KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Advocates Watching Calif. Budget For Medi-Cal Cuts

A selection of health policy news from California, Michigan, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Virginia and Georgia.

Los Angeles Times: Through New Budget, Brown Maps Out Sweeping Change In California
Brown's proposed budget will outline his plans for expanding health coverage under the new federal health care law, which is set to require increased coverage beginning in January 2014. The law will put hundreds of thousands of new enrollees into California's public insurance program, but the governor has raised concerns about what that will cost. In addition, Brown has said the state may reduce the roughly $2 billion it gives to counties to care for the uninsured, amid objections from advocates and county officials (York and Megerian, 1/9).

California Healthline: Health Proponents Watching Budget For Medi-Cal Provider Rate Cut
Governor Jerry Brown today will release his plan to fix a projected $1.9 billion deficit in the state's budget. Despite the recently rosier financial outlook for the state, many in the California health community still hold concerns that those new cuts may come out of the hide of health care. "It sounds like education is going to be made whole, it sounds like prisons are going to be made whole, so yes, we're fearing further cuts to health care," said Francisco Silva, general counsel for the California Medical Association. "There is still a $1.9 billion deficit, after all." Silva was discussing the possible inclusion in the budget of a 10 percent Medi-Cal provider rate reimbursement cut that was approved by the state Legislature but has not gone into effect because it's being challenged in court (Gorn, 1/10).

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette To Appeal Ruling On Same Sex Health Care Benefits Policy
Attorney General Bill Schuette said he will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court an opinion that upholds the Michigan Civil Service Commission's policy granting health care benefits to same-sex partners of state employees, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Schuette, a Republican, challenged the policy, saying it violated a 2004 Michigan constitutional amendment passed by voters which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Courts have ruled that extending health benefits specifically to same-sex partners would violate that provision. As a result, the Civil Service Commission, along with several Michigan universities and some local governments, have crafted policies in another way -- by extending benefits to housemates who are not immediate family members (Egan, 1/10).

Kansas City Star: KC Council Committee Endorses Extension Of Health Care Levy
Property taxes are never an easy sell, but a Kansas City Council committee hopes voters will approve a nine-year extension of the city’s indigent health care levy. The council's Finance and Governance Committee supported a measure Wednesday that would put the property tax before voters in April. The full council will vote Jan. 17 on the ballot language. ... Critics have questioned the rationale of extending the tax another nine years when implementation of Obamacare is so likely to change the dynamics of insuring the poor. But even if Obamacare is fully implemented in coming years, Kansas City safety net providers said it still won’t cover all health care costs for the working poor. That’s why they’re seeking another nine-year renewal of a health care property tax that Kansas City residents first approved in 2005 (Horsley, 1/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NJ Gov. Christie Says He's Willing To Discuss Tougher Gun Laws Along With Mental Health Issues
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that he's willing to have a conversation about stricter gun laws, but says policymakers also must address the mental health system, improve access to drug treatment and look at the impact of violent video games (1/9).

The Hill: Officials: Sandy Damage To NYC Hospitals Topped $800 Million
Hurricane Sandy caused $810 million in damage to New York City hospitals, officials estimated Tuesday. Alan Aviles, president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), said the figure includes the costs of storm response, repairs, revenue loss and permanent reconstruction work to soften the blow of future disasters. The largest portion of the $810 million estimate covers permanent reconstruction needs, including projects to relocate mechanical gas systems out of hospital basements, retrofit elevators and recreate flood walls. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) toured parts of the Coney Island Hospital, which suffered extensive damage in the October storm, on Tuesday (Viebeck, 1/9).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Foster-Care Vaccination Rule Clarified
State officials have clarified a rule that required parents to immunize their own children as a condition of caring for foster or adoptive children, saying families whose children have a medical reason to forgo vaccinations can become licensed. The policy was sent Tuesday to the agencies that train and oversee foster parents. It means would-be adoptive parents who choose not to fully immunize their own children won't be automatically disqualified as foster parents (Reinhart, 1/9).

HealthyCal: Maternal Mortality Increases, Disparities Persist
A recent report from the California Health Care Foundation shows that the maternal mortality rate in California has increased significantly since the late 1990s. Furthermore, the same report shows a wide disparity in maternal mortality between African American women and the rest of the population (Fulton, 1/9).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Officials Meet To Discuss Health Care Workforce Issues
Sixty-one percent of Virginia pharmacists are women, 92 percent of registered nurses in Virginia are satisfied with their jobs, and the median annual salary for dental hygienists in the state is between $50,000 and $60,000. These are some of the facts being collected by the Virginia Department of Health Professions in surveys completed or under way of an estimated 350,000 health professionals licensed and regulated by the state. The data are being used to identify health care workforce issues, such as the need to train more particular providers or to expand what some providers are allowed to do as part of their practice. “We currently have 20 different professional surveys in place and running, so we will be getting lots more data,” said Elizabeth Carter, director of the Healthcare Workforce Data Center at the state Department of Health Professions (Smith, 1/9).

Kansas Health Institute: Governor To Announce Mental Health Initiative
Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to announce what his office is calling a "new mental health initiative" during an early afternoon press conference Thursday at Wyandot Center, the community mental health center in Kansas City. Accompanying the governor will be Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan. Several sources familiar with the initiative told KHI News Service that it was in response to the recent shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (Ranney, 1/9).

Kansas Health Institute: Kansas Earns Low Grade For Preventing Tooth Decay Among Children
A new report that gives Kansas a barely passing grade for preventing tooth decay among children does not reflect recent improvements, according to the head of the state’s leading oral health advocacy group. The report by the Pew Center for the States gives Kansas a grade of 'C' for its efforts to prevent cavities in children through the use of dental sealants -- clear plastic coatings that serve as barriers to bacteria. But Tanya Dorf Brunner, executive director of Oral Health Kansas, said the state actually is doing better than that (McLean, 1/9).

Georgia Health News: Ga. Hospitals In Middle Of Pack On Quality Bonuses
Slightly more than half of Georgia hospitals are receiving individual bonuses from Medicare for the quality of their services, a new analysis has found. Medicare last month announced bonuses and penalties for nearly 3,000 U.S. hospitals as it links almost $1 billion in payments to the quality of care given to patients. The state’s average of 51 percent of hospitals getting bonuses -- and 49 percent getting penalties -- tracks roughly with the national average of 52 percent and 48 percent, respectively, the Kaiser Health News analysis shows. It’s part of a move by government and private insurers toward rewarding medical providers based on their quality of care, not the quantity of services (Miller, 1/9).

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