KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Michigan Tries New Strategy On High Risk Pools

The Detroit Free Press: State Tries Again To Draw Uninsured Into Health Plans
Michigan today announced a new effort to sign up the chronically uninsured onto health plans after the state's first attempt did not attract enough customers. Michigan's new high-risk insurance pool unveiled two new health plans today that will be available May 1. Cost has been a barrier for consumers and a reason the plan decided to offer the new options. The two plans will have lowered premiums – compared to the current plan – but with higher deductibles (Anstett, 4/18).

Bloomberg: Public Retiree Numbers Surge As States Reduce Benefits To Shrink Deficits
California, Florida and Texas are seeing more retirements as rising benefit costs, pay cuts and looming furloughs prompt workers to leave. Inducements to quit early also boosted departures in New York as U.S. states tackled budget gaps totaling more than $540 billion since fiscal 2009, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio, added motivation came from attacks on unions over costs that strained budgets (Baribeau, 4/19).

NPR: Changes Sought After Death At Calif. Mental Hospital
Earlier this month, NPR reported on the dramatic increase in violence at California's state psychiatric hospitals. At Napa State Hospital, an employee was killed last year, allegedly by a patient. Now, less than six months later, there has been another death at the hospital in Napa. This time, though, it was a patient who died (Jaffe, 4/19).

KQED: Napa State Hospital Workers Rally for Safer Working Conditions
The workers at the state mental health facility are asking for safer working conditions after one nurse was murdered last year and a rehabilitation therapist was badly beaten. Speakers called for a number of improvements, including an increased police presence. ... Others expressed concern about the uptick in patients being transferred directly from the criminal justice system. One RN said the increase in violence was directly related (Dornhelm, 4/19).

Health News Florida: Who Wins In Medicaid Overhaul?
As the Florida House and Senate transform the $20 billion Medicaid system, they will create winners and losers. One winner is easy to predict. The House and Senate both want to put almost all Medicaid beneficiaries into managed-care plans, giving HMOs a flood of new customers. But numerous other groups will have to wait for the outcome of House and Senate negotiations to find out how they fare. .. here are some groups that have a lot at stake: Disabled people ... Hospitals .... Medically needy. ... Trial lawyers and doctors (Saunders, 4/18).

The Texas Tribune: Senate Budget Takes Aim at Texas Hospitals
[T]he Senate version of the state's 2012-13 budget still takes direct aim at hospitals, in an effort to find hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and narrow the state's revenue gap. Several budget riders the Senate Finance Committee quietly approved late last week curb how much hospitals are paid for uninsured and underinsured patients, limit how they can use state and federal reimbursements, and open the door to even bigger cuts - all on top of a 10 percent reduction in what the state will pay most health care providers for Medicaid-covered patients, who are typically the neediest (Ramshaw, 4/19).

The Texas Tribune: Soda Tax Could Raise $1 Billion Per Biennium
Republican lawmakers have vowed to close the budget hole without a new tax. But that hasn't stopped Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, from proposing a penny per ounce tax on soft drinks. At a Senate Finance hearing this morning, he suggested his measure could bring in billions of dollars to the state, while curbing consumption of sugary drinks linked to childhood obesity and diabetes (Ramshaw, 4/18).

The Houston Chronicle: Texas Facing Severe Mental Health Services Shortage
A new policy brief says the growing shortage of mental health services in Texas is a crisis that will only get worse if the state doesn't invest in its mental health workforce now. In 2009, 171 Texas counties out of 254 lacked a psychiatrist, 102 counties lacked a psychologist, 48 counties did not have a licensed professional counselor and 40 counties had no social worker, according to the brief published by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin and the San Antonio-based nonprofit Methodist Healthcare Ministries (George, 4/18).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: End-Of-Life Care Shifting From Hospital To Home
More patients are receiving hospice care in their homes and similar settings, and fewer patients are spending the final days of their lives in the hospital. From 2003 through 2007, the hospital more than doubled the number of days that chronically ill Medicare patients received hospice care in the last six months of their lives (Boulton, 4/19).

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