]etting Medicaid to pay for home care is complicated. To qualify, someone must fit into one of several specific programs, which don't cover the same services and have varying applications and requirements. The programs are capped, so someone who qualifies might end up on a waiting list. Now advocates say they've identified a solution: An option in federal law. ... But there's a catch: To take advantage of the option, states can't limit the programs. Anyone who qualifies for Medicaid home care coverage would get it. And the current eligibility requirements would need to be relaxed (Becker, 4/12).

Bloomberg: Oregon's Governor Performs Triage Exercise On Ailing Budget
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, who spent 14 years as an emergency-room doctor, knows what it is to make gut-wrenching decisions. "When you suspect there's been a penetrating wound to the heart, you open up the chest, you have the heart in your hands, and you better have been right," Kitzhaber, a 64-year-old Democrat, said in an interview last month in his Salem office. He now must stanch the $3.5 billion the state is hemorrhaging from its budget, a sum that represents almost a fifth of the $17.9 billion needed to maintain services at their current level. It is, he says, "an exercise in triage" (Vekshin, 4/12). 

California Healthline: Four Is a Quorum -- Exchange Board Gets To Work
Darrell Steinberg can take as long as he wants. The Senate Rules Committee, headed by Steinberg, will appoint the fifth and final member of the California Health Benefit Exchange board, but the rest of the board has decided it needs to get started. The exchange board's first public meeting is scheduled Apr. 20. ... The exchange won't be fully operational until 2014, but the workload to implement the exchange is extremely daunting, according to health care expert Peter Harbage of Harbage Consulting (4/12). 

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: State Medical Society Just Says No: To Podiatrists, Midwives and Optometrists
The Massachusetts Medical Society was busy today trying to block a slew of health bills that would give certain providers, ranging from naturopaths to nurse midwives and physician assistants, greater authority and scope in their practices. ... Here are a few of the legislative proposals they oppose, in their own words (Zimmerman, 4/12). 

Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus Leader: Voters May Get Say On Health Care Reform
State residents may have a chance to voice their opinion of the federal health care reform in the next state election. South Dakota Citizens for Liberty -- a tea party organization -- has launched a campaign to put two state measures to comply with the federal health care reform to a public vote Nov. 6, 2012. To get the two bills on the ballot, the group must collect about 16,000 signatures by June 27. But the effort might be duplicating state officials' actions and would not stop the federal Affordable Care Act from being enacted. Barb Lindberg, president of South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, said the organization wants the entire health care reform law repealed (Luther, 4/13) 

The Texas Tribune: From Texas to D.C., Medicaid Funding Debate Rages
If congressional Republicans' proposed solution to cutting health care costs - giving states block grants to fund Medicaid - sounds familiar, it's because it is. Texas' GOP lawmakers are backing similar proposals to put states in charge of deciding how to insure indigent children, the disabled and the very poor. While the congressional proposal focuses on Medicaid financing, one Texas proposal, called a health care compact, takes it a step further - turning over not just the purse strings, but authority for operating Medicaid, to the states. Both are long shots (Ramshaw, 4/13). 

The Texas Tribune: Lawmakers Debate Advance Directives Law
Families, doctors and health advocates testified Tuesday on the grief and tough decisions surrounding Texas' advance directives law, which allows hospitals to cease treating terminally ill patients after a 10-day waiting period if an ethics panel agrees there is no hope for recovery. ... Supporters of the measure, like Fort Worth attorney William Collins, said the problem with the current system lies in the short period of time that families have to find a new hospital placement for their loved one - a mere 10 days. ... But opponents like Dr. Amy Arrant, a doctor at St. David's Hospital in South Austin, said that in many cases, doctors discontinue treatment because it's not medically ethical, and can further injure the patient (Weber, 4/12).

California Healthline: How Should California Handle Eligibility for Long-Term Medi-Cal?
Long-term Medi-Cal coverage pays for more than 60% of all nursing home days in the state and accounts for almost 50% of total nursing home expenditures. In addition to paying for nursing home care, Medi-Cal also provides a range of services for the elderly and people with disabilities who need long-term care due to chronic conditions. ... Is asset transferring to qualify for Medi-Cal indeed a problem? How big a problem is it? What steps should state policymakers -- especially those forming California's new Health Benefits Exchange -- take to address the issue? (4/11).

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