KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Kansas Lawmakers Debate Legality Of Health Insurance Mandate Amendment

Kansas Health Institute: "Republicans and Democrats were sharply divided Tuesday over a proposed constitutional amendment that sponsors said would let federal officials know Kansans don't want to be told by the government that they must buy health insurance. On a 12-9, party-line vote, the House Health and Human Services Committee voted to recommend House Concurrent Resolution 5032 favorable for passage. The measure could now go to the full House. ... If approved by the Legislature and voters, the amendment would add a new article to the Kansas Constitution stating that no law or rule passed after August 2009 could 'compel' anyone to participate in 'any health care system or purchase health insurance.' The measure is similar to one introduced in dozens of other states mostly by conservative Republican lawmakers alarmed after preliminary passage of Democratic bills in Congress that would require people who could afford it to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty" (Shields, 3/2).

Health News Florida: "As Florida lawmakers try to crack down on notorious pain clinics, a debate is seething on whether to limit dispensing of pain pills to three days' worth. Such a cap would help in the fight against pill mills, advocates say, but it would also cut off a lucrative sideline for legitimate practices that can bring in $10,000 a month. The Florida Medical Association and some other groups object to a provision in a House bill that would impose a 72-hour supply limit on often-abused drugs such as oxycodone, Soma, Xanax and Vicodin. FMA argues that many doctors, such as oncologists or orthopedic surgeons, legitimately dispense those medications in their offices, sparing patients a separate trip to the pharmacy" (Saunders, 3/2).

The Miami Herald: "Florida lawmakers will once again consider a measure to rein in the use of psychiatric drugs among foster children in the wake of last year's death of a 7-year-old Broward boy who was on a cocktail of mood-altering drugs. A new bill, filed Friday by state Sen. Ronda Storms, a Brandon Republican, would, among other things, require that foster children assent to the use of psychiatric drugs. The proposed law would require caseworkers to explain to children, in a manner they can understand, why the drugs are necessary and what risks they carry" (Marbin Miller, 3/2).

The New York Times City Room Blog: "New York State must begin moving thousands of people with mental illness into their own apartments or small homes and out of large, institutional adult homes that keep them segregated from society, a federal judge ordered Monday. The decision, by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, followed his ruling in September that the conditions at more than two dozen privately run adult homes in New York City violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by leaving approximately 4,300 mentally ill residents isolated in warehouselike conditions" (Slotnik, 3/2).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republican legislative leaders said late Tuesday they have produced a plan to break the impasse over providing health insurance for the state's poorest and sickest residents. But DFLers and Republicans would not immediately disclose details as they began to analyze its implications" (Wolfe and Kaszuba, 3/2).

The Washington Post: "Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said Tuesday that the decision by Catholic Charities to change its health coverage to avoid offering benefits to same-sex spouses of its workers is justifiable under Catholic teaching as long as the employees are paid a just wage. The Catholic Church teaches to pay a just wage. ... Wuerl has been engaged in a contentious debate since the fall, when he said the archdiocese could have trouble remaining in its dozens of social service partnerships with the city if the D.C. Council legalized same-sex marriage and required its contractors to honor such marriages. The law passed overwhelmingly in December, and Wednesday is the first day that same-sex couples can apply for marriage licenses" (Boorstein and Wan, 3/2).

Business Insurance: "Health insurers and health maintenance organizations selling group coverage in New Mexico would be required to spend at least 85% of every premium dollar on health care services under legislation the governor is expected to sign. H.B. 12, which would take effect in 2011, would require insurers that fail to comply with the 85% reimbursement requirement to issue a dividend or credit against future premiums to all policyholders in an amount sufficient to make up for any shortfall. The legislation ... would not apply to individually underwritten health insurance policies, contracts, plans or limited benefit plans supplementing major medical coverage, including Medicare supplement, vision, dental, disease-specific, accident, hospital indemnity, long-term care or disability" (Wojcik, 3/2).

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