KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Adult Day Care; S.C.’s Budget Cuts; Minn. ‘Boomer Bust’

The Sacramento Bee: State's Safety Net Difficult To Rank
As Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed slashing government aid for poor people, he argues that California still provides more generous benefits than many other states. … State-by-state comparisons are complicated. ... While California pays health costs for a larger share of its population, it spends less per person. It reimburses health care providers less and covers a younger, healthier group of people (Yamamura, 2/14).

Kansas Health Institute News: State Grant Muddled By Brownback Letter
Kansas is in line for a $31 million federal grant to help plan for an insurance exchange that starting in 2014 will be the place where thousands of Kansans shop for and buy their health coverage. But a letter sent this week by Gov. Sam Brownback and 19 other GOP governors to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has complicated things. The letter, co-signed by 19 fellow GOP governors, informed Sebelius that many of the state executives, like Brownback, supported repeal of the reform law and that each faced the decision whether "to participate" in it by operating the insurance exchanges at the state level or to surrender that responsibility to the federal government. As it turns out, the governors' communique was sent without the knowledge of Kansas legislative leaders - Republicans or Democrats- or Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, whose department had applied for the innovation grant last year with the idea it would help Kansas plan and launch its own exchange, exercising the considerable leeway Praeger said the law allows for state's to create them as best meets their specific needs (Shields, 2/12).

California Healthline: Final Push To Alter Health Budget Cuts
The California Association for Adult Day Services has developed a restructuring plan that could lop 17% off the budget for adult day health services, a program that is facing elimination with the pending budget proposal. "It proposes some administrative streamlining, and replacing some [state] general fund money with federal dollars through license reduction fees, and it thins out some positions," Lydia Missaelides of the CAADS said. ... The $28 million savings is a far cry from the $177 million the state stands to save by eliminating the program. ... If the program is completely cut as planned, Missaelides thinks advocates might file a lawsuit over its elimination, just as mental health advocates have successfully sued over large cuts to those services (Gorn, 2/14).

McClatchy: S.C. Health-Care Agency Tells Lawmakers It Has A Budget-Cutting Plan
In a move that could cut about a quarter of the state's budget shortfall, South Carolina's health-care agency has told legislative budget writers that it has a plan to cut its budget by almost $200 million. In addition, Health and Human Services officials have told lawmakers they are considering a plan, used in Texas and Louisiana, that would shift the cost of some services that the state now pays to public-private partnerships, freeing up millions more in state money. That money then could be matched - 3 to 1 - by the federal government, having the effect of lowering the state's budget shortfall by millions more (O'Connor, 2/12).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona To Defend Benefit Cuts For Gay Partners
Arizona is back in court today, this time to defend the Legislature's decision to deny health benefits to the gay partners of state employees. Lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer intended to cut benefits to all domestic partners when they reversed a rule change under then-Gov. Janet Napolitano as part of a budget-balancing bill. But a lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 state employees in November 2009 argued that the law discriminates against gay and lesbians. In July, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick agreed and temporarily prevented the benefit cut for same-sex couples, saying the law violated the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause by making it impossible for homosexuals to get health coverage for their partners (Reinhart, 2/14).

MinnPost: The Coming Boomer Bust: Some Huge Problems Facing Minnesota
Now, as elected officials in St. Paul wrestle with a $6.2 billion budget gap, demographer Tom Gillaspy and economist Tom Stinson have renewed their warnings in the context of upcoming budget decisions. ... The upshot is that by the end of this decade, Minnesota will have as many people age 65 and older as children in K-12 schools. And unless the state finds new ways to deliver and pay for health care and other services for older residents, it will have to curtail those services or pull money away from education (Schmickle, 2/14).

The Sacramento Bee: Sutter, UC Davis Doctors Share Electronic Medical Records
As the push grows for hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to go paperless, the barriers that prevent wider use of electronic health records are slowly coming down. Sutter Health and UC Davis Health Systems, two of the capital region's largest medical providers, have joined forces to allow their doctors to instantly share confidential electronic medical charts across both systems. The cooperation is an important development in advancing the use of electronic health records, which have the potential to revolutionize patient care, experts say (Calvan, 2/12).

Minnesota Public Radio: Breast Cancer Treatment In Minn. Already Following New Study Guidelines
Breast cancer care in the Twin Cities is rapidly moving toward less aggressive surgery for the disease when it has migrated to a woman's lymph nodes. Doctors at several metro-area cancer centers say they have already dialed back their surgical policies after learning about a stunning new study. The data showed there is no difference in survival between women who had more of their lymph nodes removed and those who did not. Breast cancer patients say they're thrilled to have a less invasive treatment option, that's equally effective (2/14).

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