KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. Health Cost Control Bill Could Save $8B To $34B

News outlets report on health policy issues in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon.

Kaiser Health News: In Massachusetts, Hope For Higher Salaries If Health Care Inflation Slows
As Massachusetts' state legislators put the finishing touches on a major health care cost-control bill, there is still one big question: How much could it save? A recent report claims employers and employees could see between $8 billion and $34.5 billion in savings over nine years (Bebinger, 5/1). 

The Washington Post: Hospitals Could Face Rate Freeze In Maryland
Maryland officials face a decision Wednesday on a controversial plan that would effectively freeze payment rates to hospitals in the state over the next year. Hospital representatives say they could be forced to lay off workers if the proposal is approved by the Health Services Cost Review Commission -- an independent agency made up of seven commissioners appointed by the governor (Aizenman, 5/1).

Des Moines Register: Iowa Senate Insists On HIV Insurance Fix
A fix to a program that is denying health care coverage to an estimated 100 HIV-positive residents in Iowa passed in the Iowa Senate this afternoon, resurrected after the House rejected the measure. The bill, Senate File 2293, generally updates law to the state's insurance division. But it also includes what some say is a fix to a $35 million state program charged with insuring Iowans with pre-existing conditions that is denying coverage to HIV-positive residents (Clayworth, 5/1).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Senate, House OK Budget
Lawmakers, with a strong push from [Gov. Jan] Brewer, took $42 million from a long-term health care account and used it to make up for the loss of federal welfare dollars. The money will maintain programs such as child-care and aging services, which were cut during the deficit years, at their current levels. ... Lawmakers also reversed a recent trend of cutting the rate at which health care providers are reimbursed for handling state services and gave them a 3 percent increase (Pitzl, 5/1).

Arizona Republic: Arizona's New KidsCare To Help Thousands
A new version of Arizona's children's health-insurance program opened Tuesday and eventually will cover nearly 22,000 low-income kids. About 500 Arizona children already have signed up for KidsCare II, created under a two-year deal between three hospital systems that won federal approval last month (Reinhart, 5/1).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Health Bill Celebrated For Bipartisan Support At Minnesota Legislature
Bipartisan legislation being heralded this week at the Capitol includes money for a number of new health care studies, including a look at autism in Minnesota's Somali community. Overall, the health legislation includes about $18 million in spending between now and the end of June 2013, with roughly one-third of the funds reversing pay cuts for personal care assistants who care for relatives. The cut in pay for these workers was part of a deal to balance the state's gaping budget deficit in 2011.  The bill, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Saturday, April 28, also provides $4.7 million for emergency dialysis and cancer treatments for noncitizens (Snowbeck, 5/1).

Sacramento Bee: 4,500 Nurses Walk Off Job At 7 Bay Area Sutter Health Hospitals
About 4,500 nurses at seven Bay Area Sutter Health hospitals walked off the job Tuesday in an effort to force hospital officials to back off proposals such as changing sick leave policies and requiring nurses to pay more of their health care premiums. It was the third one-day strike by Sutter nurses in the Bay Area over the past year, and one in a series of recent labor actions by the California Nurses Association, the union that represents the nurses (Sandoval, 5/2).

California Watch: Prime Hospital's Stent Placements Violated State Regulations
[D]uring a stent placement to prop open a blocked artery, Dale Kerkes died on the operating table at Desert Valley Hospital. Desert Valley had a limited cardiac license, which means it was allowed to place stents only in emergencies, such as after heart attacks. ... Desert Valley is owned by Prime Healthcare Services, which has been the subject of a yearlong California Watch investigation that uncovered a pattern of billing Medicare for rare ailments (Jewett, 5/2).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Counties Hurt By Reduced HIV Prevention Funding
The CDC provides the bulk of state funds for HIV prevention, with additional money coming from the state's general fund. ... This year, the counties bore the brunt of the $700,000 reduction in CDC funds --losing 30 percent of their budget for HIV prevention. Local health departments received $2 million for HIV prevention in 2011; this year they're only getting $1.425 million (McCurdy, 5/1). 

The Associated Press/CBS News: Selig: Changes Won't End Ark Medicaid Shortfall
Changes in the way Medicaid pays for services in Arkansas and other efforts to save money won't eliminate the up to $400 million shortfall the state program faces next year, Department of Human Services Director John Selig said Monday. Selig and state Medicaid Director Andy Allison told a legislative panel Monday that they'll have a firmer number on the state's Medicaid shortfall later this year. State officials previously have estimated the program could have a deficit between $250 million and $400 million in the budget year that begins July 1, 2013 (DeMillo, 5/1).

Kansas Health Institute News: Grant Funds Remain For Nonprofits Seeking ACA Programs
Approximately $115,550 remains in the Affordable Care Act Opportunity Fund, a $450,000 grant pool created last year by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Health Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation, Sunflower Foundation and United Methodist Health Ministry Fund. ... The aim of the fund is to help Kansas nonprofits, including government agencies, take preliminary steps toward applying for funding through Affordable Care Act programs (Sherry, 5/1).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Bill Expands Roles For Nurse Practitioners
No one disputes that Louisiana lacks sufficient primary-care health professionals. But health industry leaders, to say nothing of elected officials, have yet to agree on a comprehensive strategy to eliminate a shortage. ... The issue will be at the core of a legislative hearing Wednesday pitting advanced practice nurses against doctors who oversee them (Barrow, 5/1).

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