KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Round-Up: Mississippi Struggles With Mental Health Services Funding Cuts; A Drug Discount Bill Advances In Mass.

Jackson Clarion Ledger: "Lawmakers earlier this year vigorously fought Gov. Haley Barbour's proposal to close four state mental health hospitals and six crisis centers as a budget-saving measure. Now, nonprofit-run centers that offer front-line services for the mentally ill in some of the poorest communities across Mississippi could face closure." Revenues are down and there is little interest in raising taxes, but there is also no support for "shuttering facilities that house the mentally ill. So lawmakers picked their priorities, trimmed the budget by $500 million and closed session in late April by sending to the governor's desk a financial blueprint that he promptly signed. Among the losers are the state's 15 community mental health centers. ... The Board of Mental Health voted at its monthly meeting late last week to notify the centers that they must pay the Medicaid match debt owed or they no longer would be approved providers" (Parker, 5/24).

Mansfield News Journal: "In 2014, newly insured Ohioans may find what those living in rural areas already know: Having health coverage doesn't guarantee quick, easy access to a family doctor. Outside of Ohio's biggest cities, doctors who represent the first point of contact for the insured are already spread thin. When health insurance reform is fully implemented, experts fear there could be a rocky period before medical school graduates meet statewide demand. ... In less than four years, there will be more than a million additional Ohioans who will have health insurance. ... These new patients, who previously turned to the emergency room instead of a doctor's office, could worsen a shortage of primary care doctors -- practitioners of family medicine, general medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology -- in underserved communities" (Zimmer, 5/24).

The Associated Press: "Rick Scott, neophyte politician and surprise candidate for Florida governor … made a fortune in the for-profit hospital industry, stepped forward last year as a highly visible conservative critic of the Democrats' health care plan. Using $5 million of his own money, he formed a group to carry the flag against it, appeared in commercials, ranted on national TV news shows and, critics say, helped whip the tea party crowd into an anti-Obama frenzy. Now the 57-year-old Naples businessman who has never held elected office is willing to put more of his millions into trying to wrest the Republican nomination for governor away from Bill McCollum, a former congressman and current attorney general" (Stacy, 5/24).

Daily News Tribune: "Winning unanimous support in the House last week, legislation to permit discounts on brand name prescription drugs was touted as a way to lower medical costs. State Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, filed the drug discount bill. Koutoujian said Massachusetts is the only state that does not offer these discounts. … The discount would reduce co-payments by $10 to $20 or more dollars per medication for non-generic drugs. The discounts are especially beneficial to those with chronic illnesses or seniors, said Koutoujian. A provision in the bill allows insurance companies to opt out, said Koutoujian" (Judson, 5/24).

Chicago Tribune / The Associated Press: "State plans to cut funding to a program that coordinates care for Fort Wayne's Medicaid-eligible Burmese population are raising concerns that those with serious illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis will go untreated or inundate emergency rooms for care. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration since 2007 has paid Indianapolis-based Advantage Health Solutions to coordinate health care for eligible Burmese residents. But budget constraints are forcing the state to end the program that supporters say has increased refugees' willingness to seek care" (5/23).

Honolulu Advertiser: "Fifteen months after the state switched its Medicaid insurance program for more than 42,000 low-income seniors and disabled residents from a fee-for-service model to a managed care one, advocates say two firms hired to administer the program have improved services and beefed up provider networks. But some point to cases involving patients who have seen cuts in care or who have struggled to navigate the Mainland-based plans because of language barriers or other reasons as continued areas of concern" (Vorsino, 5/24).

Billings Gazette: "Almost one-third of nurses disciplined by the state of Montana in the past five years got into trouble for stealing drugs from their employers. Instead of notifying law enforcement, the state Board of Nursing funneled most of those nurses into an addiction program and placed their licenses on probation. A handful were prosecuted criminally for diversion, but only because police discovered their crimes before their bosses did. The state Department of Labor and Industry, which oversees the Board of Nursing, claims that focusing on rehabilitation prevents impaired nurses from going undetected and potentially harming patients. But critics, including some in law enforcement, argue that nurses get special treatment that is not afforded people in other professions who abuse narcotics" (Cochran, 5/23). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.