KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: North Carolina Takes Next Step On Medicaid Reform; Kansas Groups Argue Tax Reform As Public Health Issue

News outlets report on health issues in North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Michigan.

North Carolina Health News: Medicaid Reform Public Hearings Announced
The next step in North Carolina’s Medicaid reform process requires state health officials to prepare an application that will go to federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Since CMS pays for two-thirds of North Carolina’s Medicaid program, federal regulators have the power to greenlight any plans for changes. North Carolina is asking for a so-called 1115 waiver to the federal Social Security Act. 1115 waivers are supposed to not just save money, but also demonstrate that the state is engaging in some innovative ways to deliver care to Medicaid recipients, who are children, some of their parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities and low income elderly. (Hoban, 3/16)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Groups Make Public Health Case For Tax Reform Bill
Non-profit groups told legislators Tuesday that rolling back a business tax exemption in order to lower the food sales tax would allow low-income Kansans to eat healthier. Kansans pay 6.5 percent state sales tax on groceries — the second highest percentage in the nation. Karen Siebert, advocacy advisor for Harvesters, told the House Taxation Committee that the high tax drives low-income consumers to “cheaper, calorie-dense,” foods that are not healthy. (Marso, 3/15)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Advocates, Committee Try To Craft Consensus To Fix Kansas Mental Health System
If he had a magic wand, Bill Persinger would turn back time to May 2009. Failing that, however, he would increase resources for crisis care and substance abuse treatment, said Persinger, who is CEO of Valeo Behavioral Health Care. Rep. Will Carpenter, chair of the House Social Services Budget committee, asked Persinger and two other people who testified before the committee on Tuesday afternoon what they would do to fix the state’s mental health system if given a magic wand as a way of narrowing down priorities. The Adult Continuum of Care Committee had produced a report with dozens of recommendations, but confronting them all at once would be impossible given limited resources, Carpenter said. (Hart, 3/15)

The Denver Post: Envision Healthcare To Pay $120M For Michigan Physicians Group
Greenwood Village-based Envision Healthcare is continuing its buying spree and snapping up a Michigan physicians group for at least $120 million. Envision on Tuesday announced plans to acquire Emergency Physicians Medical Group, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based operator of 37 clinics in six states. Envision plans to pay $120 million plus an undisclosed amount contingent upon EPMG's post-acquisition performance. (Wallace, 3/14)

The Denver Post: Colorado House OKs Bill Requiring Criminal Checks For Surgical Techs
The health scare caused by the recent drug-theft indictment of a surgical tech has prompted a push to require Colorado to conduct criminal background checks on those seeking to become surgical technologists and surgical assistants. Key legislators also want any pre-employment tests conducted by hospitals that detect drug use in those fields of work to be reported to state regulators. (Osher, 3/15)

The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Man To Serve 36 Months For Medicaid Scam Involving The Disabled
A Charlotte man was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Tuesday for bilking Medicaid out of more than $2 million by using personal information from former disabled customers. Eric Bernard Mitchell, 44, pleaded guilty in October to health care fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors say Mitchell used the client list from his defunct company to file five years of phony reimbursements. The disabled clients, who had qualified for Medicaid coverage under Mitchell’s former company, never received the treatments for which Mitchell was reimbursed. (Gordon, 3/15)

The Denver Post: Battle Brewing On When To Implement Severe Montana Pot Restrictions
Severe medical marijuana restrictions that would force the closure of large dispensaries should go into effect no more than 49 days after the Montana Supreme Court upheld a disputed 2011 state law, an attorney for the Department of Justice said Tuesday. State health officials are backing medical marijuana advocates who are seeking a longer delay, saying it would take months for the agency to carry out the regulatory changes in the court s ruling. (3/15)

Detroit Free Press: Firefighters' Fund For Cancer Has No Money
When firefighter Stephen Babcock found out he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in October, his costs to fight the illness should have been covered. State lawmakers had passed a bill that was supposed to protect firefighters who fell ill with 10 types of cancer that likely stem from on-the-job exposure to carcinogens. Those firefighters were supposed to have their lost wages covered as well. But it turned out that lawmakers never actually set aside any money. (Bethencourt, 3/15)

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