KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Assisted Living Hazards In Fla.; Ariz.’s Medicaid Limits

The Texas Tribune / The New York Times: Children's Hospitals See Peril in Proposed Budgets
Despite some efforts to ease the blow to pediatric health care providers, Texas' proposed budget cuts will most likely have a disproportionate effect on children's hospitals. The financial implications will not mean halting operations, or necessarily curbing care, advocates for the hospitals say. Instead, said Ben Melson, chief financial officer at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, the result will be cutting back on expansions needed to serve a growing population and on efforts to recruit and retain the best specialists and faculty (Ramshaw, 4/30). 

McClatchy: Safeguards Ignored In String Of Assisted Living Tragedies
In a state where tens of thousands reside in assisted living facilities, the case of Sunshine Acres represents everything that has gone wrong with homes once considered the pride of Florida. Assisted living facilities were established more than a quarter-century ago in landmark legislation to provide shelter and sweeping protections to some of the state's most vulnerable citizens: the elderly and mentally ill. But a McClatchy investigation found the safeguards once hailed as the most progressive in the nation have been ignored in a string of tragedies never before revealed to the public (Barry, Sallah and Miller, 5/1).

The New York Times: Indiana Bill Cuts Funds For Clinics For Women
Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said Friday that he would sign a bill cutting off Medicaid financing for Planned Parenthood, a move that lawmakers in several states have begun pondering as a new approach in the battle over abortion. Indiana becomes the first state to go forward (Davey, 4/29).

ABC: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Will Sign Bill To Defund Planned Parenthood
The bill would cut $3 million in federal money the state currently allocates to the women's health group. It also would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless the woman's life is significantly threatened, require women seeking abortions to be informed that life starts at conception, and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. But the bill also puts Indiana in a financial tight spot as it risks losing $4 million a year in federal family-planning money that would be eliminated because of the state legislation (Saenz, 4/29). 

The Times-Picayune: Gov. Bobby Jindal Says Louisiana Has No Business Running Employee Insurance Program 
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration stepped up its campaign to privatize a state employee health plan Friday, with the governor likening the effort to last year's battle over the national health-care overhaul while his chief budget officer tried to reassure beneficiaries about the possible effects of the change. ... Administration officials say privatization would bring in a one-time payment of $150 million and save $10 million a year in administrative costs through the elimination of 149 jobs. But a bipartisan list of critics say the numbers don't add up (Moller, 4/30).

California Healthline: Physicians Scarce For Latinos In California
Nationwide, there is a ratio of 308 physicians per 100,000 patients in the white community, according to [David Hayes-Bautista, founding director of UCLA medical school's Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture]. For Latinos, the ratio of physicians to patients dips down to 108 per 100,000. It's a big gap, one that widens in California. "The biggest disparity is right here in California," Hayes-Bautista said. "You're looking at 376 physicians for whites, and only 56 for Latinos. This is a huge disparity. California lags way behind other states," he said. "Even Texas" (Gorn, 5/2).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Dayton To HMOs: Put In Your Bid
In a strategy that could save taxpayers millions of dollars and harness the power of market forces, Gov. Mark Dayton has begun rolling out a plan that forces HMOs to bid competitively for $3 billion in annual state business providing health care to low-income families. The four biggest insurers -- Medica, UCare, HealthPartners, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota -- are reacting cautiously. Millions of dollars are at stake, as well as the health care of 500,000 poor and disadvantaged patients. Some warn of a "race to the bottom'' as plans jockey for state business (Wolfe and Crosby, 5/2).

Arizona Republic: Feds OK Arizona's Process To Freeze Medicaid Unit
Federal health officials on Friday reluctantly authorized Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to stop paying medical bills for people who suffer costly health emergencies, the first of several deep Medicaid cuts proposed to take effect this year. Effective Sunday, Arizona will stop accepting enrollment in the medical-expense-deduction program and will eliminate it entirely Oct. 1 to help bridge state budget deficits (Reinhart, 4/30).

Denver Post: Deal On Colorado Children's Health Care Bill Faces Last-Minute Snag
After years of trying to expand the number of children enrolled in state- administered health care programs, lawmakers are considering legislation that would likely decrease the number of kids covered. But the bill, which awaits final Senate approval, might get an overhaul this week in the wake of grousing among Senate Democrats, who are having second thoughts about the legislation. That, in turn, could anger Republicans who wanted the bill as part of an overall deal on balancing the state budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year that begins July 1. "Senate Democrats think we didn't have enough information when we considered" the bill earlier in April, said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, chairwoman of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee (Hoover, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: Vermont Physician's Work Pays Off On Health Care
[Physicians For A National Health Program Member Dr. Deb] Richter watched last week as the Vermont Senate voted 21-9 to pass a bill setting the state on a path toward the universal, unified health care system that, she and other backers say, will take administrative costs and insurance company profits out of health care, cover all Vermonters - including the 45,000 now without health insurance - and save the state money (Gram, 5/1).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: Vt. Health Care Bill Draws Debate Over Immigrants
Liberal supporters of universal health care legislation are finding themselves under attack from their left flank over a last-minute amendment to the bill that would bar illegal immigrants from coverage under the Green Mountain Care program the bill envisions setting up (Gram, 4/29). 

Reuters: State Court Upholds Rhode Island Insurance Statute
A Rhode Island state court has upheld a statute under which insurance companies that want to wind up their operations can buy policies back from policyholders. The decision by Associate Justice Michael Silverstein of Providence Country Superior Court upheld a law that allows insurance companies based in Rhode Island to pay creditors a lump sum in exchange for full release from their liabilities (4/29). 

The Sacramento Bee: State Urged To Unravel 'Confusing Maze' Of Programs For Seniors, Disabled
California's system for providing care to the aged and disabled is fragmented, confusing and "woefully unprepared" to handle a future tsunami of seniors from the baby boom generation, a new report concludes. Services provided through dozens of programs scattered across seven departments are so uncoordinated that the state has no reliable means of gauging what clients need, how much each service costs and which programs work best, according to the Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan government watchdog agency (Hubert, 4/30). 

Health News Florida: Chiropractic Under Anesthesia? Insurers Balk
Usually an unpaid hospital bill wouldn't attract much attention. But it's a different story when the bill is for a controversial procedure on a pro football player, captured on YouTube. The video shows two chiropractors performing manipulation under anesthesia – "MUA" for short -- on Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Adam Hayward. The bill for three 15-minutes sessions of treatments in an outpatient surgical facility: $25,000 (Davis, 4/29). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Hospital Tax Fallout Changes Yet Again
A new revision to the proposed tax on hospitals would exempt six hospitals that have struggled financially from a portion of the tax but would reduce the total amount of money hospitals get from the state. The budget proposal agreed to by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic legislators calls for taxing hospitals and redistributing the money, which generates federal matching funds that the state can use to balance the budget. The Malloy administration has revised the tax formula multiple times, most recently to ease the burden on hospitals that have had net losses over the past five years (Levin Becker, 5/1).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Patrick At Harvard: Health Care May Be Complex But I'm Done. We're Moving.
My favorite bit of Gov. [Deval] Patrick's talk, which is online here, came about 50 minutes in when he shared a glimpse of what it's like for him to grapple with the state's health care forces and the complexity of the system. He said ... "for a couple of years, we had all these luminaries around the table, the brightest lights, and I would simply say, 'How come, in a recession we're seeing these kinds of increases? And it would always start the same way: 'Governor, it's complicated'" (Goldberg, 4/29).

The Lund Report (Oregon): Mental Health Groups Want to Preserve Advanced Directives
A bill that would allow caregivers to ignore psychiatric advanced directives in certain cases of involuntary commitment has drawn opposition from the mental health community. After narrowly passing the House, it now moves to the Senate. ... various mental health groups, including NAMI Oregon and Mental Health America of Oregon, oppose the bill (Rosenfeld, 4/29).

Kansas Health Institute: Legislators Balk At Reopening State Hospital Beds
House and Senate budget negotiators this week tentatively agreed to not fund the reopening of 14 beds at Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City. The beds were closed earlier this year after surveyors for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) visited the 50-bed state hospital and declared it understaffed. Hospital officials said the additional staff needed – nurses, mostly - would cost an additional $812,000 annually. ... Rainbow is one of three state hospitals for people with severe mental illness. Patients are not admitted unless they are considered a danger to themselves or others (4/29).

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