KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Roundup: N.Y. Budget Woes Include Medicaid Money Worry

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Georgia, Kansas, California, Iowa, Colorado, Oregon and North Carolina.

NBC News: Health Reform Hands States Surprising Weapon Against Abortion
Abortion opponents have found a new way to restrict access to abortion -- by using the authority states have over the new health insurance exchanges, which will be up and running in a year. At least 21 states have legislation in place or in the works that will stop health insurance companies from paying for abortions for women. Arkansas governor Mike Beebe signed the latest piece on Monday. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires states to set up health insurance marketplaces called exchanges by October of this year. Through exchanges, people who don't have health insurance through the government or an employer can buy health insurance (Fox, 2/14).

The New York Times: Comptroller Criticizes Budget Plan Of Governor
But the comptroller's office raised concerns that the budget depended on federal aid that might not come to fruition, including $1.1 billion in Medicaid reimbursements, and counted on wage and job growth producing significant increases in tax collections (Kaplan, 2/13).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Gov. Deal Signs Hospital 'Bed Tax' Bill, But Health Care Woes Persist
Georgia’s faltering Medicaid program received a massive financial bandage Wednesday when Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure into law to avert a roughly $700 million hole in the state’s health care budget. But the funding generated through the measure -- which clears the way for renewal of a fee on hospitals -- is not nearly enough to cover the health care needs of Georgia’s growing population over the next two years. The state’s community health agency and Georgia’s Medicaid program are still short hundreds of millions of dollars, and there’s no solution in sight. For now, that means growing health care costs will continue to be passed on to consumers as hospitals try to make up for money lost caring for the uninsured by hiking up prices for those patients who can pay (Bluestein and Williams, 2/13).

The New York Times: Four Years Later, Slain Abortion Doctor's Aide Steps Into The Void
This spring, Julie Burkhart, an abortion-rights advocate who lives in Wichita, is planning to reopen the abortion clinic that occupied this space for decades, setting the stage for a re-emergence of the fiery passions that once made this conservative manufacturing town the center of the abortion battle in the United States (Eligon, 2/13).

Kansas Health Institute: No Opposition To Create A KanCare Oversight Committee
It appears a proposal to create a new legislative committee to oversee the implementation of KanCare could have smoother sailing this year than last. A hearing on House Bill 2025 was held today in the House Health and Human Services Committee and lawmakers heard it endorsed by officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, the state's two main Medicaid agencies (Shields, 2/13).

Kaiser Health News: California Health Chief Looks Within For Solution To Rising Health Costs
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Russ Mitchell writes: "Van Gorder, an ex-cop turned hospital executive, rescued troubled Scripps from near insolvency a dozen years ago as its new CEO. Now, he's put Scripps in the middle of a cultural transformation aimed at saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year by -- get this -- coaxing physicians and managers at Scripps to work together, and standardizing care across every hospital in the system" (Mitchell, 2/14). Read the story.

Georgia Health News: Georgia Firms To Share Ideas On Cutting Health Costs
Two years ago, Jamie Benton of RaceTrac confronted a problem that vexes human resources directors across the nation: increasing health care costs. By 2011, employee health costs for the gas station/convenience store company were going up 9 percent a year. So Benton and RaceTrac, a private company headquartered in Atlanta, switched to a “consumer-driven’’ health plan. It has a high deductible, but that is coupled with health incentives for the company’s thousands of employees. If the workers do a health risk assessment, are nonsmokers and join a wellness program, RaceTrac will pay nearly half of their deductible (Miller, 2/13).

The Associated Press: House Approves Money For Mental Health Transition In Iowa
Iowa House lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would give some counties a share of $11.6 million to continue treatment of mental health patients as the state transitions to a regional system. The measure, which now moves to the Senate, would give money to 26 of the 32 counties seeking extra help to get them through this fiscal year (Elmer, 2/13).

The Denver Post: Colorado Mental Health Experts Propose Changes To Hickenlooper's Plan
Less than two months after Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a plan to spend $7.5 million to open new mental health crisis centers, experts have offered an alternative, saying the funds could be better spent strengthening Colorado's existing centers and expanding programs in rural areas. Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Human Services revealed a five-point plan to revamp Colorado's mental health services in response to this summer's deadly shootings at an Aurora movie theater. (Robles and Steffen, 2/14).

The Associated Press: Study: California Saved $134B In Health Care Costs Thanks To Tobacco Control Program
California's tobacco prevention program saved $134 billion in health care costs over the last two decades, according to a new study published Wednesday about the smoking control program’s impacts in the most populous state. California spent about $2.4 billion from 1989 through 2008 on one of the nation’s most aggressive tobacco control programs, buying up billboards and TV time to run ads against smoking, as well as promoting smoke-free bars and restaurants and tobacco cessation programs (2/13).

The Lund Report: Oregon's FamilyCare Bumps Up Primary Care Reimbursement Rate
Doctors and nurse practitioners who provide primary care to patients enrolled in FamilyCare will soon get a little more money for their time in the office. Starting in March, FamilyCare will be paying primary care providers more per primary care visit -- an average of $75 per visit versus the $50 it and other managed care providers typically pay now, which is still higher than the $37 base rate for Medicaid visits, FamilyCare president and CEO Dr. Jeff Heatherington announced at a press conference yesterday hosted at Dr. Robin Richardson's southeast Portland office (McCurdy, 2/13).

Kansas Health Institute: Bill Would Allow Sale Of 'Mandate Lite' Health Insurance Policies
A bill that would allow health insurance companies to develop and market so-called ‘mandate lite’ policies in Kansas was the subject of a legislative committee hearing today. Senate Bill 163 calls for allowing companies to sell major-medical policies that could, for example, exclude coverage of mental health, pharmacy, chiropractic or allergy treatments (Ranney, 2/13).

North Carolina Health News: DHHS Secretary Wos Lays Out Priorities To Legislators
Medicaid and information technology – those were the two priorities laid out by the new Health and Human Services secretary for her department Wednesday at the General Assembly. HHS Secretary Aldona Wos came to the state legislature for the second time since taking her position five weeks ago to tell lawmakers what she thinks DHHS needs to do (Hoban, 2/14).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service)/EdNews Colorado: School Health Data System Gets $3 Million, Five-Year Grant
Kaiser Permanente and the Colorado Legacy Foundation on Thursday announced a $3 million, five-year plan to create a comprehensive data reporting system for school health and wellness indicators. The new School Health Policy and Practice Data Collection Program will help demonstrate the link between health and education, and provide feedback to schools to help them improve programming. The project is a collaboration among Kaiser Permanente, which will provide the funding, and the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Coalition for Healthy Schools. Helayne Jones, president and CEO of Colorado Legacy Foundation, said part of the problem is that "we don't know what is working because we haven’t had a consistent way of measuring health and wellness practices" (Schimke, 2/13).

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