KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

N.C. Dept. Of Corrections Could Cut Inmate Health Care Costs By Requiring Hospitals To Bill Medicaid; Minn. Lawmakers Urge Governor To Seek Enhanced Medicaid Funds

WRAL: "The [N.C.] state Department of Correction could cut the health costs for inmates by $11.5 million a year by requiring hospitals and other medical service providers to bill Medicaid for eligible expenses, according to a state audit released Tuesday. The amount of potential savings would increase in 2014, when health care reform expands Medicaid eligibility, auditors said. A previous audit found that the DOC has allowed hospitals and other medical providers to dictate the terms of contracts for inmate medical care, leading to a range of pricing. In some instances, hospitals charged the state rates called for under the contracts when the actual cost of care was far lower. … Generally, the federal government doesn't reimburse states for inmate medical care, but auditors confirmed with federal regulators that Medicaid would cover for inmates treated in private or county-run hospitals who meet Medicaid eligibility requirements" (8/24). 

Kaiser Health News: "As states across the country scramble to meet the requirements for national health reform, the nation's capital is 'way ahead,' according to Dr. Julie Hudman, director of the Department of Health Care Finance and a member of the city's Health Reform Implementation Committee. ... At a recent public meeting, officials eagerly highlighted some of the city's accomplishments. They noted that the District's uninsured rate of 6.2 percent of residents is the second lowest in the country, only behind Massachusetts, a state that voted for near-universal health insurance almost four years ago" (Marcy, 8/24).

Reuters: "Minnesota legislative leaders urged Governor Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday to apply for enhanced federal funding for Medicaid that was passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this month. … With money from 2009's more-than-$800 billion federal stimulus act running out, Congress agreed to send another $26 billion to states to help fund Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, and to preserve education jobs. Pawlenty, a Republican, proposed in February tapping $387 million in the enhanced Medicaid funding to help balance the budget. With congressional action on approving the funds unclear, the governor turned to other measures to balance the budget" (Pierog, 8/24).

Texas Tribune: "The intent of the 2003 law seemed clear: The state's 39 Mental Health and Mental Retardation authorities would, wherever possible, stop offering direct medical services and start recruiting and managing networks of private providers." The goals was to reduce costs, increase choice and reach more patients. "The MHMRs would become 'providers of last resort,' only stepping in to offer care when their attempts to create a competitive marketplace failed, according to the law. But the slow-motion political scrum that followed the law's passage has become a textbook case of legislative intent crashing on the rocks of bureaucratic maneuvering and logistical realities. Seven years later, MHMRs have done little to privatize mental health services" (Thevenot, 8/25).

The Denver Post: "He opposed it as Denver's district attorney, but Gov. Bill Ritter is now turning to medical marijuana to heal the state budget. The plan Ritter announced Monday to bridge a nearly $60 million shortfall in the current budget year relies on $9 million from the state's Medical Marijuana Program Cash Fund, financed by fees on patients who get cards to use medical pot. With the number of applicants for medical-marijuana cards expected to double to 150,000 this year, there will still be about $1 million left in the fund even after $9 million is swept from it. Ritter, a Democrat, said that no matter what he thought about medical marijuana as a prosecutor when voters approved it under Amendment 20 in 2000, it's legal now, and he has a budget to balance" (Hoover, 8/24).

New Hampshire Business Review: "New Hampshire businesses that do not or cannot offer full-fledged health insurance or a full-fledged cafeteria plan now have another alternative -- a health care-only cafeteria plan -- thanks to a bill that went into effect last Friday. The bill, Senate Bill 390, allows small employers with two or more employees to establish such plans (identified on the paycheck as Section 125), which is simpler than offering their own health insurance plan. This way the worker – not the company -- goes out and buys insurance and then pays though it with pretax payroll deductions" (Sanders, 8/25). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.