KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Ore. Mental Health Could See Expansion

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, California, New York, Virginia, Mississippi, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

Oregonian: Oregon Mental Health Care System Could See Significant Expansion, Money Under Legislative Proposal
When Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward walked into a committee meeting, she didn't plan to reveal to the world that she has suffered from major depression for 15 years. "If I go two days without taking my medication, I can't walk in the door of this building," Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, told colleagues. "I can't get up in the morning. I can't take a shower. I can't function as a normal human being." Steiner Hayward is coming forward as a public voice for mental health at a time when Oregon lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 823, which would significantly expand mental health care in Oregon (Zheng, 6/3).

California Healthline: Assembly Takes Up Health Care ‘Loophole’
The Assembly this week is expected to debate a bill that would penalize large employers who reduce workers' hours or wages in an attempt to move those employees off company-sponsored health care and into Medi-Cal coverage. "We want to close that loophole that allows some of the largest and most profitable businesses in California to skirt their responsibility under the Affordable Care Act," said Assembly member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), author of AB 880. Some large employers, he said, want to lower wages or hours of employees so those workers would earn a low enough wage to become eligible for Medi-Cal, "dumping them onto the backs of the taxpayers," Gomez said (Gorn, 6/3).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Cuomo To Push His Abortion Proposal Amid Obstacles 
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to begin his last major push Tuesday for his proposal to strengthen abortion rights even as Senate opposition builds. Cuomo drew swift opposition in January after he issued his rousing, repeated battle cry of: "Because it's her body, it's her choice!" in his State of the State address that ignited supporters seeking expansion of abortion rights. But Cuomo has framed his proposal as simply protecting the current rights under the Roe v. Wade court decision in 1973, which is widely supported in public opinion polls and in the Senate and Assembly (6/3).

Los Angeles Times: One Of Medicare's Most-Wanted Fugitives Is Arrested In L.A.
One of Medicare's most-wanted fugitives, a former clinic owner in the Los Angeles area, was arrested on his return from South Korea, authorities said. Federal investigators said Won Suk Lee, 44, was taken into custody Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport (Terhune, 6/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Virginia Beach Hosts Training On Elder Abuse For Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Representatives
More than 150 Medicaid Fraud Control Unit representatives from around the country are gathering in Virginia Beach for an elder abuse training program. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is scheduled to speak to participants in the Resident Abuse Training Program on Tuesday morning (6/4).

Kaiser Health News: Miss. To Require Cord Blood Testing On Babies Born To Some Teenage Moms
Mississippi lawmakers have embarked on a novel campaign to discourage older men from having sex with teenagers: Starting July 1 doctors and midwives will be required to take umbilical cord blood samples from babies born to some women under the age of 16 so officials can try to identify the father through a match from the state's DNA database (Hess, 6/3). 

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Calif. Law Likely Resulted In Lower Bills, Free Care For Uninsured
A California law limiting how much hospitals can charge the uninsured likely resulted in lower bills for many patients – and free care for most of the state's poorest uninsured residents, according to a study published today in the journal Health Affairs (Appleby, 6/3).

Kansas Health Institute: Payroll Agents For The Disabled On Medicaid Say They Are Struggling
Medicaid services for the disabled in Kansas have been undergoing dramatic changes in the past 18 months and in response many smaller providers of so-called “payroll agent” or “financial management services” for disabled persons who prefer to hire their own care attendants are either changing their business models or simply going out of business. Some in the business predict major consolidations (Ranney, 6/3).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Cost Of Expanding Health Coverage Reduced By Fewer Hospital Stays, Study Shows
A state health insurance program that provided improved access to care for adults with very low incomes in Milwaukee County sharply reduced hospitalizations, suggesting that the cost of expanding coverage could be partially offset by the money saved from fewer high-cost hospital stays, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin. The study — published Monday in Health Affairs, a policy journal — found an increase in visits to clinics and emergency departments but a 59 percent drop in hospitalizations and a 48 percent drop in preventable hospitalizations (Boulton, 6/3).

Boston Globe: Boston Medical Looks To Shut A Site, Cut 85 Beds
Boston Medical Center is weighing a plan to close an aging part of its sprawling campus and eliminate about 85 of its 496 beds, as it braces for state and federal budget cuts and intensified pressure to shift more care to outpatient settings. Hospital executives stressed that it was premature to estimate how many, if any, of their 4,500 jobs would be shed as part of the plan to shutter the East Newton Street campus, site of the former University Hospital. That hospital merged with neighboring Boston City Hospital in 1996 to create Boston Medical (Weisman, 6/4).

California Healthline: Agricultural Giant Takes Lead In Keeping Workers Healthy
Paramount Agribusinesses comprises the largest farming operation of tree crops in the world: almonds, pistachios and clementines. Now its companies are betting on a different kind of productivity: keeping a workforce healthy in California's Central Valley by offering free on-site medical care. "We're backing up the healthy products we create by offering our employees much better than standard coverage," said Danny Garcia, director of human resources at Paramount Citrus. In return, the company benefits from fewer sick days, better productivity and improved morale. Paramount companies also offer employees health insurance (Daniel, 6/3).

MPR News: Medical Costs For Children With Special Needs Declined
A new University of Minnesota study shows parents spent less on out-of-pocket medical expenses during the recession, and that hit children with special needs the hardest. The decline in out-of-pocket spending did not affect all families the same way, according Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. Karaca-Mandic said the aim of the study was to explore who was most affected during tough economic times (Dunbar, 5/3).

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